Wolf whistle-ee bites the hand that feeds

HE wasn’t anything special physically, possibly even under par – but that could just have been his scruffy garage work uniform. Perhaps he scrubbed up ok in a suit at a mate’s wedding, or even after a shit, a shower and a shave, as blokes are wont to say.

But I would never make an ‘out loud’ judgement specifically directed at him to let he and everyone else within earshot know what I thought of his appearance – beau or bogan.

That would be rude, bullying, arrogant – lord knows I’ve tried to model behavioural traits that contradict these to my two daughters.

I didn’t know the first thing about his personality. He could be someone my mother would love, or a fraudster, or very sensitive about being thrust into the spotlight. So me making an ‘out loud’ physical judgement would only be telling part of his story, a story I didn’t know intimately enough to tell accurately. And it would limit him to one thing only – his appearance. And we all know that’s only skin deep and changeable, depending on the day, the mood, the circumstance, the lighting for gawd’s sake.

So why do some men (or women) find it necessary and acceptable to let a woman (or man), usually a complete stranger, know they look above par…attractive…hot…to them, personally, in a way that also sends a clear message to others with ears in the area?

And are there times, in this politically correct age, when the controversial wolf whistle is acceptable behaviour?

If I’m honest, hearing a stranger wolf whistle me when I was in my mid-teens was sort of thrilling…I may have felt differently had I seen the source of this admiration. It usually came from a passing car. Probably driven by a balding married man with middle-age spread; or a pimply late teen with P Plates on the floor beside a clinking crowd of empty stubbies. The beer bottles, not the shorts…

Somehow in my salad days, those whistles gave me an idea I looked acceptable in a public sense. That I wasn’t embarrassing myself with how I presented my very ordinary appearance. It wasn’t until years later that I realised the wolf whistle said more about the whistler than the whistle-ee. Perhaps those early ‘commenters’ had an inappropriate thing for young girls. **My skin has actually grown legs and is crawling all over itself!**

Inevitably, after a few years of sustained ‘comment’ I began to lose confidence, avoid or fear certain situations and cringe to my very core – my initial thrill had briefly turned to anger before nestling in plain old dread and humiliation.

I was 41-years-old before I stood up for myself, by standing up to my wolf whistler. My daughters were so proud!

As I arrived at my place of work, where I was a senior manager, I would park in the nominated car bay and start the 20m walk to my office’s back door. It was double the distance to the front door and in the rain, it felt triple that on those dark whistle-laden days.

As I made my way to the closest entry point of my workplace, I had to walk up to and past the open roller door of a neighbouring auto mechanic business. Men often stood in the communal access way, having smoko. I would nod and smile politely in greeting. It would be rude not to given I was walking straight past them in a relatively confined space.

This was all very normal and acceptable. Until. The wolf whistle. My eyes dropped straight to the bitumen as I walked more efficiently than ever to the door, willing it to be unlocked so I wouldn’t have to navigate my key into its sticky innards. The relief once I got inside that door was immense. It was a one-off. Incident over.

But no. It became an almost daily occurrence over about two weeks. And the whistler wasn’t shy. He would lean against the outside wall and blatantly make his comment as I came within metres of him. By this time I was worrying about it on the drive to work, I’d shared the story with a couple of close workmates, girlfriends, even my daughters. We all thought this bloke was an absolute tool.

It was making me miserable. I started to ditch the heels and wear flats, hoping to look less ‘womanly’, more homely, or at least less like the siren he thought he should activate.

One morning though, I was in a bad mood, some incident at home, and I was still stewing over it on the drive to work. The perfect storm. My dander was already up.

So I just let him have it, in my own understated, direct fashion.

As the whistle came, I surprised myself by changing direction and heading straight for him.

“Why do you do that?” I asked.

“I thought you liked it,” came his stuttering reply.

“No. I don’t like it at all. It makes me feel really embarrassed. Could you please not do it,” I stated.

“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. Sorry,” he blustered, visually shrinking before me.

“That’s ok,” I said, before propelling myself towards my destination and victory!

It never happened again and I’ve shared this story a few times, mainly as a way to subtly let men know women don’t appreciate being singled out with a wolf whistle and to let other women, particularly younger ones, know it’s important to step up sometimes, and say what you really think, without overreacting.

Everyone has agreed with me that this sort of wolf whistle is inappropriate. Except for one person. A former colleague, an English woman in her early 60s who said women should take it as a compliment, and that it was harmless. She said English men often did it and that they weren’t afraid to show their feelings or their appreciation of an attractive woman, unlike Australian men, who were more interested in their cars. While that sounds like a great theory, anecdotally, that is rarely how we are left feeling.

I can think of times I’ve wolf whistled my girlfriends quietly, but in a public forum, like when I’ve discovered them in the same aisle at the supermarket. And the look on their face is always one of embarrassment-slash-annoyance, until they see me. Then we smile and hug. This might be the only time it’s acceptable – among very real friends. When we know the whole story.

