From Our Readers

Smile For Me, Pussycat

Sometimes, you can ask a toddler to smile and she’ll genuinely become happier right in front of your eyes. She’ll beam because you’re beaming at her and she won’t know any better than to laugh, simply because she sees you laughing. It’s cute; she doesn’t have a care in the world, so her emotions can move between extremes in a matter of seconds.

You know when this isn’t cute? When men expect grown women to do the same thing. I’m sure you know this guy: “Hey beautiful, how about a smile?”

I get smile requests from strangers all the time, and though I’ve hated them since I was a tot, I’ve only recently realized how intrusive they are. Any woman who walks to work (or anywhere, really) by herself is bound to get cat calls, which, aside from being gross violations of personal space, are infuriating because there’s no sure way to stop them; if you ignore them, they get worse, and if you acknowledge them, they get worse.

The most dangerous kind, though, isn’t the Neanderthaloid wooting (which is usually fleeting, since most perpetrators don’t pursue their targets) but the kind that’s masked in politeness: the unwelcome flirtations that seem to suggest that all women — married, single or otherwise — are up for grabs, whether they consent or not.

Because these advances are complimentary in the pursuer’s mind (“You have gorgeous eyes” though it may come from an unwanted source, isn’t exactly the most hateful phrase in the world), it’s difficult to justify an aggressive reaction. But “You have gorgeous eyes” is not what a woman who’s minding her own business and showing no signs of desiring attention wants to hear. To interrupt her day with the assumption that she’ll drop everything to make herself available is arrogant and invasive.

As are requests for smiles. Now, I understand that sometimes, the person asking for a smile is honestly hoping to inspire happiness and nothing more. Most of the time, though, the request is condescending, meant to display the dominance of the instigator and reaffirm the notion that they ought to be catered to. It’s annoying, belittling and presumptuous.

I’m generally a very happy person, but I don’t spend my entire day grinning from ear to ear, especially when I’m concentrating on getting to work, or dodging traffic as I run errands. When I’m busy, I’m probably not smiling, even if I’m feeling content. When strange men stop me to say “Let me see that smile!”, it makes me feel obligated to be perky all the time, as though it were my duty to entertain and be pleasant to look at. It’s a revolting thought.

Men who request smiles from strange women assume that, like little girls, women have frivolous emotions that will change on demand. They think women will always be flattered by the attention they receive from men, and will react obligingly. Furthermore (that’s right — you’ve just been furthurmored!), men like this treat women as though they’re merely ornaments; they can’t begin to fathom a woman who won’t mask her actual emotions in order to satisfy the whims of strangers.

So, men who think smile requests are harmless, here’s a tip: If you’d really like to make a woman smile, start by smiling at her, and leave it at that. If the smile’s not returned, go away. If it is returned, you can try a “Hi”, but the next move is hers — don’t push it any further unless she decides to strike up a conversation. If she doesn’t, your attention is not wanted. Back off, clown.

You can read more from Jenni Dunnington on her blog.

Feature image via.

  • Kati Ber

    Even tough I can partly understand what you are trying to say, I am not quite sure if Hellogiggles is the right site for a hateful article like that…
    Dont get me wrong… catcalls are as annoying as anything can be, but why cant you take a compliment on your eyes? Compliments on your ass, thats what I would call unwanted advances, but your eyes? If anyone told me I have gorgeous eyes, no matter where or when, I would be flattered…
    But again… I can see why you hate that “give me a smile” thing… thats just annoying…

    • Maggiee Underwood

      it’s not hateful, it’s honest.if an old woman at the bank tells you that you have beautiful hair, you take it as a compliment. if a random older man tells you that you have the most beautiful eyes while walking to work, it’s not a’s an unwanted verbal gesture.I don’t take being looked at like a piece of meat as a compliment.

