So when I have down time at work I try to skim through some of the hot topics that float around the internet as young bright minds expose wisdom, humor and down right ratchet happenings for the whole world to share in. I like to say that Twitter is a place were people go to be insanely profound or profoundly ignorant in 140 characters. But I like to skim through it because sometimes you find diamonds in the rough of people having really great dialogues and conversations. Which is what I stumbled upon yesterday with a post by a Helena Andrews who wrote and awesome article titled, Dear Strange Men,Stop Telling Me to Smile.
Now immediately upon reading the title I spit up water all over my keyboard. A little messy I admit, but I live for those moments when something moves me to laughter in such a way that I cannot control my instant reflex to burst out with an ebullient response. Not a response that mocks the topic or title in any way but in the recollection of a conversation that I had with my friend Michelle about men telling her this exact same thing at her job. And we always laugh about it because she goes into a whole lecture about how sometimes, she doesn’t feel like smiling! Who walks around with a big ass smile on their face anyway?! And sometimes I just don’t feel like talking?! We laugh about it and I calmly respond to her that by saying, Damn Michelle! How hard is it to just not look menacing? No smile necessary. But just don’t look like someone just stole your breakfast platter in the morning! But that is just me encouraging her to not walk around with the mean-mug. A friend of mine, Paul Brunson, does this thing on twitter where he promotes No Mean Mug Mondays. And it is centered around just being more polite in your presentation with people and the energy that you give off in the world. Because that energy surely comes back to you in one form or another.
But truly I understand my friend Michelle’s perspective. No matter how much I cannot actually relate to it. I am not much of a scowler. I do not unconsciously hold uninviting expressions on my face. I am not generally easily set off to feel badly or angry about daily events. At least not to the point that it causes me to transfer that upset or angry feeling to the people around me. And as a life philosophy I have come to adopt the idea that when things are going bad for me that I can smile my way into a better day.
However I can respect that everyone is not like that. That some people do not have that quick of a bounce back time and that sometimes not so pleasant thoughts or feelings can take you out of a delightful space. And maybe delightful is not a word that you want to even be associated with. Maybe you see no need in smiling when people speak to you or compliment your person. Maybe the sheer reaction of thanking someone for a compliment is nothing more than a tedious social grace that has been embedded into your psyche and not something that you truly feel like you want to do. Fair enough. And the unfortunate run-ins that she talked about in the article were things that most women can definitely relate to and should not have to go along with. A man chastising her for not speaking to him. “If I’m not afraid to speak, then why are you?” Another guy making a snarky remark about whether or not she could even speak English! “Miss? Miss! MISS!! Do you speak English?” It’s pretty rude. And a woman’s angst about these sorts of encounters is very valid and warranted. But in reading her article as a man, I think that many women who encounter these scenarios look at them in a bubble. From a viewpoint that centers around how offensive it is to them personally and not from the perspective of why would he approach me like that?
It is not any person’s job or responsibility to dig deep into the mindset of other human beings quirky behavior……… But doing so, I believe, absolutely gives you a deeper understanding of what makes people tic and allows you to respect someones humanity and not summarily dismiss them as being cruel, domineering or ***gasp**** inherently sexist. Men in a common and general level build our worth and happiness on feeling like we command a certain level of respect. And nothing for a man is more disrespectful than being ignored. But not being ignored by women. But being ignored period. Any man in a social setting will tell you that the reaction is not very pleasant when a man feels like another man has ignored him. And the words that start flying out of their mouths are not nearly as “polite” as the ones that Miss Andrews faced as she described in her article. It is not sexism that spurns a man use “micro-aggressions” towards a woman who does not reply to his words. It is his instinctive reflex that jolts him when he feels that he is not respected. Now I say this not to normalize or validate this as is affects women. But I say this to humanize their reactions. I think that men are always rightfully told to respect the uniqueness in what affects a woman and not dismiss it because you do not understand it. Well in cases like this the same courtesy should be extended. And just by having a glimmer of understanding for the differences, it makes us not carry so much reprehension towards each other as we move forward. So instead of men walking away from an encounter with Miss Andrews feeling like she is some uptight bitch who needs a man, her article illustrates the feminine perspective in a way that may not resonate with me on a personal level, but it gives men an understanding that he can at least accept as not being a personal measure of disrespect towards him. And hopefully women can understand that a man being dismissed is to him a sign of being disrespected. An act of rude behavior that he may feel compelled to respond rudely to.
When I was a school teacher I once or twice found myself being a dick to a student for no real reason other than they caught me at the wrong moment. Now I am a pretty pleasant guy overall but in a brief moment I can get a little perturbed and sometimes in a school with 3000 kids you cannot avoid someone noticing that about your mood. But I always caught myself and tried to apologize and set it right. Because a student asking me about his/her grades, or a homework assignment or something as trivial as where I got me shoes is not a shameful behavior on their part. And my curt response was a reflection of my own issue and not that them being an asshole worthy of stinging dismissal.
I would never tell a woman that she has an obligation to entertain every uninteresting man who approaches her. Especially one that does so by encouraging a woman to wear a smile on her face. But I can also never co-sign that idea that it is OK to be rude to someone as a result. Because ultimately it will only bring on more rude responses.
Take a look at her article. I think it gives a great snap-shot of a woman’s thoughts. Pretty hilarious too!