Smile Even Though Your Heart Is Breaking…

by admin on October 31, 2012

I probably deserve to be in E-Hell for my reaction but nonetheless I am submitting this story. A few weeks ago my grandfather had two strokes, a heart attack and slipped into a coma. After being told by several specialist that my grandfather would spend the rest of his life connected to tubes my grandmother decided the best course of action would be to remove him from the ventilator. Since she wanted family members to be able to say their good byes she decided to wait for a few days. The day came and I drove to the hospital thinking I would be fine but as soon as I parked my car I began crying. I composed myself for the long walk to the ICU and just before getting to the elevators I encountered a man who said, “You need to fix your face and show me that gorgeous smile.” I responded with, “F*** off!”, and continued walking past him. I was very tired, upset and generally not in the mood to show off my “gorgeous smile” because my grandfather would no longer be around. I was very close to him and even though he has been gone almost a month still find myself wanting to ask him something. (Just this morning my mom asked me how much I though a new garage door would cost and I almost responded “Ask grandpa.”)

My face relaxes into a non-smile even when I am happy. I realize my reaction was not appropriate but why do men feel it is appropriate to ask random women to smile at them. Is it that I should be happy because they have shown an interest in me? Should I base my mood on how much male attention I receive? And yes, maybe they are trying to “be nice” but should realize that my non-smile may have good reason behind it. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging someone but too often I am acknowledged by referencing my physical appearance. I am too often told to smile by strangers. Strangers who get upset when I don’t oblige their request. All I am saying is that before you decide that the woman in front of you needs to smile think that maybe she is not in the mood to smile and your invasive request may sour her mood further. 0917-12


I think people use the “Smile!” command when they see something amiss yet have no social graces to really offer anything that addresses the root cause.   Upon seeing someone in distress, and presuming one felt compelled to offer help, the proper questions to ask would be, “Is there anything I can do to help?  Would you like a tissue or drink of water or coffee?  Would you like prayer?”  (You would be surprised how many people willingly respond to the offer of prayer.)   Be willing to be a sounding board, offer a hankerchief or tissues, say only, “I am so sorry” if appropriate and know when to back off.

I’m not enamored with the use of the F bomb in response to stupidity, especially good intentioned stupidity gone wrong.   Ignoring him is about as much attention as the man deserved and responding with vulgar words is reciprocal rudeness.

FYI to all commentators, I am not approving any comments which endorse, condone or high five the OP for the use of the F Bomb…I think many people need to get over their entitled right to use extreme curses in response to irritations and offenses. It’s as if those of you approving of this retaliatory rudeness cannot conceive of any better way to handle a situation and that defeats the entire purpose of this blog.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gee November 2, 2012 at 10:02 am

A good response would have been, “You need to mind your own business.” Nobody has a right to tell you that you “need” to smile at them. Or even a, “My grandfather is dying. I’m not in the mood to smile.” It would be m0re likely to make him think the next time before he speaks, rather than cursing at him.


Cat November 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Yes, cursing has its uses but, if you really want to upset a strange man given to highlyinappropriate remarks , burst into tears and begin sobbing.


Tammy November 3, 2012 at 6:16 am

The notion that anyone would tell an obviously upset stranger in a hospital to smile is ridiculous. They’re in a hospital and they’re upset — clearly something sad is happening to them. People are just stupid sometimes.


Enna November 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm

OP I’m so sorry for your loss.

This man was way out of line and it is such sexist behaviour too.

Admin – sometimes men do not take to being ignored as some posters have illustarted being sworn at even after saying that they are having a bad time. I think it could work in some instances but at times when emotions are running high it can be difficult to engage brain before mouth. What is good is that the OP recongised it wasn’t smart and has learnt from it.

I do agree totally with the OP 100% in the last paragarph. It is all about control and power and it’s wrong.


