When I was a teenager it used to bother me alot. I’d be walking down the street, my mind wrapped around some deep thought and then out of nowhere some man’s voice would disrupt it with, “Baby girl, why don’t you smile?!” And it would bother me, but sometimes I’d still attempt a slight smirk in response, and then roll my eyes as I turned the corner. I’d think to myself, maybe I should be smiling all the time on city streets, and maybe those guys just want to see me happy. Maybe everyone should be smiling. But they weren’t. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed the distinct trend of men telling women to smile, especially in public settings. It happens to me on the metro train, in grocery stores, and in malls- if my face doesn’t exude some sort of satisfaction or enjoyment, then something is wrong. Something must be wrong with women who are in deep thought, angry, pondering, or just not wanting to bend their face muscles.
Don’t tell me to “smile” when I am walking down the street unless you tell the young man behind me, the one with the frown crowding his face, to smile as well. Can you imagine? A man addressing another man on the street and telling them to “smile man, it’s not that bad.” The image in my head is almost comical and unreal, partly because I cannot conceive of that happening in reality.
I can envision it now; a society in which every woman smiles. It would be like an assembly line of homogenous facial expressions. Women would smile when studying, smile when giving birth, smile when grocery shopping, smile when changing a tire, smile when situations around them give them little to smile about, smile because it makes someone else feel better, and smile for any other reason than because they genuinely want to.
Sounds ludicrous huh? Well, because it is. Smiling is great and it’s something I tend to do a lot, but not at the request of a man who depends on my obedience to boost his ego or masculinity.