The Sound of Legs Crossing

08.14.2004 | David Walley | Interviews & First Person | 7 Comments
There’s something delicious about the way women cross their legs, the way they half-smile while they do it. Women have a sixth sense about such things, it’s something primordial, something unconscious. And it’s certainly not haphazard because there are very few women who don’t know what they’re doing: that’s what distinguishes them from girls.

Girls do things just to check out their “woman act”, to see if everything works alright. Girls are always giving out conflicting signals. They don’t care how they cross their legs. There’s no art in it, for art the distinguishing grace of womanhood.

Girls, especially young girls, have a way of insinuating themselves into your senses with their perfumed caresses; their whispered words mouthed in some translucent lipstick go to the small thin white hairs on your back as their lips half-touch and butterfly-lash kisses assault your ears. That complete Wagnerian technique they’ve all learned is so seductive. It’s a great illusion, and that’s what men are always falling for, illusion, promise and innocence.

Innocence, now there’s a hot one. It could be that women have always been trained to exude innocence without ever having any. Classical Biblical scholarship, at least as fundamentally practiced, shows us that it was Eve who persuaded Adam to take that fateful bite. Christian theology has forever after blamed women for the calamities that befall mankind. How did it happen, then, that women suddenly became divine innocents when it’s really the men who’ve always been the innocents, at least in that regard?

Feminine innocence? Hardly.

There was nothing innocent about a scene I witnessed in a Second Avenue blues dive as I watched a 19-year-old practicing her woman chops upon some unsuspecting male. The bar itself was your normal Friday-night-at-the-dives type scene, with its sprinkling of hardcore alcoholics, ‘luded-out Jersey youth, and the obligatory Avenue A punks and punkettes. Into this veritable melting pot of tastes and types wafted this lovely, a girlfriend in tow, both looking as if they showed up for Monday 8 o’clock with two hours of makeup on. Obviously they were women-in-training, dressed to the nines, and quite conscious that they occupied center stage. Girls like that always seem to cross their legs, long and languid, just at the moment when you’re looking their way, or they’ll lick their lips just when your eye catches theirs.

So here was this one girl, spotting one of her male admirers and raising his ego by whispering sweet somethings in his ear in full sight of the sundry Second Avenue degenerates. And he, poor sod, inebriated by this frontal assault on his senses, was entranced. This young kid with the new beard was getting aroused by this sexy lip-glossed suburban cutie who, by applying so much attention to him, had succeeded spectacularly in focusing the attention of the entire bar squarely upon her. Pressing her long, well-manicured nails into his back, she caressed him with her whispers as her eyes swept the room, watching the other men watch her.

God it was so innocent, yet so completely lascivious, calculated, and cold on her part. I knew the poor kid was in for it, and I was glad to be watching. Few 19-year-olds have the experience to handle such a determined and perfumed package with perfect equanimity, but where would the world be without those 19-year-old world-beaters?

Thankfully, women don’t give off such conflicting signals, especially with their legs. And there are men who realize that and who listen to the sound of legs crossing to announce their presence. Raymond Chandler, that poet/philosopher king of the hard-boiled, was always intrigued by how stockings sound when legs are crossed, that hiss a woman’s legs make when walking. “I was thinking about that ever since you crossed your legs,” said Robert Mitchum to Charlotte Rampling, after she crossed hers provocatively in the movie of Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. Yes, that “that.”

Stockings and garterbelts, they called it “cheesecake” back in Forties when it moved a lot of tabloids. And it still does, for as much as contemporary fashion would like to kill the garterbelt look, it continues to be popular, especially in the New York Times which is always running softcore porn fashion forecasts touting the look.

A few years back, the Times ran a corker of an ad, from B. Altman’s yet. This quarter-page masterpiece was captioned “After Dark,” and it featured a pair of legs with dark stocking bands in a pair of high heels. Amusingly enough, it was situated right across from a news item about a wheelchair-bound dirty old man accused of molesting a 10-year-old girl. “Create an ILLUSION [the name of the pantyhose] with Dior’s newest ultra-sheen sandal foot pantyhose. You’ll startle with pantyhose that have the romantic look of thigh-high stockings, and enjoy the fun of the fantasy.”

Fun? Some poor garterbelt freak was going to get a coronary figuring out where the garters went. Don’t blame Dior; they’re just responding to a trend by catering to a romantic illusion but without the inconvenience. Women have always complained about how inconvenient the whole business was, how hot and uncomfortable, but maybe that was really the point.

Antiseptic fashion trends aside, for me there’s a delicious mischievousness about the woman who looks me straight in the eye and then performs one of those Raymond Chandler crosses, long and languid right in front of me on public transportation or in some public place. A smile plays across her face, her eyes twinkle, and I can hear her thinking,” I’ll blow that guy’s mind. Why not, I’m getting off at the next stop anyway.”

So many styles of crossing to behold. There’s the slim Garbo cross where legs are tilted sideways close together, the impatient abrupt cross with the legs changing position with no grace. These legs are obviously waiting for someone who’s late and they’re impatient, bobbing to some internal pinball rhythm. There are women who cross their legs and balance them on their high heels, legs thinking,” What should I do while I’m waiting?”

