Alecia’s Story: “Too many reasons not to smile”

Narrowed eyes? Check.

Furrowed brow? Check.

Tightly closed mouth? Purposeful, measured steps? Check, check.

Head up, shoulders square, and back straight? Check check check.

I am now ready to walk down the street, ride my bike, or catch the bus… and

I

look

mean.

This is no accident. After years of living in my female body, I have mastered the art of looking mean. But why would I, a friendly, outgoing, smiley 25 year old young woman, want to appear mean? It’s easy, really. I’m trying to ward off street harassment.

Through my very unscientific, personal experiments, I’ve found that I am less likely to be the target of street harassment if I look like I will bite your head off if you say a word to me. While this is not a foolproof tactic (there have been times when I’ve gotten the old “smile, honey” from a stranger even when my face appears to be literally incapable of turning that frown upside down), it is becoming my default demeanor when I am out and about in the public sphere. I make sure to take up space, walk in a straight line, say hello to no one, and set my face in stone.

And that’s not all…

My aversion to street harassment has also caused me to snap at folks who I mistakenly think to be catcalling me. (More of me being a meanie mcmeanerson) On more than one occasion, a man has made an inaudible or incomprehensible comment to me, and I’ve immediately taken it to be street harassment and responded accordingly. Loudly, angrily, and accordingly. Until I realize that the man was just asking for directions, or talking to someone else, or whistling to a song. Oops. I’d like to think that when this happens, the man at least understands what I’m up against. With street harassment being so prevalent, it only makes sense that I’d be quick to assume the worst.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a complete jerk. I hold doors for strangers, say hello to friendly looking folks, and I can’t hide my smile all the time. I guess it’s about staying safe but also staying true to yourself as well.

I don’t want to look like a mean person. I don’t want to assume the worst when someone mumbles something to me. But, I also don’t want to be harassed in public. So I do what I have to do, and I work to change the culture we live in at the same time. While I may have a hardened look on my face from time to time, I won’t let street harassment turn me into a meanie. There is too much good in the world, too many nice people, and too many reasons not to smile.

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