Where’s Your Smile?

imageAll right, ladies, shall we heave the sigh on three? One…two…

Why do those words irk us so? We’re walking down the street or sitting at our desk when someone sweetly demands that we smile. There are lots of articles on the subject, with people settling into two camps: pro-smile and anti-smile.

But are women really anti-smile? I’ve been told on several occasions to smile more, that I look ‘too serious’. But if no one is with me, should I just smile into the air? Doesn’t that make me look unbalanced? Since women are often judged on their rationale AND their emotional state, the order to put on a happy face can create a dilemma. The Mood Police is out on patrol, employing stop-and-frisk when we least expect it. Given their reputation for hostile engagement, I have little choice when they demand I cheer up. Smile or be called a string of curse words tailored to women! Smile or be judged unlovable and infertile! With such weapons pointed at my vital organs, I give in and smile.

When men see this, they often say ‘That’s better’ as if the Medusa of my unsmiling face had to be neutralized. But to demand a change in my mood implies mistrust of my judgment. It insinuates that whatever I’m thinking about is unworthy of consideration.

Believe it or not, all of this runs through a woman’s mind when you demand she smile. My particular beef is with men, because they claim to want to be my hero. But do they really? Let’s say my arm is broken. The heroic thing would be to make me as comfortable as possible while driving me to the hospital. Instead, I’m told to put on a jacket because the sight of my mangled arm makes THEM uncomfortable. There’s no desire to help me—only to put the unpleasantness out of sight. I would love for a man to be my hero, but why do they demand results when they’ve put in no effort? Who walks up to an apple tree and demands a pie?

On the other hand, I admit to a degree of success by smiling. More people do approach me. They tell me what a great smile I have, and I thank them for the compliment. But encounters that lead to friendships or good conversation rarely come from me pasting on a smile. No man who demanded I smile has ever gotten my phone number, let alone my respect. Thankfully I know people with enough self-confidence to not project animosity onto the corners of my mouth. In turn, I’ve learned to do the same when approaching others. I am not so thin-skinned that a person not smiling is somehow a diss to me. Nor does it mean they are in a bad mood. And even if they are, they have every right to be. When you respect a person’s right to be in whatever mood they’re in, they will appreciate it. And when someone appreciates you, they can’t help but smile.

Is this better?

Here… is this better?

My Silent Sentinel

When I was in ninth grade, we played baseball for P.E. They put the boys and girls together, flabby-armed beginners with junior varsity. I wasn’t especially good, but I could hit a double.

On my team was a boy named John. He also played on the school team. When he threw the ball, you heard it go by. He was tall and lean, with the most incredible dark brown hair thanks to at least one Latino parent. No question he was a cool kid. I was thirteen, skinny and awkward long before they were virtues. John and I didn’t breathe the same air. It was nothing hostile—just two people on separate planes of reality. John shaved, while I could pass for eleven. He had 20/20 vision, while my glasses were so thick I could have killed insects with them. Continue reading

An open letter to married couples – Part 1

Dear Wives,

Let’s just get to it.

I don’t want your husband. I’ve met a number of wives, and we get along great until I meet your husband. Maybe he shook my hand too long, paid me too many compliments, or declared he would’ve have gone for me if he met me first. Let me assure you he wouldn’t, because he DID meet me first.

Okay, it wasn’t me Joye. But he knew a focused, independent-minded woman who didn’t flirt but still had something about her. He liked her looks and her humor. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, said he should go for it. Continue reading

Why Don’t You Pick a Man Your Own Age?

Up until 2 years ago, I was repulsed by the idea of dating a younger man. The one-two punch of social convention and emotional need ruled out anyone more than a year or two below me. My dream guy was older, smarter, and wealthier than me. I was not picky about looks or height (despite being 5’9″). I am the proud owner of a celebrity crush on Paul Giamatti. Give me brains over brawn any day. I certainly had nothing to prove, no biological clock demanding I reproduce. Continue reading

On Damsels and Distress

A little challenge to what you thought you knew 😃

Joye Johnson

Way back in our collective consciousness is the damsel in distress. The girl in peril at the hands of a villain. She is tied to the railroad tracks. As the piano thunders, a train barrels down on the helpless girl. But in the nick of time comes our hero! He pulls her to safety, they ride off into the sunset, and Bob’s your uncle.

So imagine how hard I belly-laughed when I discovered the play Under the Gaslight. Written in 1873, it featured the first known rescue of someone tied to railroad tracks. The play is

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Slain Phantoms: A Forthcoming Collection

Although I write books, a poem or two has been known to leak from my pen. So have a couple of short stories. I’m in the process of cobbling them into a book, Slain Phantoms. They showcase some of my issues and fears, and how their exit from my brain to the page set me free. I’ve even made room for a true story, something I experienced that was just too crazy to make up.

Here are some lines of verse to give you a general idea:

Sunny Blonde was the girl I’d be
Yellow towel tight to my head
I don’t want that black doll
I said to my black mother
Laughable uproar at Barbie’s ‘assets’
When commercials were golden long
pretty blond hair
Oh well if your head hurts

Recently a friend raved to me about how threapeutic it was for him to write down his thoughts. When he found out that I have three books published and outlines for 20 more, he said “You must be a well-balanced and rational person.” Uhh, sure. But I got his point. The phantoms are hard to kill, and always manage to procreate before dying. But at least I know how to take them out.



Chapter One of Cress on the Bay

I’ve been workin’ on the sequel…all the live-long day…

A few posts ago, I put up the opening pages of Cress on the Bay, my sequel to Cress in Waterbee. While I plug away on the rest of the book, please enjoy the rest of Chapter 1, ‘Lily Jansen’:

Beneath the smoke of steam and burning coal, the Calistoga Chief headed north. Mothers and grandmothers cooked on small stoves, knowing the ‘pledged to comfort’ rail company would provide no such thing in the emigrant car. It was a place for everyone the rail company considered un-American—Indians, Mexicans, Chinese and colored. This, among other subjects, livened conversations while the scent of roast chicken filled the air. Continue reading