Blurred Lines: Where Does Catcalling End and Harassment Begin?

Photo: Jezebel

Photo: Jezebel

Last week Katarina Hybenova, founder of Bushwick Daily, wrote a post called Catcalling is NOT Flattering, why I stopped running in Bushwick. I was immediately intrigued because as a female who has been catcalled and someone who also resides in this lovely corner of Brooklyn, I related. As I read her story and absorbed her experiences, I nodded along as I recounted my own: groped on this street corner, followed home as men hurled stomach-churning comments my way near my apartment and shocked when a man asked me how much it would cost to spend the night with me after I walked out of a bodega.

I have lived in cities for about four years now and have been catcalled in all of them. I absolutely agree with Katarina that Bushwick has been the worst thus far. The men who prowl the streets say worse things, come closer to me and often don’t back down when I am walking with my boyfriend. 

I didn’t give up running, but I did crank up my music while running, walking or sitting in parks in my neighborhood. I look at the ground more near my apartment than I do in any other neighborhood, lest I lock eyes with someone and it starts: the confrontation, the lewd remarks, the feelings of vulnerability and weakness… 

And that is the point of catcalling, isn’t it? It’s a power trip that has the potential to make women feel weak. I am assuming that it has nothing to do with appearance as men hooted and whistled at me one time when my eye was swollen shut and another right after I had back surgery and was dragging myself along with a walker to get into my apartment. (It’s even less enjoyable when you can’t quickly escape the situation.) 

Katarina’s post responded to an article written by Doree Lewak in the NY Post called Hey, ladies – catcalls are flattering! Deal with it. I read that piece too, expecting to be shocked and angered. But Doree framed her stance on these grounds: “…When I know I’m looking good, I brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and ‘Hey, mama!’ catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!”

This is where we need to make an important distinction.

Catcalling is a broad term that covers anything from a whistle and a “hey, baby” to words that are much worse and actions that should more appropriately be labeled harassment. I have experienced both, and I think that writing an article that says catcalling is flattering to some, may enable people who already do it. It also may condone this type of harassment that already doesn’t have a lot of consequences. 

Is the root of the issue that catcalling is such a broad term that it is difficult to know where that line stops and harassment begins? Are there nice types of catcalling and horrifying types? Does it your experience and the way these hoots and hollers make you feel depend on your zip code? Most likely, yes, to all of the above.

Let’s look at what catcalling – as a broad term – does to many women. Many of the same women who enjoy compliments and maybe even a whistle from a stranger don’t enjoy harassment. Many women (myself included) have changed their lifestyle because of the more harassing types of catcalling. I know that whenever I wear a dress (even a baggy one) I should walk as fast as I can and keep my eyes locked on the ground and my headphones in. I know that I should walk on the other side of the street until I am directly in front of my apartment building because the same group of guys jeer at me from their stoop when I walk past. And I know that I shouldn’t have had to change my location at a local park this weekend four times – four different benches on opposite sides of the park – until I found a spot where I could sit quietly and listen to music without men approaching me and saying explicit things. 

Katarina suggests going to iHollaback.org to join the fight to end catcalling so women can feel safe walking down the street, wear what they want and not be afraid to go for a run through their own neighborhood. This is a great start, and I am hoping that these articles start a larger conversation about action that can be taken. Bitch Magazine talks about laws that can be used to crack down on this, but admits that verbal harassment is the hardest flavor of harassment to crack down on. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri suggests responding in “catty” ways such as hissing or clawing through the harasser’s shirt.

We may not yet have a perfect solution, but let’s continue the discussion so men and women don’t become inoculated to it and assume, from both perspectives, that it is just something that is a part of life. 

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Pumpkin Poppers: The Perfect Treat to Pair with a Pumpkin Beer

It’s almost that time of year again. I know, it’s only August and I usually don’t start itching for that sweet, cinnamon-y pumpkin taste until September. August in New York City usually feels like a trash-scented blanket of moist air is coating the streets and clinging to your clothes. And that feeling usually calls for shandies, summer ales and gelato. But this August has been breezy – chilly even – and has thrown me into fall a bit early. So whether you are ready for the season change or you will tuck this recipe away until next month, here is a quick and easy fall treat that is perfect for any occasion. 

