What I Wish I'd Said...to That Cat-Caller
In a new feature for Livingly, Jessica MacLeish explores the things you just wish you'd said.
Inspired in part by the episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza travels across the country to spit a late-breaking comeback at a guy who'd insulted him days before, I thought it'd be fun to write about those missed opportunities in life, the times we wish we'd said something — anything — but didn't. So I'll be writing for Livingly about what I wish I'd said, as a thought exercise exploring what we'd actually say if we had a second chance...or if we'd just gone for it in the first place. They won't all be — in fact, it's possible none of them will be — insult comebacks like George's (as satisfying as it can be to get the last word, it might not be the healthiest thing to dwell on it).
The incident that inspired the last article of this nature was my sighting of activist/actress/role model Emma Watson at a bar in New York City. This imagining of what I wish I'd said will take a slightly different turn, as it's not about a celeb sighting at all.
A few months ago, my roommates and I received a text from our landlord in the middle of the workday — he was writing to let us know that there'd been a break-in in our building. I won't go into the details (though I will share that our neighbor is 99% certain it was a man), but it was pretty freaky, and we all left our respective offices right away to rush home and check our apartment out.
I had just descended the subway stairs and was speed-walking the one block to my apartment, when it happened. I was cat-called, not once, but twice, in a matter of 30 seconds. I am not someone who enjoys this experience on a regular day, but this day it was especially infuriating. In a panic about my apartment and my ongoing feeling of safety in a building that'd been broken into, I merely kept stomping on and ignored the two cat-callers (one was a guy at the gas station on my corner, the other was a man in a car driving slowly by as I waited to cross the street). Later, I wished I'd said something. And here is that something:
"Hey! FECK YOU! I am NOT in the mood for this. Today, of all days, is just NOT THE DAY. When is a good day to be cat-called? I can't speak for all women, but for me... how about never, is never good for you? But today is ESPECIALLY not the day. On any normal day, I find being shouted at on the street to be, at best, startling and unnerving, and at worst, offensive and threatening — and don't try to tell me it's a compliment, because I truly do not care to have 'compliments' shouted at me from a moving car window, THANKS. But today, a day when my personal safety already feels compromised by knowing that a strange man broke into my home, you screaming and hooting at me as I race down the street to get to said home is completely unwelcome. It's more than unwelcome. It's aggressively unwanted. And I'm kind of scared to be yelling back at you right now, because you are, like, three times the size of me and could probably overpower me if you tried, which is a terrifying truth that many women have to walk around knowing all day, every day, but I can't keep it in anymore. Being cat-called today, of all days, and in this particular moment, is the straw that broke this camel's back. And really, you never actually know what's going on with someone else in any minute of any day, so keep your wolf whistles to yourself in the future. Back off and leave me alone. GOOD DAY, SIR(S)."
Well, I feel better now that I've gotten that out onto the page. Maybe next time I can speak my mind in the moment, but it feels like a good step to be able to share what I wish I'd said with all of you. See you next time!