Why I Don't Smile on Command (And Other Reasons Catcalling Is Dumb)
I do not smile on command. I smile when something is pleasurable, enjoyable, funny, surprising (in a fun way), exciting, or otherwise happiness inducing. Being stopped by a stranger who has nothing intelligent to say to me other than "Why you not smilin'?" or "Smile, beautiful," does not check off any of those boxes. It is a less aggressive, albeit just as annoying, way of catcalling. Particularly when a man goes from casually pursuing me to haranguing me for not obeying his command or, even worse, becoming downright belligerent when things did not go down as he imagined in his head.
Again, I do not smile on command. Aside from picture day at school, hearing someone tell me to smile is akin to having someone tell you to calm down when you are really upset about something. In fact, in deescalation training it is standard to teach people NOT to say that when someone has become agitated and is displaying signs of hostility and possible violence. It is not wise to tell someone who is in their own world, is not currently smiling, and may be managing a whole host of other emotions that they should smile. For what? For YOU?? How incredibly self-centered. And then to become angry when that person does not oblige, what a psycho.
And do not get me wrong, it is helpful to have someone nudge you in the direction of positivity when you're becoming a Debbie Downer of Gloomy Glinda, but that is not what is happening when a man intrudes on your personal space and believes that his demand that you show some teeth will be complied with. No, that man is looking for a way in to flirt. Except it's the dumbest way to flirt. How about something that is not so generic or dominating? How about a compliment on something that I am wearing. Not a stupid line that only someone with cobwebs in their brain could come up with, and probably uses a million times a day on every woman he passes.
I hear it so often in a day that it has the opposite effect than the words imply. It makes me want to yell at you to leave me alone and go find a pleasing smile somewhere else. It makes me want to ask you if your mother didn't smile at you enough. It makes me want to follow you around all day and demand a smile for my viewing pleasure at random intervals.
Do not get me wrong...I think that smiling is a wonderful thing! I love to smile! I smile and laugh and giggle endlessly. When I am happy. Even when I'm nervous or scared. I smile TONS. In fact, people in my life (who are not total strangers) see me smiling all the time. When they see that I am not smiling, they know that something is up. Or something is wrong. They probe to find out what is going on with me. They offer themselves as resources of support to help me through whatever has caused me to lose my smile.
A stranger...a man with ulterior motives...would not know any of this about me. He sees and responds to what is on the surface. Bad move, my friend. Because me smiling or not smiling is none of your concern. And to make it so, tells me that you have no interest in anything about me except the surface.
Which, sure, when someone is a stranger who is hoping to get to know you, how else will they be able to break through your outer shell? Well, demanding that I change my external appearance to be more appealing to you and less intimidating or threatening is not the way. Start a conversation that takes my mind into a more pleasant place, and the defense mechanism, the RBF, the thought stream, or the distraction that had me in another place will melt away and create a way in.
I simply do not respond to people who want me to smile on command. Because, once again, that is something that I do not do.