I like people. I smile at them. I often chat with them. I like to see them smile. It makes me smile more.
Every so often, someone will say something stupid. It happens. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. The odds are this will happen. I am used to it.
But when I am in my own thoughts or I just don’t feel like talking to anyone, I don’t like being told that I need to smile. I don’t owe anyone my attention nor an explanation of why I’m not smiling.
Walking back to my office one day, a man who works in another office told me I was too pretty to not be smiling. I was walking through the door. My head was down and my hands were in my coat pockets. I barely knew where I was.
His words startled me. I did not know he was there. I stopped but didn’t look up. I just wanted to walk past him and get back to work. Instead he bent over and put his face below mine and looked up at me. It took a tremendous amount of effort for him to get himself in that position. I couldn’t move, even if I wanted to. He was blocking me and was actually in my face with his dumb ass smile and was laughing.
Then he said “You are too pretty to not smile, so SMILE FOR ME!”
I was deep in thought because I had just gotten back from the mortuary with my mom. We were planning my brother’s burial.
I was walking into work where my father and 2 brothers were. It had been the most horrible few days of my life and it was far from over. It was taking everything I had to not fall apart. It took all I had to get through the day, to make sure my family was alright and to handle all the calls coming in from well-meaning people. Well meaning people who were saying the stupidest things imaginable. I dealt with all of them with as much humor and grace that I could summon.
I thought about ripping his face off or at least stepping back a few feet and giving a swift kick to his nuts. Even when I backed up a few inches, he came forward.
And then I did something odd. Something that just came out of my mouth from down deep in my soul.
I growled. I don’t know what else to call it. It was a sound that came from me and it was a warning. Just like a cornered dog. It was primal and raw. Oh, how I wanted someone to blame for the tragedy that happened. I wanted to yell, scream, hit something and bring him back. I needed a target and had none. There was no one to blame. Nowhere to go to escape the grief and horror that my life had become.
And now I was being ordered to smile.
This man had bothered me the first moment I met him. He was insincere and I always sensed a hidden agenda with him. I kept my distance from him. This was not the first time he had commented on whether or not I was smiling or what I was wearing. I always felt a bit sorry for his wife.
I did the usual of being polite with him and kept myself a bit standoffish. My eye contact is from good manners. It does not mean I want a relationship. It is not flirting. It’s showing the person in front of me proper respect and attention.
“Oh, you have such a beautiful smile. You should smile more.”
“What the fuck did you just say to me?” I stepped forward.
He jumped back. It was an actual jump. Suddenly he was standing straight and slowly backing away.
“I’m so sorry that I’m not smiling for you! How rude! Well tell you what sweetheart, the next time I come back from planning my brother’s funeral, I’ll make sure to smile for you. I mean, it’s all about what you want, now isn’t it?”
“Oh geez…I’m sorry…I didn’t know..”
“No, you didn’t. But you are obviously the “Smile Monitor” around here. I’ll try to remember that,” I said and walked away.
I’ll give him this; I went from grief to anger in a heart beat. I felt alive again. Angry, livid, rage filled but alive.
Every time after that, when he saw me in the hallway, he said nothing, kept his head down and gave me a wide berth.
He stopped telling me to smile.
This is not gender specific.
This is asshole specific.