You’re annoyingly wiping a coffee stain off your favourite white dress, cursing under your breath when you hear a booming voice in front of you say, “You shouldn’t do that you know? Ladies shouldn’t do that.” You raise your head, cradling your half-empty to-go cup as a weapon, hoping he’s some sort of laundry expert, giving you some much needed advice on how to get rid of a coffee stain. He’s wearing a smug smile on his face and even though the tight skinny jeans and multi-colored sweatshirt, isn’t really much to go on, you know he’s not a laundry expert.
“Shouldn’t do what?” you ask hoping he’ll stick to the laundry-expert persona you made up for him.
“Real ladies shouldn’t curse.” He reiterates.
Look at him in jeans so tight it makes you want to pour the remaining half of your coffee on his crotch just to let him know that as unlikely as it is, things can indeed get worse for his crotch. Look at him smile, exposing his yellow teeth and pasty tongue, purporting to know how you should live your life. Shouldn’t he be more worried about the beads of sweat trickling down his neck towards a chest you simply refuse to visualize?
“If it eases your pain, I wasn’t trying to be a lady.”
“It’s a shame. You’re dressed in white and if you didn’t curse, you’d be really attractive, a real queen.”
“My loss” you respond in mock somberness.
What you really want to say however is, “Don’t call me a queen. Don’t use this supposed complement to leverage me into behavior you think would be pleasing and deserving of your respect/desire. Women don’t go about their days worrying about how aesthetically pleasing they are to barely groomed random men. We don’t have to prove that we are worthy of your respect.”
He hurriedly exists the coffee shop. Maybe he sees the edges of your mouth quivering, ready to plunge into a feminist rant.”
You didn’t want to wake up today. You didn’t want to get out of bed, hustle to get into a matatu, travel all the way to your college and have your senses assaulted by the heat and dust. But life has to be lived and stuff has to be done, so here you are, in a matatu playing music so loud, you can feel the throbbing in your throat.
Here you are, in dark-red lipstick and your nicest underwear flipping through A Tale of Two Cities. Nice underwear because they make you feel like you can conquer the world and dark-red lipstick because it says, “don’t fuck with me. I may be tiny but I am witty and I will hurt your feelings.” A Tale of Two Cities because, what on God’s green earth is going on Charles Dickens? You’ve been on the same page for ten minutes. You’re sweating a little bit, trying not to question your intelligence, because really you fool, you should have taken your cousin’s advice and started this venture into the classics by the works of Leo Tolstoy, when you notice his crusty hands.
They are rather distracting and so you offer him hand-lotion. He sneers and hands it back to you, saying it would be gay for him to use it. You can’t blame someone for not wanting to smell a particular way. You retouch your lipstick, pull out strands of your hair and because you really don’t want to go back to your book, you ask him, “Is it because it has a girly scent?”
“No. It’s hand lotion” he says irritably.
You know you should leave him be. You hate it when people try to have conversations with you in matatus. Hell, you hate it when somebody sits next to you when there are plenty of other seats available. When did you become this person?
“Huh? How is applying hand-lotion gay?”
“You wouldn’t get it. You’re the kind of girl that walks around with hand lotion and retouches her lipstick every ten minutes. If you were light-skinned, I’d think you were a slay queen.”
You plug in your earphones and do what you’ve always done in matatus; stare out the window the entire time.
You find the use of the term slay queen as an insult problematic. It builds on the stereotype that pretty women are dumb. As such, you have to choose; will you be smart or beautiful? Beauty and brains is a phenomenon.
You were going to tell him off as you alighted the matatu but you noticed the skin between his toes is cracked and you decided you were even. You may have to worry about people misjudging your intelligence because of your femininity but that guy has to wrestle toxic masculinity. Poor guy can’t even moisturize.