This originally appeared on Dana Norris’s website. Republished here with permission.
To the guy who rode past me on his bicycle last night telling me to “Smile, pretty lady,” here’s what you need to know:
1) I don’t take orders from you.
2) I’m not going to smile just because you tell me to “smile.” You don’t even know me, you don’t know my life, you don’t know why my face looks this way and I don’t I think you really want to know. I’m not smiling because I’m thinking, “Is the Indian food in the fridge still good? God I hope so because I’m going to eat it regardless.” Did you really want that window into my mind, stranger?
3) Thank you for calling me pretty.
4) No, but seriously, you can’t just tell people how you wish their faces looked. I don’t walk by you and yell, “Use some moisturizer, old man!” Because that’s not OK. It’s rude. That’s not what we do.
5) I bet you think that since you’re telling me to do something positive that you’re being nice. I bet you think you’re putting a little kick in my step by reminding me that life is short and we should all enjoy it by grinning everywhere we go. But you’re wrong. All you’re doing is putting a little punch in my fist.
6) Maybe I am smiling.
7) Do we all get to tell each other how our faces should look now? Because, if so, it is ON. I have some OPINIONS. I’m going to walk down the street like: “Cross your eyes, church lady!” “Stick out your tongue, emo youth!” “Bite your lip, business man!”
8) Do you think that women exist to only pump beauty into the world and men exist only to appreciate it? Because let me tell you that both of us suffer from that binary. It means that I have to constantly monitor myself to make sure that I’m providing adequate decoration every time I’m on the sidewalk while you carry the burden of having to constantly evaluate every female face you see and call out possible improvements. How are we supposed to get to work on time?
9) If you want to talk to me, just make it a real talk. Ask me what time it is or where Superior Street is or if you can have a quarter or how long I’ve been waiting for the bus. Say anything you want that doesn’t mean, “You’re a woman and I’m a man and that means I have some say over what your face looks like!”
10) STOP TELLING WOMEN TO SMILE. All it does is make us angry.
Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories. She has served as the Nonfiction Editor and Managing Editor of TriQuarterly Online. She performs around Chicago with Mortified!, The Kates, Essay Fiesta, Stories at the Store, This Much is True, Beast Women, Waiting for the Bus and Cafe Cabaret. Her stories have been published in Tampa Review, Partner Dance Press, and been featured on Vocalo.org (89.5 FM). Dana received a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Religion and from Wittenberg University and a Masters in Religious Studies from The University of Chicago. She has a Certificate in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University.