When I’m semi-lost in DC, looking for the right bus (a city that I don’t even know) while trying to do some sightseeing, I really don’t need a random man to say, “dang, it’s not that serious! Smile!” in a growling command like he’s more vex at me that anything else, a pitch that almost makes me jump out my skin ’cause I’m busy trying to sort out where the heck I am and most certainly, not smile.
Before that, a bus driver told me I must have an attitude because I wasn’t a bundle of perkiness and presumably, coy smiles, when I boarded (and I could see him giving me The Eye). He assumed that I was one of those females with my “defenses up”. On the bus! Yeah, it wasn’t even that serious. I just don’t do perkiness. That’s not me. So I humor him and once he heard my accent, I ended up hearing a tirade about ‘Trini women’ and how we are ‘trouble’ though ‘beautiful’—apparently he is allegedly familiar with “us” in some capacity. Cause all of us are all the same. (Then, he switched off his shift and passed me his number as he left. I kid thee not).
And anyway, who the hell commands someone to smile?
I was instantly triggered to think about Renina’s blog post where she talks about black women and street harrassment and this famous phenomenon:
From Friendly to Hostile to Bitch in 10 Seconds
“Hey, why so serious, honey? Give us a little smile.” My sense of humor, he didn’t know, was temporarily out of service, so of course I didn’t give him a little smile. But in not smiling, I had again violated the code, provoking another seizure of silent suffering that became verbal. As I passed the sleeve on the street, it hissed a word at me, with the edge of anger to it, with a sharp rebuke in it: “Bitch.”
This account describes a common pattern, in which the target’s failure to response results in escalation and a superficially friendly interaction is transformed into one that is transparently hostile.
So not feeling any of this. Not one bit.