Don’t tell, don’t ask

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I learned about something recently. (And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the bizarre, ongoing horrors in the White House.) This is an issue of—I don’t know—etiquette? Polite behavior? It’s also a tale of how easy it is to be encased in one’s own bubble.

I like to think of myself as a pretty well-versed student of human behavior, but I recently learned about a social phenomenon that’s apparently very commonplace, but somehow I made it more than three-and-a-half decades on Earth without ever noticing—and that is: men telling women to smile.

I had no idea that this was a thing. It would never occur to me to walk up to a woman and say something like, “You should smile more” or “You’d look a lot prettier if you’d smile.” And no one ever walks up to men and says that kind of thing—especially not hairy-faced dudes who already rock some sort of perpetual grin. So this was not a social interaction I had ever been part of—I was totally oblivious.

But I noticed a couple of my female friends make reference to this behavior on social media, and then I asked a few more women about it, and they all said, “Oh, yeah. All the time,” and looked at me askance, as if I’d just asked whether or not a horse was a real animal.

And so, to all you lunkheads who somehow think that this behavior is acceptable, no woman likes it. I’m putting you all on blast. Cut that shit out.

Honestly, I don’t even understand the motivation. I mean, I realize that, as a straight man, when a woman smiles at you, it activates the reward centers in your brain, but doesn’t that lose all meaning if you’ve demanded the smile? How could it still feel good if even as her lips curl up, her eyes continue glaring at you with deep, unhappy irritation?

Next time, try saying something funny—something actually funny, not some snide remark at her expense—or, even better, doing something nice. Earn it. Don’t demand it.