  • Laura Hough

    I don’t think the article is hateful in anyway. I have worked in pubs for years and even the vilest drunks will give compliments and there is nothing about compliments delivered by certain people that is complimentary. It does make you feel as though anyone, from the best looking guy to the sleaziest thinks that one line about your eyes and you’ll be swooning for them. It’s almost as though they are challenging you to react.

    I think for me you have hit the nail on the head.

  • Elizabeth Stemmer

    I have ALWAYS hated when strange men on the street say things like “smile for me, honey” or “hey, show me a pretty smile.” It is presumptuous. Anyone who walks around with a permanent smile would look deranged. Also, it is not your place to tell me to “smile.” You don’t even know me. What if I just found out I had cancer. Or my mother died. Or I feel like my tampon is leaking. Or I am thinking about how I am going to pay the rent. OR I AM JUST FUCKING PLANNING MY DAY AS I WALK TO WORK.

    On a sidenote, there is nothing hateful about this blogpost. If you disagree with it, then fine. But I have to say that not everyone is just “happy” to get a “compliment.”

    • Ramou Sarr

      I love this comment so much. I’m constantly in my head, thinking very seriously about things that may or may not be serious, which translates to a furrowed brow, semi-angry looking at-rest face. That’s just my face! Telling me to smile while I’m thinking about my possibly leaking tampon AND what I’m going to have for dinner AND do I have wine? is just disruptive and now I’m annoyed!

  • Katie Isabella Wildig

    Yes! This is absolutely true, and not ‘hateful’ in the slightest. Another annoying thing strangers say when I’m minding my own business: ‘Cheer up love, it might never happen’. Or maybe it just did, and you’re being insensitive and rude.

  • Shirley Bisschoff

    Oh the worst is “Smile, God loves you”, it just makes me cringe – especially when I’m busy doing errands – certainly not looking for attention from anyone. I find it incredibly rude.

  • Paula Ahumada Escárate

    I’ve never, personally, heard those kind of things…but that’s only because here in my country (Chile) men are “shy” if you can call them like that…but mostly because most of them are those kind of creepy, ugly, respulsive old men who just look at, literally, EVERY KIND OF WOMAN (OR EVEN TEENAGERS), with this…disgusting look , almost drooling themselves, without saying a word!!! That’s what annoys me the most, they’re FUCKING COWARDS!! They are not able to say anything, they just stare there, thinking …I don’t even want to imagine what…That kind of scenes just make me sick…I’l like to scream to all of them ” go mess with someone of your own age you creepy fucking gross old pigs!!!!”

  • Jennifer Melroy

    A-freaking-MEN! Preach it. This is so true. Thanks for the validation. I knew I wasnt just being bitchy. This is so true. Thanks for illustrating my innermost feelings on the topic. I am nauseated by this. Was trying to explain it to my husband one day. I know he “got it.” But this says it better than I ever could!

  • Jamie Ann Rollo

    I completely understand. I’ve worked as a bartender for years, and I’ve always HATED (yes, HATED) when random customers tell me to “smile, will ya?” It annoys me because I think of myself as quite a happy person (most of the month, anyway), and I’m fairly certain that I smile A LOT throughout the day; so, it just ticks me off when someone catches me during that .5 seconds that I’m not smiling and calls me on it. “Oh, I’m sorry, random stranger, that I’m waiting on the entire bar without any help AND have to not only bring food, but make drinks and clean tables, et al, and now I’m having to deal with a super annoying person telling me to SMILE.” <——-Lucky me. But mostly I'm thinking, "Who the Hell do you think you are?" Maybe I'm not smiling because my Grandmother is sick or my boyfriend broke up with me that morning or my cat died. For me, it's not that I think of being told to "smile" as some sleazy, pick-up line, I just find it rude. The flip to that coin is the person who tells me I smile TOO much, "Why are you so happy?" As a woman, sometimes I just can't win.

