I have to disagree with your advice to "Chicago Chica" to ignore street harassers. Here are some things she and other women can do:
Tell them what you want, for example: "Leave me alone." "Don't talk to me that way." "Please show me some respect." "Stop harassing me."
Act confident and calm: Use your voice, facial expression and body language to give a consistent message.
If they don't do what you ask, repeat yourself, more intensely.
Define your own success. Often, after you have said what you need to say, you can leave (your integrity intact, no matter what the harasser says).
As a self-defense teacher, I have seen many women use these techniques to stand up to harassment and claim their right to walk down the street unmolested and without fear.
Lauren Taylor, Washington
Thank you so much for this excellent advice. To clarify, the woman who wrote in to me didn't say that she felt afraid -- she said that she didn't like these sidewalk catcalls, and I don't blame her a bit.
I heard from many women who suggested confronting the construction crew and shouting a variety of phrases and epithets, both in English and Spanish. Some suggested calling the police. One suggested calling out the ringleader and asking him to lunch.
Honestly, I can't imagine confronting these people. I believe a confrontation brings up too many frightening possibilities. I can only imagine ignoring them, or perhaps speaking to their supervisor if I felt that things were out of hand. That's why I suggested that this young woman should plug into an iPod and ignore the catcalls. (I was also criticized for this -- though I have to point out that it is possible to be both plugged-in and aware of your surroundings. Simply remove one ear bud.)
I bow to your experience, and I hope that women are able to successfully implement your suggestions.
I just read a letter in your column about pen pals. I, too, have had a pen pal in England for 60 years. We started writing to each other when we were 10.
I live in Florida. She has been here twice, and I have been there twice. We wrote to each other every month or so but now with computers, we send a note every other day.
It is a wonderful experience to have a friend in another country. There is so much to learn.
How amazing. You've been friends from the Sinatra years straight through to the Coldplay era. I hope you've saved your correspondence -- including the e-mail. I'm sure it is a remarkable chronicle of life in a remarkable time.
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