Monday, 26 October 2015

Ladies, You Don't Have To Smile.

I've been catching trains a lot lately. I like it. My local train station has a makeshift library and you just borrow a book with no card or anything. A few weeks ago I was on the train headed to Sydney airport and a young woman was sitting behind me - really pretty, brunette. Polite. Too polite - WAY too polite. The guy across from me kept looking at her, scoping her out, trying to catch her gaze. Finally he started speaking to her. Saying hi. What's her name. Where does she live. Where was she going. Where does she work.

AND SHE WAS ANSWERING. Because she was polite, and you answer people when they ask you questions, right? Especially when you're a young woman alone on public transport and you're being basically interrogated by an older charming guy.

I grew more uncomfortable in my seat because I used to be the woman sitting behind me. I'd answer all the questions demurely, not wanting to be rude or cause trouble. The one thing a young woman gets told in public more than any other thing is to "smile." I grew up being told to smile. I smiled on demand. I knew the drill. To this day I can produce the biggest most beautiful fake forced smile in a matter of seconds ... blinding in its fabulousness. The dickhead on the train pressed this female on her whereabouts and who she was and I just wanted to stand up and punch him in the head. I could tell she was clearly uncomfortable. JUST as I'd had enough and turned my whole body around to tell her she didn't have to answer this guy's questions, she stood up and walked off.

I noticed it was a long time before the next train station. She'd gotten up and left simply to get away from this fuckwit. He starts sizing me up and I'm thinking please dude, try talking to me. Try it. But he didn't. He started talking to this other guy behind him and soon they were having a really loud conversation about the woman who'd just left, the chicks at work, and how big his dick was.

Seriously this guy started talking about the size of his penis and how every chick he met just wanted a piece of it. His new friend started laughing. I sat there like a stone. There was only the three of us on the whole carriage. I wasn't scared or intimidated just really fucking pissed off.

Because we were sitting on the quiet carriage. You're not supposed to have loud conversations or talk on your phone on the quiet carriage. I just wanted to listen to Sia through my headphones. I always get on the quiet carriage. Because it's quiet. You're not supposed to brag about the size of your dick on the quiet carriage but this guy missed the memo and it was my duty to inform him. Because I'm not a shy quiet polite timid young woman anymore. I'm older, wiser, crankier.

Perched my sunnies on top of my head and looked him straight in the eye.

"Hey dude, we're sitting on the quiet carriage. You're supposed to be quiet on the quiet carriage. Your conversation is really loud and actually it's offensive. And inappropriate."

Both guys were shocked. I wasn't scared but put my cowboyboot feet into a position where I could balance my weight on my back foot if he got up and did something unpredictable. He didn't, he was full of apologies and bluster. Then there was silence. You could hear a pin drop. I have officially entered cranky old woman territory and I do not care. Nobody cares about your big dick, shut the fuck up, stop harassing women who are too young and polite to stand up for themselves. I was so outraged I took a photo of myself outraged.


I used to be way too polite. In my early twenties I worked as a barmaid in a succession of dubious establishments, each more shadier then the last. During my tenure as beerwench at one of Penrith's busiest drinking holes, I "made friends with" the entire clientele very quickly. They all loved me. I'd go from one to the other to the other some days and every time I'd take their order they'd ask me if my lips were naturally this red and I'd laugh and say yes. And they'd all laugh too but I wasn't in on the joke? Something felt a bit yucky? During my break I'd get Gus from the bistro to make me a burger and I'd duck upstairs with my schooner and ciggies to play Sonic the Hedgehog for an hour in the manager's bedroom. Kicking life goals right there. After my lunch break the guys would be more drunk and more outrageous. They'd stand there smoking, watching the races on TV, pissing in the trough, pissing their lives away. They'd outdo each other in repulsive witty banter. They asked me if I had a cat. They asked me how old I was when I lost my virginity. They asked me about my red lips again ... one day I realised they weren't talking about the lips on my face. I just smiled.

Ask the nearest woman next to you right now about the times they've been harassed in public. They'd have at least ten examples straight off the bat without thinking. I have hundreds. In year six at grammar school one morning getting off the train (popular harassment place) ..  this old guy looked me up and down in front of everybody and yelled out "I'LL GIVE YA FIVE BUCKS FOR A GOOD ONE." The laughter. Boys in my class would say it to me over and over, in the exact intonation of the old guy. I felt ... flattered? Seen? Embarrassed?

In my time as a female walking the earth I've been shouted at, whistled at, grabbed, fondled, violated. Over the years I've slowly learned how to deal with it and now I do not put up with any of it. And the next time I ever witness a young female get harassed like that I will say something straight away instead of holding my tongue. If I ever see my sons displaying any kind of this behaviour towards women I will grab them by the ear in front of all of their friends and teach them a thing or two about respect. I've already said to my eldest that I want him to be the kind of guy at parties who, when he sees a passed out drunk girl ... and he will ... to be the guy who calls a taxi and makes sure she gets home safe. My brother was that kind of guy. So many guys are that kind of guy. Guys are great. I love guys. I have nothing against them. Just the douchebags among us.

Teenage boys look at my tattoos and get confused because I look old enough to be their mother. (Because I am old enough to be their mother.) I tell all of my friend's daughters that they do not have to smile. They do not have to do a goddamn thing. To stand up for themselves and other people. To take no shit.

The older women get, the more invisible we are in society. Isn't that wonderful?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...