Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't tell me to smile

This piece on Jezebel really struck some chords, both in itself and because of some of comments from women sharing their experiences. Really, guys, telling a strange woman-- or even an acquaintance or co-worker-- to smile is a creepy thing to do. No need to feel bad about it, just read for some explanation and then please try to not do it. Some perspectives:
Men who ask this question don't want to know the answer. They want to disarm you. They want you to think, "Oh dear, I didn't even realize that my sourpuss lips were putting a damper on this poor gentleman's day" and guilt you into making a conscious effort to be nicer - ideally, to the man in front of you, who has shamed you into being nice in the first place. It's Move #93 in the playbook for how men take advantage of women who have low self-esteem and that's what pisses me off about it.
Also, fuck you, I look mad because my face is naturally downturned when I'm not smiling. (Thanks for the reminder, btw.) Plus, do you really expect me to have a perma-grin plastered on while I'm doing menial data entry on my computer?
I'm not smiling because I'm thinking about the fact that men think of women as decorations, without inner lives.
There was this one time where I'd just come from the doctor's office where I'd been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy and injected with chemo drugs to "dissolve" that pregnancy. I'd just lost my fucking baby. I hailed a cab to get home, and the driver harassed me for at least 10 minutes, asking why I wasn't smiling, to smile because I'd feel better. I told him I'd got some really bad news. Didn't deter him in the least. 
It's none of anyone's damn business. Stop telling people to smile when you know nothing about them.
Sometimes I get this gem from guys at parties/work, and it was immensely satisfying when I came up with a response.
Creepy Guy: "You know, you'd be pretty if you smiled more."
Me: "You'd be smarter if you kept your mouth shut." 


  1. Being a serious kind of guy, I've heard this a million times. I find it utterly annoying. WTF? Am I your circus monkey? Incidentally, it is invariably women who say this to me. I think it might be different when women say it, but it's still annoying. I smile when I have something to smile about, and people tell me I have a nice smile, but that moment of unnecessary self-consciousness when people I don't know say this is not appreciated.

  2. I hear you, Dr. X. A smiling person is relaxing and so probably always seems more attractive, but personally I think I look ridiculous while smiling-- even moreso when it's forced, which of course it will be when done on command. If you want someone to smile, male or female, give them something to smile about!

  3. zomg, I hate people who do this. I was just in a store today where they had put up a chalkboard sign that read: Smile and get 35% off. Now, I normally am in a pleasant disposition, but this particular ploy pisses me off every time it comes up. In my mind, a smile is a gift that is given freely without being asked for. It's like someone coming up to you and saying, "Hey, it's my birthday, give me a gift!" It just doesn't work that way. It's a violation of an unwritten social contract and it pisses me off more than most things. And of course, what always happens is, you are confronted over the whole smile on demand issue. You are then forced to proffer a manufactured smile, which feels demeaning and is then followed up with something like "There, now that wasn't so hard was it?" or "Did you finally get her to smile?" But, somehow it is forgotten that I am usually a happy person who is normally smiling, and have suddenly been transformed in an instant into some person who is some horrible nonsmiling jerk most of the time. But now that they've made it a point of contention. I will forever be more than just a tad resentful of the affront. I consider this to be a subversive social act that a certain type of person will do. You can probably neatly divide the world into the people who don't mind be coerced into smiling on demand and those who profoundly resent it. I'm in the latter camp.


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