It is ironic that men tell women,

Strange women,

Women they do not know,

To smile.

Because it was men

That taught me not to smile.

When I was younger I wanted to walk through the world sharing joy

I smiled,

Frequently,

At strangers.

I was happy.

And wanted to share that with my fellow humans.

But I learned.

I learned that my smile was not what I thought it was.

It was not one person sharing joy with another person.

Because I was not a person so

My smile could not be a person sharing joy.

My smile was the equivalent of a “tester” sticker on perfume,

It was an invitation for people to try me on.

A simple smile was turned into many things:

A conversation I didn’t want to have,

Or a come on to a place I didn’t want to go.

I learned not to smile.

And then I was told to smile

Told to put that “tester” sticker back on,

Because men wanted to try me.

But they didn’t want to feel like they had to ask first.

So they told me to smile,

To give an invitation,

To a party I didn’t want to throw.

Because men are people and I am an ambulatory perfume bottle

An invitation on two legs.

And this does not change whether or not I smile.

Because when I do they feel entitled to it

And when I don’t,

They still feel entitled to it.

Because of all this, I have learned to keep my joy a little more private.

I have learned to keep my anger a little more present.

I haver learned how to move through the world.

Even though I was warned.

Even though I was given an explanation.

Nevertheless, I persist.

 

 

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