Lake Effect, Spring 2002, Volume 6: Why Men Whistle

Allison Joseph


Why Men Whistle

Maybe some chemical inside their brains
makes them behave this way: hooting
as they drive slowly by, whistling sharp

and long as they check out whatever’s
coming: women assessed at a glance.
Maybe they need to be heard in three

states, and that’s why they’re yelling
Whoop, there it is, pointing out the
obvious, selecting targets. But why

do they slow for me, undistinguished
in a dark turtleneck, jeans, a sweater
your grandmother might wear? Why stop

to peer at a woman with an
unpainted face and unprocessed hair,
nothing done to change drab to daring,

no skin showing. Still, they drive slowly
when they see me alone, wanting
to know if I’m married, happily so,

asking to give me a ride to wherever
I’m going, hoping to take me places
only they know about. I tell them

I like to walk, that my husband’s expecting
me soon, that I don’t get into strange
cars. And that chemical in their brains

clicks off as they drive by, realizing
I’m not worth the time, or money,
or effort when there are too many

others to stop, better-looking women
who’ll want a ride to the club only they
know about, a place too far to reach on foot.