    • Christina Konze

      I meant to give you a thumbs up vote but for some reason I accidentally gave you a thumbs down, and I can’t seem to fix it. But I totally agree with you!

  • Lisa Wright

    When I’m thinking, my face just naturally looks like bitchface. Just a little sullen and frowny-looking at times. So I’ve had my dose of this. I’ve had guys go, “You know… it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.” So I respond, “I’m exercising, then.”

  • Miriam Lane

    I don’t think this post is “hateful” I work with in a retail setting and when I am concentrating on something, it ticks me off to no end to hear a customer (who is being helped by another sales rep) to tell me to smile. And it is always a man too, women never do that. I’m not mad or angry, I’m just minding my own business and working.

  • Christina Konze

    I agree, it is not a hateful article. When working at a very small restaurant at 19 years old, I would get this request often, mostly from old men. Some were just nice older folks hoping to brighten my day with this annoying request, but mostly (as the author points out), it’s from creepy older guys trying to flirt. It bothered me quite a bit, because when the restaurant was busy, I wasn’t focusing on smiling all the time for 9 hours straight. I was cordial, but not grinning constantly. Order your burger and move on with it, right? There are people behind you.
    But some men would refuse to move until I smiled for them, like I had to do what they said, like this would actually make me feel better about working in this horrid place. Not only that, I am self-conscious about my teeth that never got braces, so I feel quite awkward when asked to smile. It is not pleasant, it is rude and yes, intrusive. A few times I just told them to move on, I had work to do, and they reacted as if I were the rude one. It’s an idiotic situation. Also, it also annoys me when men don’t notice a ring on a woman’s finger, or refuse to care. End rant.

  • Tracey Munro

    Wow, the behaviour described in this article sounds super creepy! And yeah, it does sound a bit like these men think they’re God’s gift to women who think you should perform for their pleasure. Yuck! Fortunately I’ve never been victim to that sort of thing, probably because I’m not deemed worthy of their attention.

    Having said that, as a woman, I’m often tempted to tell people in customer service roles to smile (although I never actually would). Seriously – you’re getting PAID to provide excellent customer service and that INCLUDES smiling. Sure, we all have bad days and off moments, I do understand. I’ve worked in customer service for many years and even dealing with drunks on the graveyard shift I managed to put on a smile for each new customer.

    But if I was approached by a stranger on the street telling me to smile I’d probably be absolutely horrified and get away from that person as quickly as possible!

  • Madeleine Rowe

    When someone asks you to smile, just give them a deadpan applause as you walk away. You don’t even have to look at them, just nod in acknowledgement. This works for any annoying or unwanted remark from a stranger. It says without words or delay “Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in saying a t

  • Madeleine Rowe

    “thing” not “t hing”

  • Lauren Nicole

    So frustrating! This article hits on so many valid points. I’m a single girl in NYC and I can’t tell you how many times someone says something like this. I’m not a stunner, I’m not overtly attractive, nor do I dress for the attention (ummm Weekend Nights excluded. Holler at me all you want when I’m dressed to impress!). One day I was standing in the line at Best Buy to get my computer fixed. It was out of it’s warranty so I knew I’d have to pay a lot just to get their Geek Squad to look at it. I’m devastated that my computer crashed, I may have lost everything on it, and cringing at the possibility of having to purchase another expensive computer. This stranger, a muscular much taller man, comes up to me “Hey beautiful. You need to smile. No one that beautiful should be frowning. Come on. Smile”. Not only was I mad at my electronic predicament, I felt really violated and singled-out by this creeper. Not knowing what to do, I smiled and said “I have a boyfriend” (I didn’t but it’s not this guy’s business). He proceeded to tell me that I didn’t need to be with said boyfriend if all I’m going to do is frown. He asked me my name and kept asking me to smile for him. I gathered my stuff and ran out of there.
    It’s extremely intrusive and frightening! Creeper Status Level 5.

  • Jess Tholmer

    YEP, YEP, YEP.

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