Mascara malcontent – an ancient first world problem

It’s just me, isn’t it…

I have an unhealthy dependence on mascara – extreme black, because black isn’t black enough. Noir, it’s not.

I don’t mean your mascara, the must-have mascara of the moment, or mascara per se.

I don’t horde it, sleep in it, or get sucked in by the unearthly claims some cosmetics marketers of the humble eye lash filler, tout.

No, it’s nothing like that.

My issue is this.

I can’t. Let. Go. Of. My old mascara!

Over many months (more than the three recommended by opthalmologists) I develop a trusting relationship-slash-addiction, to the way my particular brush intimately understands each of my individual lashes, and how the perfect gooeyness of the waxy pigment spreads on them so perfectly and evenly. And in a jiffy, too – I know my mascara so well that it allows me to deftly apply it in just a moment. Or two. No slaving over a steamy mirror for me.

But of course, inevitably, sadly, the tube’s contents get low, even though I have convinced myself its contents are bottomless. About a month after I have begun scraping the bottom of that skinny little barrel, I begin to admit that I’m going to need to buy – shock, horror – new mascara.

It fills me with such fear! Why? Because new mascara, as shiny and as exciting as it looks in its alluring-slash-confusing packaging, it never fails to disappoint me! Even if the claims of extra length, volume and thickness have raised my naïve hopes.

The brush is always too clean – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment; the paint too thin – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment. The whistle-clean brush and watery paint DOES NOT cover my eyelashes!

Like a balancing crane, I stand before the mirror cultivating a stiff neck for an inordinate amount of time so that the fine hairs growing from my eyelids are not naked in public. And it makes me late for work, socialising and life!

Why can’t new mascara be like old mascara! Revlon, Rimmel, Rubinstein – can you hear me! It needs to be viscous – I don’t have time to apply 127 coats to each lash every morning!

And so, what generally happens is, I go back to my old mascara. For another week. Or two. Why? Because I trust its performance even though I’m down to the dregs.

Then I swap brushes, mix pigments (not recommended by health professionals, at all!) and eventually – like in 5 days – the consistency and the new brush starts to become a little more malleable. It would be so much easier if the transition could be seamless, like when you run out of lip balm.

Then I wouldn’t have to store one of my favourite old mascaras in the car’s centre console, for emergencies such as these. And I wouldn’t have to feel as if my eyelashes are dressed only in their bra and knickers instead of the full outfit.

Eventually, my trust builds and again, I am in torrid love with my mascara. We go everywhere together, never disagree and rarely cause inconvenience or lash shame (yes, it’s a thing), until…

Look. I blame being a child of the 80s when it was not unusual for me to wear purple, blue and teal mascara…not at the same time.

In the 60s it was eyeliner, in the 70s blue eye shadow.

In the 90’s, actually, I’m not sure. I stuck with my trusty mascara…old habits die hard.

After all, historical records show that mascara was used as early as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt.

Even I know that mascara is just too old 😉

 

Going round the Benz

 

It’s morning peak hour, just as harried working mothers are ferrying their children to school in the nick of time, up and down already congested roads, when the unthinkable happens.

Your car conks out right at an insanely busy intersection to an arterial route linking to the main freeway of the capital city in which you live.

This was me today. I apologise to everyone behind me in the metal line-up that stretched as far as the eye could see as cars, trucks, bikes, taxis, utes, SUVs, limousines (ok, that might be stretching the truth – ha! See what I did there…), did their best to steer around my forlorn 1975 Mercedes-Benz as it languished in the turning lane.

A remarkable woman for her age, the white automatic I’ve dubbed Ida – because she’s my private Idaho, not after the popular Germanic woman’s name – decided to have a little nanna nap at the lights.

Yeah, tell that to the frustrated, previously on-time drivers, doing their utmost not to erupt in road rage as they attempt what they do least best – merge.

Thankfully, as I fumbled in my purse for my gold RAC card, which I couldn’t find, then Googled the magic phone number and dialled it, only one fellow road user honked in desperation. But I was very focussed on trying to get myself out of a pickle so there were probably multitudinous birds being flipped, and looks trying to kill.

Finally, after what seemed like an absolute century, I successfully made contact with roadside assist who would send a tow truck forthwith to pull me off the road, freeing up the congestion I was sure must now be part of every commercial radio station’s droll 8am traffic report.

“A silly wild-haired woman is stranded in her posh (near) vintage petrol-guzzling Merc at one of the most used intersections linking to the City’s only congested freeway system, otherwise known as the carpark. Will someone give her a hand to push the clapped out piece of art onto the bloody median strip! Doesn’t she know we’ve all got deadlines to meet and rubber to burn at this time of day!!!”

Then, just as my stress levels peaked, a knight in shining armour pulled up beside me in a deep cherry red 90s Landcruiser, having logically mounted the kerb to do so, and offered to pull me off. What! That’s two offers in the space of three minutes! Maybe my luck was changing.

