While out for drinks this past weekend with my boyfriend and his friends, we were all sitting together in a circle, talking about a little bit of everything, including the gun control debate, dating, interracial dating, and the habits of women that men don’t like. To be specific, the alleged habits of black women that some black men aren’t too fond of. While talking about this, a friend brought up the fact that often when he rides public transportation or walks the street and sees a beautiful black woman, he’ll send a glance her way and even a smile. However, he lamented over the fact that the reaction he receives is anything but flattered or remotely positive.
“If I show interest in a sista and look her way, she always looks back all angry or like she has an attitude. Why ya’ll always look so mean?? I never get that type of reaction from other women! But don’t get me wrong, I prefer a sista over everybody else.”
The other black men out with us at the time seemed to agree, with one declaring that, “Some of ya’ll need to accept the fact that you’re angry. Everywhere I’ve been I’ve encountered it. Not all of you, but a lot of you just seem to have a chip on your shoulder for no reason.”
That part of the conversation I had to jump in on, and if you were wondering, NO, I wasn’t angry or defensive in my response. While I can’t answer to why some of us seem to carry a lot of anger with us (Let’s not front. I’ve seen enough unnecessary confrontations on public transportation, while working in customer service and from my own friends and family to know some of us are indeed “angry”), when it comes to the less than stellar response some men receive from us in their attempts to “holla,” the looks they get or the feelings we have at that moment definitely have a back-story.
I’ve had a decently attractive man or two try and stare me down on public transportation, and I guess they thought I was supposed to get all geeked up, run over, introduce myself and that a connection was going to blossom. Uh, no. While I won’t be ugly with my response or reactions, sometimes I might even smirk back if we met eyes on accident, I often look away quickly, and if they are indeed still looking at me minutes later, maybe then they’ll receive the stink eye. I’m not a fan of mack daddy pick up lines when I’m out, I don’t take too kindly to strange men hovering over me to get my number at the laundromat while I try to discreetly separate my colored panties from my clothes that need to air dry. I’m not overjoyed by someone gawking at me in a crowded bar and then not having anything nice, funny or even educated to say when they finally step up and approach me. For myself, why I might “look mean” when a man tries to get my attention with creepy stares and lines is because I’ve spent a majority of my young life hearing that mess from strange men on the regular, especially on the streets when I wasn’t planning on or trying to hear it at all.
While I can’t testify to what young white women, Asian women, Indian women and more go through, when many young black women reach puberty, they become almost like prey. Once those boobs come in, that butt perks up and that period make its arrival, the innocent young girl that many men might see before becomes the young lady they’d like to do a little somethin’ somethin’ with. Let the summer come and you decide to wear some shorts, something that shows off your legs and keeps you from feeling as though you’re going to fry in the sun, and men standing on the street, driving around your neighborhood or moving about in general, black men that is, will have a thousand and one things to say. At first, you might be bothered, some might even be flattered because they’re new to it all, but as you get older and continuously deal with this mess, even at the crack of dawn when you’re on your way to work minding your business (why are ya’ll already out at 7 a.m.!?), you try and find ways to ignore it. Whether that means keeping headphones in all the time, saying “NO thank you” the minute a man’s mouth opens or walking on the opposite side of the street, trying to avoid aggressive men who clearly don’t want to get to know you for the right reasons becomes a second full-time job.
At the age of 12, dressed like a tacky pre-teen and not even showing off what I was working with, I went with my family to Nigeria for the first time and truly experienced this type of discomfort for the first time. Walking around with my sisters or even my mother, men who looked like they could be friends of my father pursed and smacked their lips at me, grabbed my arm at the market and tried to flirt with me, to my sheer horror. It took my dad, mother or brother to step in and say, ‘EXCUSE ME, She’s only 12 for God’s sake” for them to back off. And even as a grown woman now, living in NYC, it can be just as bad. The one time I walked to the train to go on a date with my boyfriend WITHOUT my headphones on, a young man told me I looked beautiful, and when I said “Thank you,” his friend added in, yelling down the street “And you’ve got some nice ti**ies too.”
So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t feel any sympathy for a man who claims to be pissed that black women rebuff his indirect advances. Sorry, but it’s hard to tell who is serious and who is just looking for a good time when a majority of the time we’re made into sexual objects by a stranger. Many young black men (and even the older ones) can be very aggressive, and while a white woman, or Asian woman or Indian woman might fall for the stop, smile and stare (probably because they haven’t grown up with so many brothas), for a black woman, you’re really going to need to do a LOT better than that. Be straightforward. Be humorous. Hell, a helpful man who helps me with my heavy groceries down the street is even nice. But all in all, come correct. Because we’ve seen and heard all of it before, probably since we were in middle school, and at this point, the “HEY GIRL!” smacked lips, ogling and stares are not attractive as much as they’re just annoying.