What not to say: things better left unspoken

  • Telling total strangers to “Smile!” This drives me up a fucking wall. You know what? Maybe I have a naturally unhappy looking face that looks like I’m frowning when I’m really just neutral. Maybe my grandmother just died. Maybe I just slammed my finger in the car door. Whatever the reason, people are fully entitled to make whatever facial expressions they want without total goddamned strangers commanding them to smile. This is especially infuriating coming from a man directed at a woman, because the man will invariably think it’s a friendly conversation starter. It’s not. It’s rude, it’s invasive, and telling me to smile makes me want to do it even less.
  • “What are you/where are you from/what’s your background?” Nine times out of ten, this is a fishing expedition to find out someone’s race or ancestry. Before you ask this question, ask yourself a few things. Why is it necessary for me to know this information? Is it likely to offend the person I’m asking? Am I really so fascinated by people who look different from me that I need to essentially demand a family tree and DNA report?
  • When are you going to have kids?” I guarantee that every married woman, and probably 90% of all women of childbearing age, regardless of marital status, have been asked this question more than once. Frankly, it’s never appropriate. If the person being asked doesn’t ever plan on having children, the question puts her immediately on the defensive. Not to mention, even if kids are part of the plan, you don’t know if someone is struggling with infertility, or waiting until they’re more financially stable, or really what the situation is at all. Plus there’s the added bonus that, at its core, this is a question about one’s sex life. And it’s really none of your business. If you matter to the person at all, they’ll tell you if and when the kid is on its way.
  • “You’d be so pretty if you’d …” However you were planning to finish that sentence, just don’t. People generally feel two ways about how they look: they’re either unhappy with (or insecure about) their appearance, or they’re perfectly happy the way they are. Either way, telling them your brilliant idea about how they could be even more attractive (to you) is just insulting and unnecessary.
  • “Have I told you about [my religion]?” Look, you seem nice enough. We had a good conversation about that movie that just came out. So far, you seem like a perfectly normal person. And then you start in about your religious beliefs. Usually with no prompting, and always to tell me all the ways in which your beliefs are right, and everyone else’s are wrong. If I wanted to know about this stuff, I’d ask. And I never ask. So let me tell you about the Flying Spaghetti Monster…
  • “Do you know how many calories are in that?” Nope. And I don’t care. If I cared, I probably wouldn’t be eating it. The need some people have to act as the Food Police is obnoxious, presumptuous, and an inclination best kept to one’s self. It’s incredibly annoying, and just stinks of “I wish I were eating that, but I’m so obsessed with the nutritional value of every little thing that I have to make everyone around me as miserable about food as I am.”

5 responses to “What not to say: things better left unspoken

  1. HuckleberryFriend

    Love this post! People feel entitled to say the most ridiculous things to women.

  2. I want to smack everyone who has ever asked me when I was/am going to have kids and/or getting married again. Thank you-NO.

  3. Found your blog through Jezebel and I love it!

    The “You’d be so pretty if you’d …” and “Do you know how many calories are in that?” are ones I’ve heard from various people so often. I also hear people say, “I’d love to order that, but I’m trying to be good.” There’s no such thing as good or bad when it comes to food, goddammit! There’s a sliding scale of healthiness, but jesus, leave me and my food alone!

  4. Hearing “You’d be so pretty if you’d…” really gets my goat. I don’t care if I’m not PRETTY enough for “you,” and there’s nothing I need to change about that. Thanks for your awesomeness 🙂

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog today, and I love it. Just finished reading the one about you not wanting children, and I agree wholeheartedly. I would rather be selfish, know that I am selfish, and not have kids because I agree that’s the best thing, then have them just because I’m supposed to. And I actually LIKE kids, quite a bit. They’re just not for me.
    I had to comment too on people telling you to “Smile!” It makes me want to punch them in the face. Take a notice sometime though…you will never see a guy telling another guy to do that. It is ALWAYS, in my experience, a guy saying that to a woman.

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