It's Wednesday morning. You're walking down Locust Walk to class, barely looking presentable having woken up only 15 minutes earlier to shove on a pair of dirty jeans and a semi-clean shirt. You blink away the eye crust from the night before, rubbing your bleary eyes as you start walking at a quicker pace. As you walk faster, you realize that perhaps deodorant or perfume might've been a good idea. You shrug your shoulders, look down at your shirt and realize it has a stain on it from dinner last week. You spit on your hand -- hoping that no one around you notices -- and try furiously to rub the Ragu off before your 10 a.m. Let's face it -- you're not exactly the vision of loveliness you had hoped to be. In fact, you're barely a vision of mediocrity when it comes to how you put yourself together. You should be ashamed of yourself. Really, at least you could have put on some clean underwear. What would your mother say? Then it happens. The soothing reassurances to your confidence unparalleled to any compliment your significant other may have said to you in the past. Just as you're passing the mighty emblem of our school, the Ben Franklin statue in front of College Hall, you hear it -- soft though audible, comforting though uncomfortable, complimentary though offensive. The construction workers think you're a cutie. And they're not afraid to let you know it. Perhaps it can best be put in the words of a construction worker I pass before my Monday and Wednesday classes: "Sweeeeeeet." Every girl I have spoken to at Penn has experienced the nonchalant and, for the most part, unwelcome compliments of forlorn construction workers pining for the attention and affection of twentysomething coeds. Regardless of what we wear, what we look like, how disinterested we seem or how often we roll our eyes at the comments we overhear or the intent gazes that mentally undress us, construction workers on Penn's campus have taken as their responsibility not only creating buildings for the student body, but commenting on the student bodies as well. Admittedly, some days when I'm feeling particularly unattractive -- see above Ragu moment -- the words of construction workers taking their eight-hour lunch breaks can be confidence-boosters. But for the most part, it seems rather disgusting and inappropriate to have men who are old enough to be our fathers -- and sometimes our grandfathers -- undress us with their eyes. I don't doubt that these construction workers are just making conversation with one another on much-needed breaks after spending hours working for our benefit. I have never once thought that any of these men have had improper intentions to do anything with any of the student bodies they comment on so readily, nor have I ever doubted that they are good people who are simply overworked and looking for some entertainment. And not all of them act this way. But the clamoring affections set up an interesting paradox with the students on Penn's campus, as construction workers aren't the only ones intent on checking out the student body's bodies. As a friend who recently visited Penn said after walking down Locust Walk: "This campus is so sexually charged. You can't walk down Locust Walk without noticing that every single person is checking every other person out!" Having visited other college campuses myself, I similarly came to this conclusion: There's No Place Like Penn when it comes to flirtatious sexual tension on a main thoroughfare. The most potent contrast is the manner in which these two generations convey their attraction. While construction workers whistle, wink and occasionally hoot like third-graders unable to keep a secret, Penn students are much more subtle. Where a construction worker's compliments are like a drunken swagger, a student's unspoken compliments are like a sophisticated saunter. Where a construction worker jabs his buddy to take a conspicuous look at a girl passing by, a student will just give a casual nod or smile to the object of his affection. Where a construction worker is embarrassingly blatant about what he thinks, a student walking down the Walk is cool, calm, collected, mysterious. So why do we prefer the implicit to the explicit? Aren't both inherently pretty superficial and kind of gross? When you get down to the heart of the matter, is there really a difference -- or do we just tell ourselves that there is? But damn, I look good today.Comments powered by Disqus
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