The seated legs for the straight-up flirtation are the most provocative of all, garterbelt fantasies aside. I remember sitting in the waiting room of Penn Station waiting for a train when I noticed this blonde wearing a white suit, shortish skirt and a pair of white heels which bottomed out a set of legs which seemed to start from her shoulders. Her eyes were tight-set and blue, her mouth pursed, thin. Now she wasn’t all that much of a raving beauty, but really a raving beauty because she knew how to put herself together to draw attention to her best assets.

I sat down across from her, not directly across, but as close as the seating allowed. As I did, she turned her legs to the side, but in such a way that no one else could see them as revealingly as I could. She buried her head in the Washington Post and occasionally peeked at me very discreetly, so I wasn’t sure it was deliberate. I buried my nose in a book, trying to look as if I wasn’t looking at her long legs bottomed out by high white heels. It seemed that every time that I did look up, an instant later she’d change the position of her legs. And she kept this up until the Metroliner departure was announced 50 minutes later.

Men must remember that in this particular game of gams, though it takes two to tango it’s the woman who’s in control at all times, even if it might appear to be casual or off-hand. It’s what men fear who don’t have it together, because part of the male chauvinist game is to assume that the man is always in control of the situation, whereas it’s really the woman who’s in control, by being in control of herself and all parts of her body. Women have to be in dealing with men who for the most part act without any intentionality at all.

I’ve rarely met a woman who doesn’t know exactly what she’s doing, even when it doesn’t seem as if she does. There are some women who are so womanly that they seem to have eyes with 360 degree scans. I remember having a burger a few years back in the Beachwood Canyon Country Store in Hollywood, one of those places where there is an abundance of stunning women for no evident reason.

I was minding my own business, bemoaning another deal that had gotten away when suddenly I felt a charge of electricity course through my backbone. I turned and spied an extraordinarily beautiful woman in her late-thirties or early forties, dressed casually in jeans and a linen shirt. Her body was slim, her hair brown, her eyes the deepest blue. Unhurriedly she sauntered up and down the aisles, perusing the carded display case knickknacks. As she passed down the luncheonette counter, I felt the hairs on my back rise and my groin come to life. She radiated waves of sensuality, so much so that my seatmate turned to me and we both stared bug-eyed after her wake.

Taking her change from the cashier, she turned and fixed me with such a sweet sensuous stare that I almost spilled my burger into my lap. It was such a womanly, inviting yet non-committal look, meeting my eyes with perfect equanimity. I would have followed her to the ends of the earth if need be. And as she left, her waves reverberated off every man in the joint, and a silence descended, a silence which dissipated when a nervous waitress dropped a glass.

For a time it seemed that everyone, men and women, had developed a chip which was either in the process of being put on or knocked off. Consequently, everyone’s circuits were psychologically, spiritually and sexually overloaded. But that’s all over now, and a reconciliation is taking place between the sexes. There has been born a whole new generation of women who have become turned off to (and by) media feminism, and who are looking for viable alternatives and compromises.

Simultaneously, there is an older generation of men who remember when there were women who enjoyed being women without the excuses and recriminations. If indeed this is so, then there will be more men surfacing who won’t be afraid to admit that they enjoy and look forward to the sound of legs crossing.

How nice to read such unfiltered, joyous mysogony. Warms the cockles of my doubtlessly manipulative little-girl lizard brain. 'S lucky that I've got the legs to compensate for it.
08.14.2004 | Susan Wilan
(so sorry you misspelled "misogyny")
08.18.2004 | ts brock
It really gets my goat when "feminism" and "femininity" are presented as mutually exclusive opposites. Feminism is just a desire for equality between the sexes. Feminists do not want all women to shed their stockings and pretty shoes. I love stockings and pretty shoes. But I do not want to, say, lose my job as a flight attendant because I would really rather wear trousers and flats. That's feminism.

None of this has anything to do with the fact that your article was fairly incoherent. Am I supposed to care that you really, really would like to have sex with someone?
08.18.2004 | jenny s.
Sex? I didn't think I was talking about having sex in the piece. I was talking about flirting
amongst other things. I do think the point raised about feminism and femininity is a valid one which bears further discussion.

Guess I didn't run the essay through the
IdeologyChek on my PC before I submitted it to
NP, Nevertheless, thanks for reading it. It made you think, that was my intention.
08.19.2004 | David Walley
It would have to be demonstrated to me that the above article is misogynistic because that is not what I read. What I read is a delicate silhouetting of the conscience of the Voice. All of the material placed forward is not referenced to any Woman in Truth, but instead refer to the multitude of Women that inhabit the memories, fantasies and desires of the Voice. Perhaps that is all any of us can ever reference.
In the same way, I find the article to be quite coherent. It moves seamlessly and sensibly from thought to memory to impression. To think otherwise is to have a lead ear for the language.
08.19.2004 | J.E. D'Ulisse
I do not think that "The Sound of Legs Crossing" is misogynistic.
I think that it is a cleverly crafted satire, along the lines of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal."

I reject Mr. Walley's interpretation.
"The Intentional Fallacy" remains a fallacy.
08.19.2004 | K Corbst
To Corbst, I'd like to say that distinction still remains between "women" have "intentionality" and "girls" who don't. Maybe it's just an "old school" distinction but that's been my experience.
08.21.2004 | David Walley

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