Are we asking for a good sucking?

It's called a 'wolf whistle' in London and a 'catcall' in New York City. In Madrid or Los Angeles, a lady might be ‘clicked’ at or even inspire some amorous street 'hissing.' As a girl, the odd jocular wolf whistle is not unflattering... but when it comes to one-way street flirtation in Santiago, there is something more bizarre: the 'suck.'

© Cat Allen; 2014
© Cat Allen; 2014

The sound of the suck is similar to a 'kiss' but held that little bit longer, drawn out, like the noise you make when you're trying to coax a kitten or minimize an ice cream headache.

And if you're a lass about Santiago, you've probably experienced this on more than one occasion. "They’re sucking at me!?" my visiting girlfriend exclaimed as we walked up Providencia. "Yes, apparently it happens in Brazil too," I say cheerily, "you’ll get used to it." She had to—she is blonde—the sucks were tenfold.

Photo by Shawn Strange
Photo by Shawn Strange

I wasn't always so upbeat, finding the level of attention received on the Santiago streets stressful and baffling at first (I'm no model); if they weren't sucking they were staring. I worried about leaving the apartment on my own. I thought twice about a short skirt in case this was 'asking for it'... sad times.

Then gradually I toughened up, could this be utilized? If you have a date and can't decide what to wear, could you take a stroll in each potential outfit and grade the results accordingly? Three sucks good, no sucks bad; a sort of bilabial barometer.

One catch: fashion is not a feature for the street-sucking man. They don’t mind if you’re toting an elegant leather clutch, or a plastic bag from Unimarc. The suckers are giving you a no frills, old-fashioned grade of hotness. Or so I thought...

Turns out, it doesn't really matter what you look like: some days when I've made an effort- hint of blusher perhaps- nothing happens. Other days I've crawled out of bed maybe neglecting to shower, and I receive a cacophony of sucks. Female friends experience the same.

Are we flattered? No, clearly the bar is low, and this makes me think; a sucker's objective is not to have relations with the lady in question, or even to talk to her.

It's more a routine display of masculinity, a knee jerk reaction—like scratching balls or spitting—an unfortunate act of macho companionship by the men, for the men, it’s not really about women at all.

Underlining this theory are the circumstances; you are more likely to be whistled or sucked at in Santiago—or anywhere—by men in groups, such as builders. Whether you attract attention or not depends on the mood of the men, the degree of camaraderie, and not your looks.

There are exceptions of course: I have been sucked at once or twice by solitary well-dressed men during business hours. This I find more disturbing, or maybe I really was looking good that afternoon.

I pass a big construction site most days, fifty workers loitering outside- I can never time it right to avoid the rabble- there they are yet again, lips looming.

Photo by Ally Stone. The individuals depicted above are for referential purposes. We are not implying their participation in "sucking."
Photo by Ally Stone. The individuals depicted above are for referential purposes. We are not implying their participation in "sucking."

They see me coming on my bicycle, the sucks ring out long and lusty, a lavatorial sound squelching like boots in mud. I turn a self-conscious shade of red and then I get angry, I am compelled to act, to object. Over my shoulder I give them all 'the finger'—that handy international symbol—and cycle by at pace.

Since then, they suck less when I pass. Even the whistles are dwindling. Yet I am still just as self-conscious, embarrassed as I am by my finger-wielding behavior, so nothing has been solved there.

And perhaps I was too hasty. When I'm old and gray will I long for such street compliments, such affirmations, will I be practically begging for a suck?

I doubt it. Sucking is not attractive, but it's one of those city quirks, quaint at a stretch, and just something a girl has to get used to in Santiago.

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