One day, I met a gentleman at the gym. Actually, we didn’t meet so much as had a casual encounter that lasted no more than 15 seconds. It was my cardio day so I was working it hard.
While I’m no world-class athlete, I am a woman doing my best to fight the ravages of midlife and its evil sidekick, menopause. Yesterday, I stared too long at a candy bar in the grocery store and I swear I gained two pounds. Yes, it’s that kind of battle. So when I’m working out at the gym, I’m all about the workout. I don’t go to the gym to socialize, prance about in two-sizes-too-small-and-too-freakin’-tight cutesy pants that put my camel toe on display or play the damsel in distress while standing next to the Smith Machine in the hopes that a Mr. Olympia wannabe rushes over to save me from myself as I ooze sexual prowess. I have no sexual prowess, but that’s another story.
When I work out, I put my game face on . . . along with my iPod Shuffle. The up-tempo tunes keep me moving in time to the steady rhythm and I sometimes get lost in the music. On that particular day, it was no different.
After my workout, I wiped down the elliptical machine and went to toss the crumpled paper towel away. As I walked towards the trash can, I noticed a couple hovering over it like they were waiting for something to pop out of it. As I approached, the man, who appeared to be in his late 60s, turned and regarded me with twinkling eyes a little too long, like he knew me. He didn’t. He stared at me—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi—then blinked rapidly and said, “You know, if you would just smile, it’ll go a long way in keeping you looking wonderful by the time you reach your thirties.”
Taken aback, I didn’t know whether to kiss him for telling me in a roundabout way that I looked younger than my years or rip out his jugular with my bare hands and stuff it in his mouth for suggesting that I should smile. Don’t tell me to smile.
I get it. He was trying to be cute and perhaps even flirty, a fact that his companion—a woman of about 65 or so—wasn’t too thrilled about as she gave me the stink eye while the right corner of her mouth curled into a sly snarl. She wasn’t any happier with what he said than I was, but, lucky gal that she was, she got to go home with that charmer who I have since dubbed the “Smile Dammit! Bandit”.
A smile. It seems like such an innocuously simple thing to do. Being told to smile by a woman is bad enough because, let’s face it, you might not be in the mood to curl your lips upward. When a man tells you to smile, the subtext is “You’re a woman. You should be smiling. I don’t care if you’re tired, hungry, angry, lost in thought or whatever—it doesn’t matter. You NEED to smile.”
Like hell I do. don’t tell me to smile
Again, don’t tell me to smile. I’m not an actress, I don’t play one on TV and I don’t smile on command. Yet, it seems, that’s what is wanted: the expression of an emotion that, when not truly felt, is merely pandering to the needs of someone else. Pffffttthhh… Where does this sense of entitlement come from?
The neutrality of my non-smiling face? Well, it is what it is. It does not and should not automatically equate to ‘Resting Bitch Face’ (which, as it turns out, is a real thing – the science behind RBF). Why is it that I am not – that women are not – allowed to simply exist without plastering a smile on our faces to please others? This predominantly female phenomenon, nay scourge, reeks of social norms that are rarely heaped upon our male counterparts. However, we are routinely subjected to it.
Perhaps you, too, are a victim of a “Smile Dammit! Bandit”. In broad daylight on a busy city street, in a cramped elevator, at the megamall, in Aisle 8 at the grocery store…they’re every damn where, and they let a multitude of infractions escape their parted lips.
“Yo girl, smile. It can’t be that bad!”
“Why the poker face?”
“Can I get a smile out of you?”
“Smile! Stop looking so mean.”
“You’s too purdy not to smile.”
Guys, I mean this in the sincerest way: my face is not for your consumption and neither is any other woman’s.
Life is not a whitening toothpaste commercial. We smile when we want to. If we women were to casually stroll down the street by ourselves, swinging our purses and grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason, people would label us blithering idiots and sidle away from us with a mix of fear and suspicion etched on their faces.
So what was my retort to the trash can hogging “Smile Dammit! Bandit” who suggested that I smile? I looked him in the eyes and, with a straight face, calmly said, “You first.”
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Ladies, how does it make you feel when men tell you to smile? What are some of the things that have been said to you to induce you to smile on cue? Let’s discuss it in the comments.