Friday, March 6, 2009

Smiling at Strangers: Yes or No?

I'm going to stop smiling at strangers. I just think its better that way, lest my intentions be misinterpreted. I never used to smile at strangers because I grew up in a hostile city environment. We made a point of never making eye contact or speaking to each other. Eyes on the Ground was the rule. Then in my early 20s I moved to Seattle and all of a sudden I noticed women smiling at me and I thought "Jesus Christ there are a lot of lesbians here in Seattle!" I had never had anyone smile at me except for relatives or men who wanted to sleep with me. So, naturally I assumed that these women wanted to take me to a softball game and listen to Melissa Etheridge while we wore matching purple fleece pullovers.

Later I found out that people were trying to be "friendly". I was amused by their naivete; however, in an effort to always fit in, I made a concerted effort to start smiling at strangers and using the good manners mom taught me. It worked out for the good and the bad. But I'm now considering reverting back to my old No Smile Code because its just easier.

There's this guy who comes to the gym a lot. He's young, in good shape, and in a wheelchair. I passed by him today and smiled. Then my Shitty Committee started in on me

Shitty Committee: Did you give that man a sympathetic smile?!

Me: No, no, I just smiled, I swear!

Shitty Committee: You better not have, you know you're not so perfect either.

Me: I never said I was, Jesus, I just smiled at the guy.

Shitty Committee: Well, stop treating him different.

Me: I tried to look as normal as I could. I just smiled. Nothing out of the ordinary

Shitty Committee: Oh really? Then why aren't you smiling at every single other guy who you walked past? Hmmm?

Me: All right you caught me. I was trying to be nice. I'm not perfect either, its just that out of all the shortcomings I've been dealt in life, none of them have wheels. What do you want me to do? Wear a sign that says "I'm fucked up too!"

Shitty Committee: Yes. Meeting adjourned.


  1. Dammit!

    We've all got that Shitty Committee in our ear bitching and interrogating. I just didn't know what to call it and had no idea it was actually an entire committee in there!

  2. Yes and they're especially active at night time if I accidentally drank regular coffee instead of decaf! The Shitty Committee also thinks my husband is always wrong.

  3. haha. Yeah, I'm a smilin' bitch. It works well where I live but when I travel... well people think I'm crazy or stupid.

    Yes the Shitty Committee thinks my husband is always wrong too.

  4. I think I like "I'm Fucked Up Too" as a slogan. It draws people in and makes them feel included!
    It would be great for a t-shirt.

  5. Summer - you're right, people from other countries think we're stupid for smiling at strangers. Another reason to stop.

    Reppster - You're totally right, that is a great t-shirt. Its a real "feel good" message!

  6. I have had that EXACT same conversation with my shitty committee -- except for the "I'm fucked up" part.

  7. Ladies, ladies, ladies. The shitty committe is not a shitty committe when it comes to our husbands. They ARE always wrong.

  8. Order me one of those signs (Or T-shirts) please. If we're honest we can all resemble that remark. I still smile at people - unless I think they're gonna rob me or ask me for money. Then I start talking to myself. :) Nice post!

  9. intrepidideas - I just might print some of those babies up. Seriously. talking to yourself: good tip.

  10. Years ago, my Mom was flying somewhere, and she had to change planes in Dallas. She was nervous about it-will I find the gate, will I be late, etc. I told her, "Mom, you're in the South. Just ask somebody!"

  11. Michael - Very true, and they'll call her ma'am, too.

  12. Lucky there are still people who keep smiling at strangers.

    In my comunity means: not looking at someines eyes when passing them means "I got something to hide, And I dont care about you, so please don't say anything to me"

    We use to say "hi" when you see one person walking on the same pavement passing you on Sundays. (But only if it is an elderly person), when you encounter a younger person you dont look, and wait until they say "hi"

    But I live in a small town 20.000 people live there, so everyone knows everyone (almost)

    In a big city just do not look to anyone, when crossing a road, please don't make any eyecontact to car drivers at anytime (they see me so I don't have to stop my car in front op them)

    If you drive a car, avoid eye contact with bikers, or they just drive in front of you or cross the road.

    If you ride a bike, make sure you have eyecontact with cardriver then do whatever you like on the road( as everyone does)

    The biggest rule is, ignore every agression, and say "hi" to every stranger who says "hi" and walk on.

    from a small town in The Netherlands...

  13. btw tihs is the picture causing me to make a comment here

  14. Load Runner - You have too many rules to remember. I think you should wear dark sunglasses and a smirk on your face.
    Thank you for writing in from the Netherlands!!


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