I Didn’t Smile

I have a question for any man that’s reading this: How many times have you, personally, been shouted at the street by someone telling you to smile?

Probably none.

I get that almost every day. It’s exhausting.

“You’d be so much prettier if you smiled!”

“Put a smile on that face for me!”

“You’d make my day better if you smiled!”

“Give me a smile!”

Every. Single. Day. Any time I go outside of my home or where I work. Hell, even sometimes at work, or in the hall of my apartment building. If I’m in public, I’m not safe from it.

Random strangers on the street, expecting me to obey their shouted requests – orders, really. I am there not as a person that they are trying to make happy, but as something pretty for them to look at. Don’t believe me? Again, ask a man (or yourself, if you are one) whether they have ever – EVER – been shouted at by a stranger to smile.

And I was trained to respond with a smile. It’s automatic at this point. Sometimes, it even gets them to leave me alone. Only sometimes. Other times they take the fact that I obeyed to be an invitation to follow me, harass me, hit on me. If I didn’t respond? They take it as an invitation to follow me, harass me, and call me a bitch. Neither one is an ideal outcome, but since smiling has a slight chance of them just leaving me alone, that’s the route I, and many other women, take. The only times I don’t smile is when I hadn’t heard them, but they make sure I hear them when they follow me, shouting at me for not doing what they demand.

Except today. Today, I didn’t smile.

I’ve been in Vegas for a week, here for work. I don’t enjoy the Vegas atmosphere, and I especially don’t enjoy the people trying to push things at me to buy, give, take pictures of, or fuck. It’s been a week non-stop of that, and today I had enough.

I was passing by a stall with the words “DISCOUNT TICKETS” plastered all over the sides (As a side note, don’t fall for that shit, they’re trying to sell you a time share and still won’t just give you the tickets for free). There were three men at the stall, in matching Hawaiian shirts. One was out front, handing out pamphlets. I was just walking by, with sunglasses and resting bitch face on. The man out front shouted at me, “Hey there, why don’t you give me a smile?”

I didn’t. It was difficult. It’s automatic. I specifically had to suppress the fake smile that was going to form just to get this over with.

As I walked by, I heard him mutter, “Well, aren’t you just a grumpy bitch.”

Damn fucking right. And you would be too, if you heard it five times today.

It’s oddly freeing to realize that I don’t have to smile.

Honestly, in some places, I still feel like I will have to. It’s not safe on some streets or at some times of night. It’s better to get it over with, when you have nowhere safe to go if things turn sour. And that’s even more terrifying. My crime would be not smiling, my punishment… I don’t even want to know.

But today. Today I didn’t smile.

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