A woman’s body is not an invitation,
no matter what she is wearing
no matter what patch of flesh is exposed.
Contrary to what you think you are hearing,
her neck is not calling your name,
nor is her earlobe,
nor is her knee,
nor is her hair.
You think you are hearing that voice.
What you are thinking is wishful thinking.
She is not thinking of you at all.
She is thinking of the dogs she is walking,
of the blue sky,
of the letter she needs to write,
of the bill she needs to mail,
of the check she needs to cash.
She is not thinking that you will feel the need
to tell her how she should feel.
While she is writing this poem,
a black Volvo newer than her car will drive by
containing five high-school students.
One of them will catcall her,
then bravely drive away before she can respond,
before the whistler can face the consequences of their actions,
in a car purchased, no doubt,
by one of the children’s mommies or daddies.
This not in Paris or Los Angeles or Chicago,
but in Enumclaw, Washington,
where churches outnumber fast-food joints,
where some of the children have never made it
so far as Seattle.
While you will forget in a matter of five minutes
that you whistled at a woman today,
she will spend the next half hour,
and then, less intensely, the rest of her life,
deciphering her appearance, her outfit,
like a detective,
despite trying to convince herself that
she does not care,
that at 28 she is the most confident in her skin
that she has ever been.
Was it the skirt? Its slit?
The V-neck? The bra strap?
The earrings? The necklace?
The make-up? The shoes?
Should her hair have been down? Up?
In a bun? But then her neck would have been exposed …
Sarah Kay says,
If you are the kind of woman men want to look at,
you can let them look at you.
This is true, and self-empowering.
Looking, after all, is not touching.
However, apparently these children never learned
from their mothers, or Thumper the rabbit’s mother, that
If you don’t have anything nice to say,
don’t say anything at all.
Mothers, tell your sons,
that a woman is not an elbow
a pair of breasts
a head of hair
a hoop earring.
Tell them, instead,
that a woman is
and a stiff spine
paired with resting bitch face
to ward off those who feel it is appropriate
to whistle at a woman.