Several years ago I met this guy who I’ll call Billy Moretti. He was a dark-haired, muscular Irish-Italian guy originally from Queens and he was smoking hot. The first time we met, I got this jolt in my stomach – the kind of jolt that’s only happened to me twice so far – and we ended up having a very intense, secret-ish fling.
Billy and I had a few conversations about serious topics, such as spirituality and self-esteem. One thing he said to me was a phrase from his old neighborhood: “Whoze bettah than you?” His New York accent made the words even more affirming to me, and I would always say in response, “Nobody.” Sometimes I attempted a New Yorker accent, sometimes I whispered my answer. But I never changed it. I knew what the answer was.
When the Hollaback street harassment video went viral recently, I thought about my experiences in New York and other big cities of walking down the street and having random men make comments or try to engage me. I learned pretty quickly that my tendency to be engaging and kind with people is not a good idea when hoofing it in Times Square, DC or downtown L.A. There are a lot of freaky folks out there. However, I have to admit that the attention was always a little bit flattering. It meant I wasn’t as invisible as I often felt. It suggested that maybe I was doing something right with the way I was dressing or carrying myself if some stranger catcalled me.
I’m not the only woman who’s felt this way. “Sidewalk” is a fantastic animated short by Celia Bullwinkel that chronicles a woman’s life as she walks down the street.
In an interview she did with Jessica Goldstein over at ThinkProgress, Bullwinkel talks about what motivated her to make the film. Conversations with her mother about appreciating catcalls “because when you get older, it goes away” and reading Nora Ephron’s essays on aging proved to be a perfect starting place.
I started to really think about how I could make a film that dealt with body acceptance, and how life is more than just how you look or how you feel about yourself being young. Who cares if you get older? Everyone ages at the same rate. We all do it, so why not celebrate it?
It’s Bullwinkel’s comment later in the interview that reminded me of Billy’s saying, and how it made me feel back when he was saying it to me.
I wanted to show that, even if it takes you until the end of your life to change your outlook, change your mindset, about who you are, it’s never too late. You can learn to love yourself at any age in your life.
Lately I’ve been on a positive reinforcement and self-improvement kick. I’m wearing mascara and lip gloss most days, even if I don’t go anywhere, because it makes me feel good (thanks to reading an interview with Betty Halbreich, the legendary Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper). I’m talking myself out of negative thoughts about my weight, my looks, all of it. And it’s been working. I feel really good and I feel people are responding to me differently. I’m not getting catcalls, nor do I want them at this point in my life, because I’m finally validating myself in ways I haven’t before.
But I do hear Billy’s voice in my head, and my own voice, too, asking, “Whoze bettah than you?” And my answer is, as always, “Nobody.”