Don’t Tell Me To Smile, Fam.

I thought I hit my street harassment quotient already this summer but I guess not.

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“Take your time, ma!”

Here I am crossing Penn Avenue on the way to Target to buy some new shoes for work. And of course two Black dudes yell for me to slow down as I crossed the street so they could watch me walk. I’m used to this. I wrote about this before.

I try to tell others that just because I’m in a body-positive space doesn’t mean that I want to be told by total strangers that everything is “sitting right”.

You’re trash, my dude.

I’m walking to work. Less than ten feet away from getting to the front door and he yells, “You ain’t in the mood to smile today?!”

No, my dude. I’m not. Especially for you. You ain’t worth all that.

I hate that. There’s a part of me that wants to curse him clean out but I’m in front one of my coworkers so I don’t want to give off the wrong impression. I’m the sweet one. No one knows that I can curse like a sailor.

But here I am dealing with another instance of men telling me what to do with what I have. I hate that it’s always Black men.

Like, who raised you?

I understand that what we now call “street harassment” has been a part of dating culture since it ever existed. “Catcalling” “hollering” “aye yo, shawty!” And the truth of the matter is that many women have responded to this type of behavior. Not because they think it’s right but because we’ve been told that this is acceptable behavior. It really isn’t. Don’t tell me to smile, fam. Tell yourself to go do something else than bother me.

I used to be one of those girls that thought that this type of behavior toward me was a part of my attractiveness. If a man is willing to yell for you from across the street or grab your wrist as you walk past him or try to get as close to you as possible, that means that you must be worth all of that. I’ve learned that to not be the case. Men can be predators for sport for all types of ways. It ain’t about you. It’s about the response. One positive response is a notch on the belt.

I remember a friend of mine saying that these things don’t happen to her and that was some sort of indictment towards her. I found her to be lucky. I wish I didn’t have men come up to me and ask to give me a ride home. I wish I didn’t have men yell from their cars to slow down so they can watch me walk across the street. I wish I didn’t have men grab my hands as I walked down the street. I wish I didn’t have men make comments about my body. I wish I didn’t have men tell me that “young dudes don’t know what to do with all that”.

I wish I didn’t respond so positive to those comments when I was younger. I wish that I didn’t think that being talked to this way mattered.

I wish I could have cursed that man out in front of my co-worker.

This is my attempt to write every day in July. To read more, follow the hashtag #wedj2019!

Memoirist in spirit and in truth. Christian essayist when both the spirit and truth move me. email: crjtwrites[at]gmail.com

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