As a woman, I am told to smile a lot by men. When I was a mid-twenty-something living in New York City, I was probably told to smile 3-5 times a week. Now that I am the big 3-0, and living in a much smaller town in New Jersey, it’s less of an issue. But I’d still say it happens to me about once a month or so. For most of my life, I would respond to these requests by simply ignoring them, or offering a rueful grimace in return that screamed, “ISN’T THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?!”
I distinctly remember one instance, back in 2013, a few weeks after my mother died. I was walking through the city rocking my TBF (thinking bitch face) with my headphones on, working through some things in my mind; namely, how the hell am I going to get through this?!
“Smile, sweetheart!” A man standing on the corner barked at me, loud enough to hear through my over-ear headphones. I was incensed. How dare he tell me to smile when I was feeling such pain? Who did he think he was? I’m a human being, not a doll! I thought. Frustrated, I ignored him. But his words burned me for blocks. Why hadn’t I said something? Why was I letting him ruin my walk, which was already pretty dang sad in the first place? It was that night that I had a stroke of genius and decided to make a change. I would no longer ignore men telling me to smile, and I would certainly no longer fake it so they’d leave me alone. No, from now on they were going to feel the full force of my reality, whether they liked it or not.