GEN­TLE­MEN, PLEASE!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

I’d like to make the world a bet­ter place but I am not a “mover and a shaker” so I know that I’m not go­ing to bring home our third No­bel prize. I’d set­tle for im­prov­ing life in our own coun­try; af­ter all, we’re not large in land mass or pop­u­la­tion so each one of us is akin to a neigh­bour to ev­ery other per­son on the is­land. Ac­cord­ingly, we should be po­lite and con­sid­er­ate.

We have a rep­u­ta­tion for friend­li­ness but cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als are tak­ing its def­i­ni­tion to the ex­treme. I’m rais­ing that old ch­est­nut of men shout­ing out at women with words that are be­yond friendly or com­pli­men­tary. Men of Saint Lu­cia, lis­ten to me when I ex­plain that shout­ing “Sexy” in public to a lady whose name you do not even know is rude, of­fen­sive and an ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Let me ex­plain what caused me to fi­nally put pen to pa­per in­stead of sim­ply re­lat­ing the in­ci­dent to my girl­friends. (You ladies are no doubt fa­mil­iar with these chick-chat ses­sions where we com­pare notes and es­tab­lish who had the creepi­est/ugli­est/ worst-dressed “as­sailant”. Yes, we are up­set about these ill-man­nered males but we’re not go­ing to lose our sense of hu­mour over it.) So, I was on my way to work at 8.30 a.m. and was dressed pro­fes­sion­ally, not provoca­tively. From the other side of the high­way a man bel­lowed out “Hey! Beau­ti­ful!” When that failed to elicit any re­sponse he fol­lowed up with “Hey! Sexy!” Per­haps he be­lieved that it would be a good start to my day. He should have re­al­ized that that hon­our be­longs to my part­ner from whom I ap­pre­ci­ate hear­ing such words be­fore I leave home.

Now let me add that the young man in ques­tion was some 30 years my ju­nior. I have no ob­jec­tion to the age dif­fer­ence; had he ap­proached me in a bar and shown more re­spect and man­ners, then I would have gladly ac­cepted the com­pli­ment. Men, I’m not ask­ing you to aban­don the prac­tice but merely to judge the time and place.

When the ver­bal mo­lesta­tion was un­fold­ing, I con­sid­ered cross­ing the road to in­form the youth that, whilst his de­scrip­tion of me was un­doubt­edly ac­cu­rate, this was not the oc­ca­sion or hour at which to draw it to the world’s at­ten­tion. But, frankly, I wasn’t in­clined to waste my breath as he was way be­low my league. He lacked any sar­to­rial savvi­ness plus I doubt that he could even spell the word “beau­ti­ful”; (bood­i­ful?) What is it with men who hit on women who are clearly be­yond their reach?

So, the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle is not to moan about the sit­u­a­tion but to sug­gest bet­ter ways of ex­press­ing the urge to vo­cal­ize. I’ll never for­get be­ing in a res­tau­rant and wit­ness­ing a young man ap­proach a ta­ble of four women. They were each in their sev­en­ties and im­pec­ca­bly turned out. Af­ter po­litely ex­cus­ing him­self for in­ter­rupt­ing their lunch, the gen­tle­man sim­ply stated that he was highly im­pressed by how stylish the ladies were. I saw them in­stantly smile but when they walked (skipped?) out later, I swear that each felt two inches taller and ten years younger.

A com­pli­ment can make some­one’s day. Even if I can’t teach ev­ery man in Saint Lu­cia to show more re­spect to women, then I hope that ev­ery reader will to­day find an op­por­tu­nity to tell a fam­ily mem­ber, friend or even a stranger a few words that up­lift. Then Saint Lu­cia will have, at last, one bet­ter day.

--- Kitty Joseph

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