Michael ‘The Practical’ said he would happily attach a rope to the front of his car and the back of mine, before reversing up onto the generous, grassy median, removing me from harm’s way, and letting morning peak hour catch up with itself.

I couldn’t have been more overjoyed, especially when he mused that someone really should have offered help well before now, shading his eyes as they gazed into the distance at the endless snaking vehicular centipede.

Resolved to take action, I looked down at my gearstick and realised, sheepishly, that it was sitting neatly in ‘drive’…possibly the reason for my ignitionless ignition…oh, ooohhhhhh.

I gently put her in ‘park’ and turning the ignition again, Ida’s rhythmic pistons sparked into throaty life.

While she had stuttered on take-off due to her customary flat spot on acceleration, she probably would have started again quite quickly had I put her in park before trying to turn her over.

I admit it. Sometimes I am a silly wild-haired woman. But I guess you’ve figured that out by now.

So, why, when I have a perfectly serviceable 2010 Nissan sitting in my garage, was I driving that dinosaur, you ask?

Just to keep the motor ticking over 🙂

What goes down always comes up roses

THANKS to an interesting Facebook post http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/ – relating to emotions people feel but can’t explain – I realised there were a couple among the list of 23 words that went some way to describing the aftermath of my last big fall. No, not the shopping centre slip up of recent days, but the shit-scary bike stack I managed to walk away from in 2006. I put together a descriptive piece about six months after the ordeal, and I‘ve included it below, for your cringe-worthy enjoyment.

I fell off my bike. Aged 37.

It wasn’t just a little bingle, like those giggly stacks you have at Rotto http://www.rottnestisland.com/, it was a nasty, head-over-handlebars-while-speeding-down-a-big-hill style stack that would have appeared painfully spectacular to onlookers.

Perfect fodder for funniest home videos; ugly but hilarious all at the same time, with the rider “no outdoorsy mothers were injured during the filming of this video.”

I can still feel the massive blow to my chin as I ploughed into the concrete path, and that was more than six months ago.

The flashbacks only hit me occasionally now. For a while there everything I thought about doing, driving the car, riding ‘the’ bike, even going for a walk, would end in an eye-scrunching memory of that “bang”. It made me much more paranoid about the possible negative outcomes of doing everyday things, too. I’ve since progressed to riding my bike again, even down that big hill, although I avoid that part of the path if I can. And I am very conscious of never, ever again applying the front brakes without first engaging the rear ones. Doh!

I ended up with a deep gash under my chin that needed six stitches, various superficial facial and limb grazes, two breaks to my left wrist, a broken bone in my right hand and a fracture to my left elbow.

It could have been so much worse – not long after my accident a front-page story on a weekend city paper detailed the story of a cyclist who wound up a quadriplegic after crashing into other bike riders on a Perth cycle path.

For a week I had both arms in plaster. I was unable to drive for six weeks because of the (fluoro pink – so me) fibreglass plaster that remained on my left arm, this initially scared the hell out of me – the loss of control and freedom was claustrophobic. I was unable to work for nearly four months as my wrists strengthened and eventually realigned thanks to lots and lots of physiotherapy (and patience), and as a casual journo, the loss of wages was another hurdle to overcome.

Why did I put my front brake on anyway, I hear you ask? Well, as my two daughters and I coasted down the hill that afternoon, I became aware of walkers chatting on the pathway up ahead and called out for the girls to ring their bells.

I also began ringing my bell, then put a hand to my head to stop my hat from blowing off (no, I was very stupidly not wearing a helmet) and swiftly realised I was about to crash into the rear of my seven-year-old. I immediately applied my right hand brake, it seemed instinctive at the time, being right-handed and already using my left hand to keep my hat on.

The rest is family history. I came to a very sudden, crumpled stop. My children stopped when they heard my squeal, which was all I could manage, and the walkers ran over to help. My 12-year-old called my partner on my mobile, and my father arrived, along with the ambulance.

So what did I learn from this experience? Heaps. It challenged my need to always be in control and to constantly do things for myself without asking for help. It made me realise how we coast through life never realising how lucky we really are and what dangers potentially lurk in even the most innocuous activities. It made me realise I had to slow down and stop trying to do a million things at once.

Being a working and studying mother of two busy children meant it was commonplace to do several things at once to capitalise on my time – when I look back now, my frenetic lifestyle was always going to come crashing down around my well-organised ears. I am just so thankful I didn’t have a car accident, or hurt other people during the “crash I had to have”. Even my bike escaped unscathed. Now, when I feel my life speeding up, I take steps to slow down and yes, the roses do smell great.

PS: The obscure words that related but not necessarily resonated were Lachesism: The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire. Are you kidding!!!; and, Exulansis: The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it. Except that they do…everyone’s taken the bark off or smashed their ego when gravity separates bike and rider.