There are two types of women in the world: Those who take BS and those who don’t. It is the job of men to decipher – usually based on looks – what type of woman you are. This is a poor system/process of discovery, at least by my estimation, because according to many men that I encounter, I look like the type of woman who takes BS.
In Ghana, there are two audio methods men employ to draw a woman’s attention. If a woman hears tsssss!! there is usually a basin of bread/water/whatever on her head. The man wants to buy something. If a woman is sashaying her way down the street, and looks “BS compliant”, she will certainly encounter this sound:
Oh God how I hate that sound. It’s so uncouth. It’s the sound that an African man makes when he puckers his lips and emits an aural version of something that’s a cross between a kiss, a slurp, a sharp breath, and the amalgamation of every lecherous thought he can conjure as he lobs it in the direction of her retreating buttocks.
I thought once I got to America, I would be able to escape the cat calls and libidinous stares of lusty men as they perched idly on street corners and random cement blocks. When I got to Atlanta, I quickly discovered that I had apportioned far too much supposed sophistication to the male population. “Ei shawty, ei!” was a phrase that often followed me in the hollow tunnels of the MARTA rail line and at bus stops.
It really used to bother me, until I cracked the male/female social cypher: If you want a crude man to leave you alone, you must show yourself equally or superiorly crude. Unfortunately, I like Rick James, have yet to discover The Line, and am a habitual line stepper.
A few years ago, I had a 20-something South African man (whose last name oddly was Biko) seek out my affections. He was our waiter at a restaurant, and said he had some Kwaito CDs that I might be interested in. I, being married and having 2 children, wanted only the CDs – and perhaps a new international friend – agreed to take his number so that I could pick them up from him one day after work. I was delighted to find that we had much to talk about on the phone, and then a few days later was amused to detect that he was clearly trying to take our friendship to “another level”.
I knew instinctively how to cut this off.
“So what do you want from me Biko? Huh? Do you want to have sex with me?” I flung the word “sex” at him like it was a filthy rag. He was thrown off balance and taken aback.
“Oh…don’t say it like that,” he winced.
“But how do you want me to say it?” I demanded. “Do you want to have sex? Yes or no? Do you want me, my husband, and 2 children to move into your house while we have SEX??!”
“Aha. Then let’s stop these cat and mouse games and keep things very simple.”
I heard from him twice more after that and never again since.
Now that I have the look of an older married woman, my encounters with men are still visceral, but are driven less by romance and driven far more by combat. I was at lunch last week, having my daily chat with The Fabulous Akuba Sheen, when an obese, middle aged black man in Gnarls Barkley glasses yelled at me from the window of the UPS truck he was driving across the street. He was stopped at a red light.
“Get off the phone!!!” he screeched.
“Shut your ass!!!” I howled back.
I was furious. He didn’t know if I was talking to the school nurse or talking a friend through a crisis. Now granted, I was gabbing on about Prince, but he didn’t know that. All he saw was a Black woman in an afro puff that he thought he could bully, because I looked “BS compliant”. Tseewwww.
And now at 33, a permanent half smirk, half scowl adorns my face – the eternal legacy of these unfortunate lifelong encounters with silly men. The shoe sales man at Marshall’s yesterday should have recognized this look when he approached and addressed me rather gruffly:
“What are you looking for?”
He was foreign… Francophone possibly.
“I am looking for my friend who is in layaway,” I shot back without finesse in my bushest Ghanaian accent.
“Ahh…”, he said quietly, looking towards the back of the store. He was suddenly emboldened for no obvious reason. “But, layaway is back there!” He tossed his head in the direction of the back of the store.
“Then I’ll wait here. I don’t walk.”
I made a beeline for one of the benches in the shoe department.
“Then what are you doing now?” he challenged.
“I’m sauntering,” I quipped. “I don’t walk in heels.”
“Ho. God gave you feet to walk with and you don’t want to walk?” he said in mock contempt.
“God gave us feet to decorate with shoes so that we could cross our legs and look nice,” I expounded, speaking loudly and very bushly. Hey…he started it.
I then proceeded to inform him that he needed to turn his shoes at an angle and straighten his boxes.
“My brodda. How can anyone see the design of the shoe if you have the heels facing the door?” I lambasted.
“Where are you from?”
“I knew it. That’s why you feel free to trouble me!”
As if on cue, he asked he pursued the required line of questioning.
“Are you married? Do you have children?”
“Yes,” I said emphatically. “I have FOUR kids, and am married.”
I smiled with inward triumph. In a man’s world 1 child is doable. After all, every Black woman over 23 has a dude who knocked her up and dropped her and the kid at one point, right? 2 kids is a harder pill to swallow, but is doable. But FOUR kids? That’s a deal breaker. That woman is just used goods. Conversation over…cased closed. Or so I thought, until he shot back with:
“Oh! Do they all live here?”
“Your husband and children. Do they live here or in Ghana?”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “We ALL live here.”
Caroline eventually emerged from layaway and drug me away from my new “admirer”.
“He’s so annoying,” she seethed. “Every time I come in here, he tries to ask me out…to a jazz club. As if that would impress me! Aaaahhh!!!”
Perhaps if she were a bit more abrasive he would stop asking. Then again, perhaps not.
Humph. These men.