09 November 2012


There’s a duo of elderly homeless men (formerly a trio, which has me wondering the whereabouts of the third member) that parades through subway cars singing old-timey songs. They've been doing this for years, marching between passengers, stomping their feet, jingling their change cups, and waving their canes (if this sounds depressing, imagine watching it in person). They always end with the phrase, “Smile, it won’t hurt your face!”

I’ve had this sentiment pointed at me several times in my life, usually by complete strangers. I’ve always wondered the psychology behind people who momentarily invade the lives of others to tell them to “smile.”  Why? What does it matter to them how my face looks? Have I somehow affected their day if I crack a (disingenuous) smile at their request?

Who are these “Smile Nazis” demanding others unfamiliar to them to show their teeth? I imagine them to be sunny, glass-half-full-types. (Maybe not the subway singers. Obviously their glasses are half-empty or else they wouldn’t be performing for spare change).

So maybe they’re lonely souls reaching out for any form of human interaction. If this is true, I strongly advise them to alter their approach. Brooding, stone-faced strangers are not the people to start a conversation with. Especially not me. 


Well, smiling may not actually hurt my face...it just might cause me to hurt yours. 


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