I would like to do my part to wipeout a most obnoxious behavior. I hope I speak for a lot of you. I am talking about nipping those folks in the bud who feel obliged to tell complete strangers to “Smile!” It usually happens to me in grocery stores. I have occasionally gotten it in a parking lot, usually outside a grocery store. I’ll just be pushing my cart along, minding my own business (or fearing for my life, depending on time of day and neighborhood) when some glee-monger pops out with “Smile! You look so serious!” or “Smile, it can’t be that bad!” Well, nyah,nyah, nyah, I am serious now and maybe it IS that bad, you nincompoops. Basically, my face is no one else’s business.
I suspect that the so-called self-appointed “Smile police” only pick on people who are already quite pleasant looking…or perhaps, just shorter than they are. I can’t imagine that a 300-pound linebacker gets too many orders to “Smile,” but of course I don’t see any 300-pound linebackers grocery shopping, either.
I wish I could run a survey on a lot of things. I want facts; I want numbers to back up my opinions. But in the meantime, I’ll rely on guessing, like most of us writers do. I’d bet a survey would tell me that more women than men get told to smile by strangers. I’d wager that women AND men tell women to smile. Smile patrols know in their guts that a man may punch them, and rightfully so, for messing with his expression. Women are less apt to strike for any reason. Plus they’ve been told that their job is to be pretty… a smile, even forced, is better than truth.
We have all been trained to be terribly uncomfortable with a female frown; it might mean she’s thinking and when a woman is openly thinking about more than her appearance, she just might figure out a lot of things that make her mad. Then she’ll talk to other women and then girls might get angry and then, oh my gosh, it just might get out of hand, and then where will we be? Shamelessly frowning in grocery stores, that’s where!
Listen, you folks who tell us hapless shorter people to “Smile,” what’s your problem? I go to a grocery store to buy food, not smile. You’ve been watching way too many commercials. If you must see smiles in the grocery store, go into the breakfast cereal section and look at Quaker Oats cartons or something. Don’t bother me.
When I go grocery shopping, I am thinking about prices, stretching my food budget, or I am hungry. I am not there as decoration for twerps who cannot face reality. I may be a piece of work, but I am not a piece of art. I am, along with other healthy shoppers who get hit with “Smile,” being emotionally appropriate to the task.
I have never wondered about Mona Lisa’s enigmatic expression. She’s simply gritting her teeth as a result of the gazillionth request to “Smile.” She didn’t feel like it, OK? She had just been to the market. I understand, Mona.
Think about it. Why are those smiley busybodies asking others to smile and smiling themselves? Are they insane? Do they have gas? Maybe they’re not thinking about skyrocketing grocery prices because they are shoplifting.
I am not a relentlessly crabby person. But I do not smile at broccoli and I do not smile at non-fat yogurt. I certainly do not smile at people who ask me to for no reason in an appearance-neutral zone like a grocery store.
I love to smile, when I am happy. I frequently give unsolicited smiles to almost anyone in the vicinity. A smile is a gift, not an obligation.
I smile at my husband and my dogs. I smile in a mirror to see if I have broccoli in my teeth. So unless you are Leonardo da Vinci (and I know you are not), if you tell me to “Smile” in a grocery store again, I am going to make a citizen’s arrest for shoplifting or say, “Bite me”, very politely of course. And maybe even with a smile. “Bite me” feels really nice when delivered with a smile. Probably not what you had in mind when you demanded that I, without so much as a “please,” rearrange my face for you.
There, that ought to cramp someone’s “Smile!”
Just last month, Ellen Snortland was one of three women to be awarded the Gloria Gartz Award. Ellen is a columnist for the Pasadena Weekly, a Huffington Post contributor, a writing coach, self-defense advocate, activist and mentor, and a one-woman show (Now That She’s Gone).
The focus of almost everything Ellen does is to understand, help, and promote empowerment and protection for teens and women. In 2011, she gave a TEDx talk in Pasadena called “The Personal Safety Paradox.” Ellen has written Beauty Bites Beast (“a Girls Fight Back fave read”), a book on women’s self-defense that was featured on Dateline NBC and she has been involved with United Nations Association, Pasadena, Lisa Gaeta’s Impact Personal Safety of Southern California, and Consumer Watchdog. Along with Lisa, Ellen has written, and just released, The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries, and Confidence for Teens.
Beauty Bites Beast – Amazon