I found this recipe while scrolling through a 30 Pumpkin Recipes for Fall post on Pinterest, but the source is domestically-speaking.com. The best part about it is that I had all of the ingredients in my baking cabinet and avoided a trip to the store. I bet you have them too:

Popper:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup low-fat milk

Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

According to the recipe I found, these are supposed to be baked in a mini muffin pan, but I used a regular one and they turned out just fine. For those of you with finicky ovens like myself, I found that baking these treats at 350 degrees for 12 minutes (the amount of time that would have been perfect for a mini muffin tray full of these little balls of heaven) was just right for me. Make sure you don’t leave them in for too long or else they might crack! Although, that just leaves more areas for the cinnamon sugar mixture to settle into. No complaints here.

First, preheat your oven to 350 (unless your oven is like mine and burns things when you attempt that).

Next, take out your muffin or mini muffin pan and coat each cup with baking spray.

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You’re going to need two mixing bowls: one for your wet ingredients and one for the dry. The second bowl can be the bowl that is part of a Kitchen Aid mixer. Combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in the second mixing bowl. Once both are individually combined, pour your dry ingredients into the wet while mixing.

Don’t overmix! The batter should be doughy and not have any apparent clumps of sugar or spices. 

Fill your muffin tin cups about 3/4 of the way full and pop them in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Now that this step is done, reward yourself with a Pumpkin beer. Just make sure you save some to pair with the poppers. I chose Fire Island Beer Co’s Pumpkin Barrel Ale, but my all time fall favorite is Southern Tier’s Pumpking. The Pumpkin Barrel Ale has a solid pumpkin taste with understated cinnamon and spice notes. This makes it a great compliment to the very sweet poppers. 

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Now that your poppers are in the oven and your beer is nearby, it’s time to make the cinnamon sugar coating.

To do this, melt the butter in one bowl and combine the cinnamon and sugar in another small bowl. I added a dash of pumpkin spice and nutmeg to this mixture to spice it up a bit.

When your poppers are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool for about five minutes before rolling them lightly in the butter and then heavily in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Domestically Speaking suggests just dipping the tops in the mixture if you want a less sweet variation, but I am going to tell you how to make it even sweeter!

These poppers are perfect on their own and with a pumpkin beer, but I had some leftover buttercream icing from a batch of cupcakes I made last week and tried this combination. The result? Heaven. Think: pumpkin-flavored, cinnamon-sugar-coated doughnut hole, frosted with vanilla icing. Is your mouth watering yet? 

To gauge how tasty these poppers are, I can tell you that four of them were gone within an hour of them coming out of the oven. 

I would serve these as a breakfast treat with a pumpkin pie protein smoothie, a weekend snack matched nicely with a pumpkin brew or a dessert with a Pumpkin Khalua cocktail (try 2 oz vodka, 1.5 oz khalua and cream or milk – topped with nutmeg in a cinnamon-rimmed glass – for an autumn twist on a White Russian. 

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I hope you enjoy these!

What are your favorite pumpkin-flavored treats? Comment below or tweet them at me: @asanders88! I might just bake your suggestions.

Top 5 Beaches in NYC

Long Beach It’s summer in New York City and you know what that means: stifling subway rides, the scent of leaky, roasting garbage, and spending too much money on icy beverages. But summer also means beach days, where you get to lazily lay in the sunshine and nap, read or listen to music for hours without feeling like maybe you should be doing something more productive. You’re getting Vitamin D, possibly being educated by a podcast (I love listening to This American Life and Slate’s The XX Factor while I soak up rays), and getting your exercise in thanks to beach volleyball. Maybe you’re being productive after all. But no matter what your beach hobby of choice is, you have a lot of options for your summer beach days in the City – and the Hamptons are not on this list.

My boyfriend, Chris, and I have decided to take the City beach tour. Since I am still recovering from surgery and we have a car, trekking to a new sandy destination each weekend proves easy and relaxing (minus the occasional traffic).

