Hey, how about a smile?
I am a generally happy woman. I am on my phone a lot, scrolling, swiping left, checking Instagram and checking in. My mind is never silent. My mind is now a newsfeed, because of all this content. I am barely able to react to actual people. I think I am not alone. Despite my affection for social and widgets and apps, I do enjoy the actual social interaction between my barista and myself as well as other lonely strangers getting their morning coffee. Everything is going just fine, even after I used my Starbucks apps to buy my Grande Iced Two Pump Vanilla Ice coffee with my daily fake name, Lexi. (It’s easier than saying Alexandria or Alex which usually become Alice) I digress. I am in a wonderful mood, but I am groggy from the night before, just waking up. I haven’t put too much thought into how others see me yet, as I have managed to dress myself, wear matching shoes, smell nice and have begun the process of putting on makeup. I am just getting coffee, so I am not 100% just yet.
And then it happens. As I add a dash of half and half into my Iced Coffee, an older man says to me without any invitation or eye contact, “you need to smile, it’s not that bad.” Like nails on a chalk board, this comment reaches my spine and with it my skin crawls. I become internally frustrated at what this man has just done. I say, “I’m just waking up and I am just fine thank you.” And I walk out. I think then of all the times I have been TOLD, not asked, to smile. Why do men feel the need to ask this of women? Why is it my duty to be of a perfect countenance at every moment of my day? I could be thinking, or dreaming or doing math equations or mourning a loss. And why is it, just because I am in public and not in my home, which me, Alexandria, SHOULD PUT ON A SMILE? For whom? For me? For you? For society? To be my prettiest self all of the time?
The man never asked if I was okay. He never cared. He only wanted to perfect his vision of what "should be." It doesn't matter what I was feeling, I should be poised at all times. His tone sounded of pity, like aww little girl, you’ll be okay, just smile. And he has no idea that I am just fine. I was tired. I was pouring Half and Half. I thought I could have that moment to myself. But instead, that moment is now yours, sir? Do you own my face, my lips, my eyes? You do not. You are a stranger with the rudeness of an egocentric two year old who cannot fathom sharing a toy. My happiness is mine only. My smiles are mine to share or keep. Sometimes I may feel like a hot little something, and I walk with my head high through that coffee shop with confidence. But I wasn't there yet. And it’s not your job to tell me to be ready, to tell me to smile, to tell me to be my best self, before my day has actually begun.
So Mister Coffee Shop Smile Police Man, have you ever thought about what this type of comment means? Would ever tell a man to smile? Why do you feel you can order someone to change their mood, emotion, or face? Am I supposed to be a model, perfect at every turn? Is my frown or normal resting face too serious for you? Am I too plain? Does the absence of a smile mean that I am sad or angry or hateful? No. My thoughts are my own. I am not a little girl. I should not feel that my smile belongs to the opposite sex because it makes them happy or happier to know I am content. My smile belongs to me. I will beam my pearly whites and half-moon eyes when I do feel like I should. Without the assumption that it is because I should, because you would feel more comfortable, or because you deserve it. I am my smile and my smile is me. You have nothing to do with it.