Jane November 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I know I’m coming in late in this, but I have to say I can completely understand! Like some of the other posters, I have a naturally relaxed face. I’m honestly just not a big smiler. I’m told constantly to “cheer up.” I actually got it just yesterday at the grocery store. The worst is, “it can’t be that bad!” Ughhhh.

I don’t think it’s a gender issue at all; I get it from both men and women, constantly. I’ve gotten it my entire life.


Ely November 7, 2012 at 7:55 am

I totally understand you response – it was a knee jerk reaction to a totally inappropriate comment by an insensitive sexist male. I am sure on reflection you know that a better response would have been to ‘give him the look’ and the word, icily, ‘pardon’. This response is devastating to the receiver and never fails to hit the mark.

Try this technique the next time someone is inappropriate.

Good luck.


Colleen November 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I think it is interesting how people react so differently. I was at the airport waiting for my flight home after having spent the week with my father after heart surgery. He was still in the hospital but off all the machines and appeared to be doing well. I called to check on him and was told he had just passed away. I was devastated and in a city I was unfamiliar with. The hospital sent a cab to retrieve me and bring me back to the hospital and the driver spent the entire trip yapping about how he wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I had been crying, was clearly still upset and he handed me his portfolio and asked me to take a look and see what I thought.. unreal.. I was brought up to always be polite and still did not say anything other than, I really didn’t feel up to it.. to which he replied.. oh come on please, it would mean alot to me.. so I finally said, no, I just found out my father has passed away which is why you are taking me back to the hospital… he continued to try to get me to look at his portfolio and even put a tape in of his music requiring me to listen to it. Some people were just never taught appropriate social behavior.. it is always all about them…


NostalgicGal November 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Someone got on mine, three times… I had just had a soccerball to the face in indoor soccer, and had my glasses go in three pieces, and my nose broken and walked off the court. I went to the woman’s locker room and sat down on the can (dressed, it was a seat in a tiled washable place) and was making some miserable noises and this classmate went on and on about I needed to wipe my face off and SMILE and she was ragging pretty hard about this and was NOT leaving until I SMILED!

Third time I brought my face up, tears still streaming as in I am holding it together on consciousness here and going into shock and the face hadn’t swelled or turned that ugly yet (just nose bleeding trickle) and said in a cold voice “I am going to lead with my right and *show* _you_ how to *smile* after that.” I do remember how big her eyes got as she got a cluebyfour and all the color drained to her toes…

I then proceeded to take a sock off, put it in my mouth and crunch my nose back into place (fourth time I’ve had nose broke, and the faster you get it back in place the less likely they have to rebreak it at the ER to set it!) and proceed around trying not to black out and wipe up the mess including the hand print I put on the wall while trying to hold myself up…

YEARS later that person told me at a reunion that she didn’t realize that it WAS that bad until I stuffed the sock in my mouth and did that sickening thing, she said it was the worst sound she could have imagined. She also snapped at her mom shortly after that, when her mom pulled that ‘smile’ bit on her (yeah that’s where she learned it) and her mom apparently stopped it as well. She’d never thought about it; it’d been absolutely the wrong thing to do… and thanked me for NOT following through with my right (I was fully capable of it and she’d never seen anyone more serious about something in her life at that time…)

Some people just don’t think, and fall back on what may seem the stupidist thing at the time. My only smile about the incident is after, that at least she got the cluebyfour and changed her ways.
[true story and I still have the scar on my nose from that one]


Kat June 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm

So sorry for your loss.

But honestly, people (men!) need to stop expecting all women to be smiling all the time. I hear this “Why aren’t you smiling? A pretty girl like you should be wearing a smile…” type statement all the time. Just because I am a female does not mean I have to be happy all the time. How weird/inappropriate would it be for an older gentleman to tell a 21-year-old male to smile, while passing him on the sidewalk? It’s not a huge deal (in normal circumstances, unlike this one), and I usually just give a half-hearted smile and go on with my business, but it is very annoying.


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