The Sexist

Don’t Fucking Tell Me To Smile, Baby

THE SMILE, BABY GUY (noun).

Origin: Metro stops, Metro buses, sidewalks, major thoroughfares, porches and verandas (in warmer weather).

Generally considered one of the more innocuous permutations of the Street Harasser, the Smile, Baby Guy is nevertheless suitably condescending and often persistent. His tactic is seemingly straightforward: as you pass his field of vision, he will note that you are not smiling, and insist that you smile, generally against your will. He may then insist that you date, kiss, and/or have sex with him, generally against your will.

EXCEPTIONS (1). Tony, a Smile, Baby Guy who lives on my street and with whom I forged the following verbal agreement last summer: In exchange for smiling each time I saw Tony, baby, he would help me move a truckload of my personal belongings into a row-house inside which I had recently rented a third-floor room. He did so.

See also: the Why Aren't You Smiling, Baby Guy, the You're Too Beautiful To Not Be Smiling, Baby Guy, and the Smile, Ladies Guy.

WHY I'M NOT FUCKING SMILING:

(a) The illness progressed quickly: sneezing, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, post-nasal drip, funny-sounding voice, protracted Web MD consultation, call to my mother, death rattle, insomnia, inability to swallow, pain, oh the pain, peach sorbet, full submission into the waiting arms of the pharmaceutical industry.

(b) I needed those meds. Yesterday morning, I rode a Metro bus to the "Urgent" Care Center (emphasis mine—in truth, the workings of the facility were hardly urgent). It was the only of its kind located within the limits of the District of Columbia and covered by my Creative Loafing End of Season Ski Sale bottom-barrel health insurance plan (now even worse than last year's!).

(c) Upon waiting two hours, competing with a half dozen other patients (most of whom looked like non-ill little fakers looking for a last-ditch excuses to miss their psych finals), I was victorious—the lady called my name. A scrubbed woman led me into an examination room marked, with pen and notebook paper, as room "3." Once inside room "3," I was asked to exit room "3," whereupon I was led down a hallway ending in a human scale, and weighed. The woman first estimated my weight at 140 pounds, but subtracted five pounds in order to account for my shoes and coat, perhaps expecting that the lower number would please me.

Back in room "3," I opened my throat—wider—to facilitate the woman swiping a cotton swab across the mucus that had accumulated at the back of my throat. She then took leave of me. While waiting for her return, I opened a February 2007 copy of Mother Jones magazine. Inside was a smiling photograph of a neo-conservative former classmate of mine from University who had run for Congress in his home district, won the Republican nomination, then lost to the Democrat in the general election by 17 points. He attributed his moderate success to "the Web."

After many minutes, a different woman entered room "3." Everything suddenly urgent, she informed me that I did not have strep throat, but rather that I had contracted "some sort of virus" that would "go away on its own" with the help of "drinking fluids" and "lots of rest."

I paused. Was this woman a medical doctor or mere spectre, a lab coat filled only with age-old conventional wisdoms? You don't have strep throat, and a penny saved is a penny earned, I imagined her saying. You don't have strep throat, and slow and steady wins the race.

After shining a newfangled medical light-emitting device (a "flashlight") in my throat, however, the woman reversed her position, urgently, and concluded that my tonsils were fucking enormous and that I ought to ingest 500 milligrams of antibiotics every eight hours until the infected region had been cleared.

"You've had something like this before, right?" the woman asked me.

"I've actually never experienced anything like—"

But she was already gone.

(d) This interaction cost me $25.

(e) I adjourned to a pharmacy to fill my prescription. Upon realizing, at the pharmacy counter, that I had in fact left my medial insurance card within the godforsaken Urgent Care Center, my eyes, reddened from congestion, flirted briefly with tears. I exited the pharmacy and hastened toward whence I had come. It is at this point that you:

(f) stopped me, on the street corner, and demanded that I smile, baby. Did your testicles retract into your body when I mumbled an incoherent response to your request, my voice high and unnatural, a bitter concoction of nasal drip and post-nasal drip? Or had I simply imagined it?

(g) Turns out I just left the card in my cubicle. I got my meds!

(h) And yet, I would not sleep that night. Foolishly—had I thought myself invincible?—I had consumed several swigs of Night Time Robitussin, the small plastic measuring cup having long ago disappeared into the realm of ideas. It was around the ten o'clock hour that I turned to the medicine cabinet. The sedative far too weak to overcome the sickness, I lay in bed with my eyes open an hour later, waiting for the low buzzing—incessant, purposeful—of every electronic device within a 20 foot radius of my bed to quiet its faculties. When taken deliberately, this gentle overdose of medicine followed by a resistance to sleep is colloquially referred to as "Robotripping," and creates such an uncomfortable high as to only be undertaken by particularly desperate thrill-seekers of little means (i.e., high school students).

(i) Yesterday, I took six (6) baths. In the sixth and final bathing, which took place at approximately 11:20 p.m. yesterday evening, I endeavored to exorcise my Robo-demons. However, the reserve of hot water in my unit having been devastated by the five baths that had gone before it—and the long, meticulous Lady Macbethian scrubbing of dishes I had mounted earlier in an attempt to forget—I emerged, not healed, but rather defeated, a cold, writhing rat-person, devoid of feeling save for the prickling fear of

(j) Ran out of tissues.

(k) Figured out a way not to swallow while sleeping! Wait until the liquid fills your throat and begins to drip toward your lungs. Then, your body just wakes you up every ten minutes to urgently rake the phlegm from the back of your throat and spit it into one receptacle or another.

(l) Jesus fuck, where did this rash come from?

(m) Tonight is my corporate Christmas party. In this state, I have effectively been disqualified from winning the Lampshade Award, a yearly honor designated for the party attendee who makes the largest fool of themselves. This is no small loss; the Lampshade Award, while dubious, was certainly not outside my grasp.

IN CONCLUSION, I maintain that it is none of your business why I'm not fucking smiling, baby, and I move to request you never to demand that I do so again. As a good-faith measure, I'd ask that you also refrain from making kissy noises at me, baby, or informing me that you would pay an exorbitant amount of money to switch your body with the form of my bicycle seat, which routinely comes in close contact with my vagina, baby.

Photo by ghedo.

  • Adoodle

    I am glad there are exceptions. There are exceptions.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Coleman

    Give us a scowl, sugar, c'mon.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    I have a million scowls for you, Coleman.

  • Pingback: City Paper’s Year in Review: It Starts Here - Black Plastic Bag - Washington City Paper

  • A

    I'm a guy and I got told to smile by a woman twice my age.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Another permutation: the Smile, Baby Lady!

  • Dana

    Any guy tells me to smile after a day like that, he'd better be wearing a titanium cup!

  • Pingback: Things that upset me « Digital immigrant

  • http://www.misanthropytoday.com Misanthropy Today

    It's not totally necessary to mention, although somewhat necessary, that most guys who say this are black dudes and say it to every woman who walks by. It's a numbers game, picking up babes like that, and I think you mistook the black guy for giving a fuck.

  • johnny

    @misanthropy:
    wow. just wow. what privileged racist bullshit. why do i somehow get the impression you are not a woman and have never actually experienced this?

...