Don’t Ask For a Smile

I consider myself a pretty reasonable person. I try not to let little things irritate me, but I’m human and like many, I have a few pet peeves. They may not seem like huge deals to others, but when confronted with these things, it’s easy to find me slowly counting backwards from 100 or repeating the serenity prayer to myself like an enraged Bruce Banner trying not to change into the Hulk.

So, I understand that I may be the only woman in the world who feels this way, but I admit that I get completely irked when a strange man asks me to smile.

For clarity, let me offer an example. I’ve parked my car at the local town center and am on my way into the dollar store. My stream of consciousness is something like this: “I wonder if Oprah still goes to the dollar store. Even if you have $1 million, there are some things that are just not worth more than a dollar. Like, I’d never pay more than a buck for a fly swatter. Does Oprah have flies? I mean, just ‘cause you rich doesn’t mean you don’t have flies. They’re not like roaches. If she had roaches, that’d be a problem. Can you imagine little roaches climbing out of Oprah’s bag when she gets to Harpo Studios? That’s some mess. Oprah got roaches, and Stedman says she brings her roach-infested lunches to work. That’s just nasty. Wait. Why am I at the liquor store?….”

So after leaving there, returning to the task at hand, walking two doors down and reaching my intended destination, some random guy who’s coming up the street loudly says to me, “Smile. Why you look so mean? It’s not that bad.”

Pause… Say what?

It seems like a small thing, and I’m sure the nameless fellow didn’t mean to offend, but let me explain what I hear when this is said.

Your Face is Whack: So, he didn’t directly insult my face, but then again, didn’t he? Basically, what I’m being told is that my face looks so twisted, distorted and unappealing that something must be wrong with me. I must be angry, having a bad day or maybe even contemplating suicide. The reassurance that things aren’t as bad as my face suggests just isn’t a compliment.

You Care What I Think: I don’t make a habit of asking strangers on the street what they think of me. The truth is that whether they think I’m fly or funky, it really doesn’t matter much. It’s true that you never know when you might bump into someone who may become a great friend, future employer or an otherwise significant part of your life, but more often than not, people whose paths you cross when running errands aren’t going to end up in your cellphone contacts list. So, the comments strangers voice about others reeks a bit of self-importance. However, responding with a, “Your opinion is worth less to me than this fly swatter I’m about to buy,” probably wouldn’t help the matter.

I’ve Got You Figured Out: Every human being is different. I do have friends who walk down the street showing off their pearly whites. I smile at strangers at times, like when people stumble on their own feet and try to play it off like they tripped on an invisible crack in the sidewalk. I smile at them so they know, “It happens to the best of us.” However, the absence of a smile on my face does not necessary indicate that I’m depressed or in a foul mood. The fact that someone I’ve never met would assume to know me well enough to interpret my facial expressions is just a bit presumptuous. No? That would be like assuming every random guy who requests that I smile at him is in desperate need of attention and validation from anyone who’ll entertain him.

As insulting as the delivery can be, I do assume the request is meant to be a compliment. However, if the goal is to solicit a smile from someone, in my unsolicited opinion, a simple “hello” would work a lot better.


9 Responses to “Don’t Ask For a Smile”

  1. July 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Hahaha! I never really thought of it that way, but this is so true and you make good points! People have said that to me, too, and I have no idea what they’re talking about because I’m never in a fowl mood. This was VERY funny. Nothing like a good hardy laugh to start the day. I think I’ll share it on Facebook with my friends to give them a little laugh today. LOL

  2. 2 Gayle
    July 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

    LOVE this. So on point. I hate whene someone TELLS me to smile. You have no idea why people aren’t smiling and yes, maybe it IS that bad. A nice “hello” is so much more welcome!

  3. July 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Some guys make comments about smiling or laughing to make sure your in a good mood and approachable. If they didn’t think you looked worthy of talking to they would not say anything. Now I can understand the frustration and reluctance to acknowledge or appreciate the comment. Here is the thing I hear a lot of ladies say I don’t know good places to meet guys. Well just maybe that random guy in the coffee shop that really thinks your beautiful and would love to see that beauty accented by that amazing smile is the guy you have been searching for. Just another angle to think about.

  4. July 6, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Word. I hate when guys do this—it’s usually the type that can’t believe that a woman is ACTUALLY about to pass him by without acknowledging his presence. It’s more of a reflection on their neediness–they’re basically begging, pleading for any reaction that you can provide–instead of the actual expression on your face.

  5. 5 Yolonda D. Body
    July 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    The Oprah reference is classic. I tell people not look at my face when I’m engaged in anything. They will only be disgusted or confused. I have wrinkle lines because I twist and contort my face when I’m deep in thought. It gets really ugly. Thanks for the post. Great job!

  6. 6 T. M. Johnson
    July 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Hilarious post and so true. You never know what is going on in someone’s life.

  7. July 8, 2011 at 12:53 am

    i forgot which movie said smiling is for the weak. i actually have the opposite problem. i smile toooo much.

  8. 8 27moni
    July 11, 2011 at 2:11 am

    wow! I hate when people say “why don’t you smile” when people first started to say that to me i became self concious about it and began walking around with a huge smile then peolpe started saying “what are you smileing about ? Whats so funny?” So now i’m like whatever if i look mean then i just look mean

  9. July 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    This is one of my pet peeves as well and I often hear this because I am OFTEN in deep thought and I automatically think to myself, ” I AM NOT HAVING A BAD DAY.” Really, who walks around smiling 99.98% of the time, really? It is such a turn off.

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