Don’t Tell Me To Smile

Recently the news was abuzz with the story of Emelia Holden, a waitress who body-slammed a customer (at the restaurant with his girlfriend and their 2 kids!!!) when he groped her backside.

For every story like Emelia’s there are thousands that don’t go public. According to a recent report by NPR, a online study found that 81% of women experienced some sort of harassment. I’m also one who silently endured sexual and other forms of harassment but gaining self-esteem and confidence helped me be silent no longer. Here’s my latest story:

Last week, while at a diner with friends, I walked to the register to pay my bill. One of my friends was a few paces back. Suddenly a male voice said, “Hi! How are you doing?!” in a tone that suggested he knew me. Glancing towards the counter where the speaker sat with a teenage boy (son? grandson? nephew?), I realized I didn’t know him so kept walking. He must have reached out to grab me but made contact with my friend instead because I heard her ask, “Did you just TOUCH me?!!”. I didn’t pay attention to his response while she continued down to the bathroom and I handed my bill and debit card to the cashier.

The man appeared at my side: “Smile!”.
I glared at him
Man: “You’re so pretty. Smile!”
Me: “Don’t tell me what to do.”
Man: “I’m just trying to be nice. Why don’t you be nice? Be nice! Smile!”
Me: “I don’t have to do anything. Leave me alone.”

The cashier motioned for me to come around the counter to stand by her and started charging the man for his order. I noticed the manager approaching.

Man: “Awwwww, c’mon now. You’re so pretty. You should be nice. Let’s go to the High Line.”

My friends sitting way in the back, couldn’t hear us, but other diners turned to watch us. The teenage boy looked embarrassed which made me angrier. What was he learning from the encounter? Did he understand that the man was a sexist jerk or did he think me a bitch for not doing as requested?

The cashier finished my transaction while the manager guided the man and boy out the door with, thankfully, no further incident.

When someone tells me to smile

The concept is simple… if I want to smile or engage in conversation, I will do so. If I don’t smile or want to talk, it could be for any number of reasons but guess what? I don’t owe you an explanation. Saying that I’m pretty/beautiful/the most gorgeous goddess in the universe won’t change my mind, trust me. Asking again after that is harassment, period.  Take no or my lack of response for the final answer. Don’t make me body slam you.

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