Here are your top 5 beaches in New York City and what they have to offer:

1) Your Swimming/ Sunning Beach: Long Beach, Nassau County, NY (cost: $24 for two, one-day beach passes)

This beach, just an hour drive from Bushwick, is smaller than many of the City beaches we have been to. The ocean isn’t a far walk from the boardwalk, so you can park a blanket in between both spots and watch the surf crash into the shore while still being close enough to the boardwalk to wander down to “Shoregasboard” for a snack. The beach was quiet and much less crowded than the lot containing Shoregasboard, vendors selling their wares and small carnival rides. For dinner, we ate at Brixx and Barley, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating not far from the beach that features chilled duck tacos and an extensive craft beer list. It was a relaxing day that was a bit pricier than we would have preferred, but if you get a season pass to cut the cost, it is well worth it.

2) Your Hipster Beach: Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY (FREE, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)

RockawayI grew up going to Rockaway Beach, and the current state of the beach only loosely resembles the one I recall visiting as a child. The expansive beach area boarders a cement boardwalk that boasts a food court to whet any appetite. We sprung for three lobster sliders for $12, which were well worth the cost, and some home made mint iced tea (minus the ice, which they ran out of on that sweltering Saturday). The lobster rolls shared the menu with tacos, waffle ice cream sundaes and unique, chilled beverages. The beach itself was crowded – but not in a claustrophobic way – with 20 and 30 somethings ducking under a limbo stick, going on beer runs and jumping in the then-icy water. The crowd also included families, but there was definitely more of a lively, party atmosphere here. We loved that we didn’t have to pay for parking, although it was a bit hard to find, and there is no charge to use the beach. We ventured to Sayra’s Wine Bar for dinner and while I was enamored with their charming backyard space and tapas style menu, we were both very disappointed by the service and the mediocre food. But there are plenty of beachside restaurants dotted throughout Rockaway Beach to try to cap off your beach day.

3) Your Tourist Beach (read: the one to go to off season): Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY (FREE, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)

We ventured to this beach Coney Islandlast year when we lived in Jackson Heights, Queens. We took the subway and it ended up being a terribly long ride during which we were surrounded by gaggles of kids. By the time we got to the beach, it was well past lunch time and we were determined to hop on line and wait for a good old Nathan’s hot dog along with another 120 or so beach goers. We waited for close to an hour before sinking our teeth into the dogs and fries. It felt like a sweeping victory when my taste buds touched the tangy ketchup. We sat on the beach for about a half hour before we realized that it was nearly dinnertime and we had a long subway ride home. The beach itself was just dotted with people on that late summer day, but the boardwalk was very crowded (as in people bumping into one another while walking along the boardwalk crowded) and not worth the effort to trek to during the summer in my opinion, unless you are jonesing for some old fashioned amusement park rides. But I have been there off season and on stormy days when few head to the beach; that’s when I feel the same magic I felt as a child when I saw the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel rise in front of me.

4) Your True New York Beach: Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY (FREE, as I recall, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)

I haven’t been to Brighton Beach in several years, but it made the list because I have wonderful childhood memories of this beach. I spent less time soaking up sun here as a kid than I did walking from restaurant to food stand in Little Odessa, a neighborhood with endless Russian food that boarders that beach. These jaunts were led by my father, Rich, a self-described foodie who cooks some of the most inventive and delicious food that I have ever tasted. He now runs the website Ethnojunkie, which has a goal of “turning people on to ethnic food, one story at a time.” This beach is seldom crowded and offers local culture and flavor that many frequently flocked to beaches don’t have. I dubbed this a true New York beach because one of my favorite things about this city is that the people who live here hail from too many places to count. I think it’s important to be exposed to cultures that you aren’t saturated in daily and try new cuisines that broaden your palette (I drew the line when my dad ordered rabbit, but Little Odessa has something for everyone).

