“You look very nice today. And I just wanted to let you know that there are still real men out here who appreciate a lady who takes care of herself.”
I smile and say, “Thanks,” because I’ve been walking around Oakland dressed like this since I started shopping for my own clothes way back when. The older gentleman who is addressing me tips his hat and with what I would generally like characterize as a pimp cane, but, let’s not stereotype the older gentleman with a cane. Maybe he just has a bad foot, and my bus is supposed to arrive in about two minutes, which means that I can engage in yet another pleasant conversation with the neighborhood regulars before I jet off to Berkeley to do whatever the fuck it is that I do in Berkeley. But he keeps on walking, which is fine by me, and who am I to not smile at an unsolicited compliment while I’m dressed like this, in this skirt, and in these heels? I grew accustomed to that kind of reaction years ago, and if you don’t have the grit or the brawn to deal with being treated like a prostitute when you risk leaving the house looking even 1% fashionable, the don’t bother. Getting hollered at is part of the social contract that women in this city have to accept, although, I have to admit that unsolicited compliments don’t even entirely bother me, so long as the implication of further interaction is not assumed within the brief conversation. Even though the occasional, “Damn, girl!” from the crackhead on the bicycle also makes me smile, but there’s something to be said for the cultural difference between an older man of color saying hello and a young, entrepreneurial gentleman who is looking at me like the fastest way from point A to the point where he can cash in on my pussy. Sure, I’m aware of the economic implications of other types of interactions, and I’m not trying to fuck with someone else’s profession (regardless of my personal opinions on the local prostitution economy), but thank you for letting me smile and walk away. We’ve all been living in this city long enough to know how to maturely deal with either kind of interaction, although, I have to say that I’ve noticed that for those of you Oakland newbies – well, you realize that moving to a city that is notorious for prostitution and then complaining about prostitution on Twitter without even doing anything to allay the real pains that prostitution inflict on mostly poor women of color…that makes you look dumb. If prostitution really bothers you, then do something about it, but screaming at some pimp on the street does nothing to validate your point. If you’re dressed like a prostitute, these things happen.