A kilted man had a very brief outing in the grey kilt today…a miserably hot and humid day in advance of Hurricane Earl. Only out from around 6-7pm, I did manage to get called something I’ve never been called before…a “shorty.”
On my walk to Barnes and Noble I came upon a group of Puerto Rican teenage girls in Stuyvesant Square. They must have spotted me from a distance because one of them started to imitate Irish dancing. (From Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, “My uncle Pa Keating said Irish dancers look like they have steel rods up their arses, but I can’t say that to Mam, she’d kill me.”) As I got closer it was clear that they were in a state of teenage agitation about the kilt. There was much whispering and covering of mouths and turning of backs so as to hide their conversations. Just as I passed one called out “Lookin’ cute…shorty.” I turned around to face them and laughed heartily and in unison they screamed with teenage delight. I may be invisible to teenage girls but the kilt is not.
Of course, this was an exception to the rule of women of color being the most likely to say something complimentary (or overtly sexual) to the kilted man. Although, as these were girls…perhaps in the twelve to fourteen year range…they may represent a different classification altogether. Now that I think of it, while I have had numerous encounters with teenage boys of color, today was one of the few times that teenage girls have said anything to me. I’ll have to think more about this and be more alert to the teen-girl reaction.
Clearly, calling me a “shorty” was intended to demean or emasculate me in some way, although I think the teenage screams when I turned and laughed had to do with the surprise that I would acknowledge the “taunt” and also may have been an expression of surprise that I might know what a “shorty” is. (As I said yesterday to a colleague of African descent, “Always underestimate the hipness of the white man, because then he can exceed expectations.”)
I have a theory that a kilted man’s experience in New York is largely a reflection of how he enters the day. While the weather today was hot, humid, and stifling, the kilted man entered the City in a light mood and so being called a “shorty” was entertaining, even rather charming.
On East 17th Street a white man in a minivan, singing very badly to something that sounded a bit like Journey but probably wasn’t (always underestimate the hipness of the white man) called out “Rock the kilt, man.”
A kilted man, rocking it.