5) Your Day Tripping Beach: Jones Beach, Nassau County, NY ($10 per car to enter, plus a tank of gas)

jonesThis beach took quite a long time to drive to, navigate the parking situation and actually get to the beach, so leave early if you want to make a full day of it (and if you live in Brooklyn). This beach is swaddled in a state park that is nearly 10 miles long. It is very well-kept and boasts actual restrooms, an outdoor picnic seating area and Smorgasburg. When we arrived, we made a beeline for the food tent, which offered snacks at your usual City prices. A bottle of water and a paper cone of large, crispy fries drowning in honey mustard helped us kick off our beach day. The beach itself wasn’t too crowded and was peppered with families, creating a pretty laid back atmosphere. A mini golf course and some other classic beachside games like shuffleboard lined the boardwalk, but they weren’t impressive enough to make us stick around as dusk fell. We headed to The Good Life for dinner, which hit the spot with an extensive craft beer list that could chill any sunburn and a drool-worthy Tabasco chicken pot pie. This was a great day trip to a new corner of the world and a nice summer adventure, but it’s a bit of a haul for your average beach day.

What is your favorite New York City beach? Comment below or tell me on Twitter @asanders88.

Blonde Daisies

Blonde Daisies

Blonde Daisies

Recently, I had to figure out how to be me again. When I say “being me,” I don’t mean I’ve changed – at least that much. Though, I did get a little more metal. What I’m trying to say is that in March, I underwent the second (and hopefully final) spinal fusion of my lifetime. Before the surgery, I was in pain and, well, I’m sure you don’t want to hear the long story, but suffice to say that the pain made doing the things I thought defined me nearly impossible. Running? Out. Baking? Ouch! Even going to work felt like torture. Think getting stuck on the L train for an hour is bad? Try doing that while your vertebra rub themselves down to nubs.

I counted the days until my surgery and then mentally prepared myself to be as good as new very shortly after. Well, it turns out your body isn’t really elated about having metal wrapped around parts that are supposed to stay safely tucked inside of your skin.

Surgery

Before + After

Fast forward to now: Today marks three months to date that I was wheeled into that operating room, fingers crossed under blankets just warmed by a heater, that this surgery would have a better result than the first one.  It has been a hell of a ride and I am just starting to feel like me again. And I think I have a new perspective on what being me really means.

After passing through the denial stage (OMG I can’t believe I can’t leave my apartment) and getting angry (I know I can’t walk or sit for more than five minutes, but I still don’t understand why I can’t go to that party tonight), I turned a corner somewhere and hit acceptance. Now, let’s not get dramatic. I don’t have a fatal illness and I knew all along that this surgery and recovery would just be a setback – nothing permanent – albeit I no longer have feeling in my right leg and that part might be permanent. But laying low was a lot more difficult than I anticipated, and I was so focused on being active that I never truly enjoyed the stillness that was at my disposal. I did my best to catch up with friends, celebrate good news and be social over the phone, via my laptop or from my couch. But that didn’t fit my usually active schedule of work, working out, cooking, baking, reading and filling any other spare time with podcasts and music (oh, and sleep).

Dotted within this stretch of time that I seemed to fill with nothingness (due to pain, illness, lack of concentration due to heavy pain medication, work, etc.) I attempted a lot of activities that I previously thought defined me (that I could barely do in my recovery state). But on an unknown day during this time, I realized what I had been missing while living too quickly.

Mocha Cupcakes

Mocha Cupcakes

Among the days when I sat down every three minutes as I struggled to bake mocha cupcakes with espresso icing and sugar cookies with buttercream icing; worked with my step mother to plant a hanging mason jar herb garden as I lay on the couch fighting my pain; and tried to go to dinner with my boyfriend’s parents and nearly fainting because my pain medicine was making me so ill, I learned what mattered more than fitting everything into a day, a week a month and a year.

I read more books than I have in years and started to write poetry again. I spent time with my boyfriend during my darkest and most painful nights that faded into bright mornings, when I would wake up to fresh flowers that we nicknamed blonde daisies, which loomed over the pile of pill bottles on my bedside table and made everything seem OK again. I learned that love is someone staying awake all night when you are in too much pain to sleep even with an alarm clock set for 8 am. I spent more consistent time with family than I have in awhile, and I let myself ask for help. My brightest days involved sitting on our balcony in the sun and no longer needing my walker or cane to walk to the end of the hallway.

Even before someone took a scalpel to my spine, I constantly fretted about wasting my time and wanting to use it wisely. But this recovery period gave me the opportunity to soak up what is truly important and allowed me to redefine myself through a new lens.

Now, when the chaos of life starts up again and I resume my usual activities, I know to stop and smell the blonde daises.