Last Saturday I was in line at the grocery store when I was startled out of a daze by the guy in front of me. “You could smile, ya know,” he was telling me, staring at me with a goofy grin on his face. I’ve heard this from men many times before, although less often since college, when my general temperament was actually even angrier than it is now.
“You look a lot prettier when you smile,” they say. Excuse me? WTF are you and how do you know what my smile looks like? Maybe I have no teeth. Maybe my dog just died. Maybe I don’t like taking beauty advice from f-ing strangers.
It’s my belief that this comment stems from a few main ASSumptions:
- I exist for the viewing pleasure of random dudes
- I care how random dudes react to my appearance
- I appreciate any and all attention/critiques from random dudes
All three are incorrect. Usually I get these smile requests when I’m walking down the street, but since this one occurred when I was stationary, I decided perhaps I should poke MYSELF into someone else’s bubble and give him a piece of MY mind, since he felt so entitled to tell me how I should control and display my own emotions.
And so I let him know that actually, random men telling me to smile is a pet peeve of mine. He seemed confused and kept repeating that I’d look prettier if I smiled, that he was just trying to give me a compliment, that he wasn’t trying to hit on me. A compliment? Would he consider it a compliment if I told him he'd look a lot more handsome if he updated his hair and wardrobe? My aunt, mother, sister and niece joined the conversation mid-babble and threw him off even more, which I found amusing so I gave up my attempt to make a point. (Okay maybe my niece didn’t technically join the conversation, but I’m sure when she starts to speak in complete sentences she’ll have a lot of opinions.)
I actually think, though, that his confusion was genuine. These unoriginal turds really believe women have never heard that line before. Oh but he said he wasn’t trying to hit on me—I think he may have made that claim after he realized I was traveling with my estrogen entourage. But regardless, whether it’s a line or a genuine piece of advice, I’ve heard it before, and I don’t appreciate it.
I was pretty proud of myself for finally talking back, but now I’m thinking I probably took the wrong approach. I probably should have just followed the advice my mom used to give me when my older brother was picking on me. “Just ignore him. He’s just trying to get a rise out of you,” she’d say.
Because really, deep down, instructions to smile, whistles from the car, gropes on the train—aren’t they all just part of big brother’s attempt to keep us from getting too greedy in the toybox of life? Or at least keep us preoccupied enough playing Pretty Princess that we don’t care or notice that we’re not getting our fair share.