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  • Jacqui Chiari

Don't tell me to smile.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I took Kona to the dog park AND the beach - we usually do one or the other, so doing both was a treat, for both of us. In the evening, Daniel and I had a date night. We went to see 1917 and had dinner at our favorite restaurant where we live, Tupelo Honey.


We'd bought out tickets for the 4pm show, and a little after 3pm, Daniel had to go to campus to help his students with a minor situation. I stayed home, doing my makeup. I hadn't done a full face of makeup in a long time, so I just really wanted to for our date night. And it came out so good. Like damn.

We like watching the previews, but Daniel had gotten back to our place to pick me up right at 4pm, so that was out of the question. It was ok, though, since we'd just recently gone to see Rise of Skywalker, so they were bound to be pretty much the same. When we walked in, the theater was a bit of a madhouse. We both had to pee and Daniel wanted to get a snack. So he stood in line while I went to the restroom first, then we traded off. There was a group of three moms in front of us ordering for themselves and their children, bless them. The employee helping them was moving pretty slow. Spoiler alert, we missed the first few minutes of the movie. Not ideal, but ultimately not a big deal.

While I was standing in line, bits of frustration and impatience seeping in, trying to not let it show (because, again, it ultimately was not a big deal), I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned my head to see the source of the unwanted physical contact, and it was a middle aged white man (is anyone surprised) who commanded me to "smile."

My jaw dropped open, and the corners of my lips curled upwards incredulously but ultimately, involuntarily giving in to the command. Anger and shock flooded my body and brain. I tried to formulate words, but nothing coherent came out. He proceeded to tell me, "You're nervous" (excuse me, what?) to which I responded without looking at him, "No, I'm really not."

He then kept standing pretty close to me, trying to make conversation with me and the three moms in front of me. I was so incredibly angry. I wanted to a) punch him in the throat right then and there, and/or b) make a scene and berate him, asking him if he tells his wife to smile (she was standing just a few feet away at the other register), (also, why are you not standing with your wife???). I wanted to ask her if she knew the kind of man she was married to. I wanted to ask their son, who was also present, if he also told random women to smile, like it's their fucking job to be aesthetically pleasing to him.


But I didn't.

Because I know what that would have made me look like. Also, I didn't want to miss any more of the movie than we already had. Which I'm glad we didn't, because God Damn that movie is good.

As soon as Daniel returned from the bathroom, I felt the man take a small step back, which made me angry and relieved at the same time. My body was still tense, and I wanted to tell Daniel right there, but I knew that would not have turned out well. I told him as we walked into our theater, and that's when the tears started. Crying is my body's natural reaction to pretty much any emotion - joy, sadness, anger, fear, awe. I wasn't so much upset that I was crying because I was angry, but more that this man had made me cry and that his fuckery was now potentially ruining my makeup. Which sounds so stupid. But I'd worked really fucking hard on it, it came out so good, and I didn't want some misogynistic asshole ruining it. I was also so angry because it was the least harm he could have done in that situation. It could have been so much worse.

It could have been so much worse.

And I'm so lucky that it's never been worse for me. And I get angry all over again that I'm lucky for only ever being cat-called and told to smile. Why do we live in a world where that's "lucky"? Why do I have to be grateful that I got out of a situation physically unscathed. I should have never been in that situation to begin with. And I shouldn't have to live in a world where I fear going out alone. Where I wonder what might happen to me if my Viking-ass boyfriend isn't with me.

So in case you're a man (or a little fucker in general, regardless of gender) and you've been living under a rock for the past few years, here are some tips for living (and staying alive) in 2020:

- don't tell women, or anyone, to smile

- don't touch strangers, anywhere, ever

- don't try to make casual conversation with people who are clearly not interested

- don't tell someone they're nervous - chances are they were not nervous until you said what you just said

- no one exists for the visual pleasure of anyone else - if someone is doing something with their face or body that you don't like, stop looking at them

If you have a problem with any of this, kindly fuck off.

For anyone reading this, I want you to know that I did not let this man ruin my night. Like I said at the beginning, yesterday was a wonderful day. But the next time a stranger tells me to smile, or touches me without my consent, I will promptly tell them to suck my dick.

In conclusion, 1917 is an incredible film. You should go see it and I hope it wins some Oscars. Tupelo Honey is a great restaurant and I'm glad they have a location in the cultural vacuum that is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Finally, having a feminist partner is truly one of my greatest joys in life, you should get one if you don't already have one (and if you want a partner at all).

K bye + stay wandering


Jacqui

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