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