Attracting men is not the meaning of female life, and sometimes it is a pain in the neck. As a teenage girl I did not exactly appreciate being catcalled by construction workers, for example. Of course, I was probably not attracting them as much as attracting their attention, and the shouting was their way of entertaining each other or asserting their masculinity or whatever.
I suppose the most annoying thing, when I was a teenager, was attracting the boys I didn't have a crush on instead of the boy I did have a crush on. In some cases, it wasn't just annoying but scary. Who are you, and why are you interested in me? What are you up to? Stay away! And it's not like these were bad guys. They just didn't fit my mental template of "boyfriend material."
It was rather different at university, I remember, because I rather liked my admirers. The problem there was knowing how to discourage them firmly instead of trying to be friends and swithering over whether I should date them anyway, and if I should break up with my current boyfriend. Oh, the DRAMA. Meanwhile, if you had told me I seemed to be popular with men I would have laughed. ME? You must be kidding.
Readers often write in to say you have never been on a date, or that you never get attention from men, and then later in the very same email, you describe the two lousy dates you have been on and the unwanted attention you have received from men. Hello. Is there some new, hip alternative meaning for "never"?
Given my own college-era not-rooted-in-reality-ness, I suspect a kind of young-woman absolutism, if that's the word I want, at play. In this situation, reality is not determined by what IS but by what sounds most dramatic. ALL men notice you, or NO men notice you. Both are equally likely to be untrue, unless you are over 40 and have deliberately cultivated invisibility, or are any age and wander about naked, or are the only person of your race in town. (I saw a grand total of two black guys in Kraków, one in a Dominican habit, and one a French tourist.)
So. Let's get this straight. If you are under forty, some men notice you. Guaranteed. Whether they do any more than notice, however, is entirely up to them, and this has much to do with their cultural circumstances. Toronto is a cold, overcrowded city where people want their space and are never sure who can speak English anyway, so your chances of being chatted up in Toronto except by the most outgoing (or crazy) guys are relatively low. Edinburgh is a warm-hearted, small city where people enjoy a good blether, so all you have to do is walk into a pub. Glasgow even more so. (In Glasgow, people will butt into private conversations to tell you what they think. Glasgow is hilarious.)
Now it is true that many of the guys who notice you and then decide to say something are not the guys you would have picked yourself, often because they do not match the "Perfect Boyfriend" template in your head. They might be too old, or too young, or too plain, or too abrupt, or too poor, or too posh. Whatever. But they aren't asking to be your boyfriend, are they? They are just acknowledging your existence. Apparently you look pretty or sympathetic or interesting. If it's just you and he, and if he's not smirking horribly or showing off for other men, it's a compliment. It's a human interaction. It's a good thing. Smile, accept the compliment and move on. He'll probably forget you in ten minutes, but that doesn't matter.
The older I get, the more I appreciate these compliments. I even find them vastly amusing because surely I am an old married lady now, come on. And when the tributes come, they come from such wide variety of non-boyfriend types. Okay, I admit I do occasionally get icked out by ancient Lotharios, but that's not because they're ancient but because they are (or were) Lotharios. But I certainly I enjoy being addressed as "my darleeng" by the fat man at the polski sklep, and the hope-tinged remarks of a Bangladeshi chef on the bus make me giggle even now.
You could, of course, argue that these little tributes from men you don't want are just another reminder of how you have not been chosen by a man you do want. But this strikes me as masochistic. You could just as easily assume that because because men you don't want find you noticeable that it is exceedingly likely that one day a man you DO want will notice you too. And I recommend that you think just that. It will make you happier, and nothing makes a woman more attractive than happiness.
Happiness is most definitely a state of mind. Cultivate it like flowers in a garden.