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You Smile Too Much

There’s this interesting poem titled My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. The speaker in this poem is a man speaking to another man visiting his home. The speaker takes this man around his house and settles on a painting of his deceased wife. As they stand there looking at her image, the widower begins to describe her. That’s when things get weird.

“She had/ A heart– how shall I say?– too soon made glad,/ Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er/ She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.”

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According to my male friends and partners, men have weak constitutions that are– how shall I say?– too soon aroused. Anything from a touch on the arm while laughing to a simple smile, men will read into it, instant boners threaten, and they suddenly believe they have a shot in hell of getting into our pants. According to various partners and male friends, I am too friendly with the opposite sex. Too provocative. Now, ladies, I’m a lady who knows damn well when I’m flirting, and I can flirt with the best of them (unless it’s a strange gorgeous man looking at me from across some public place, or not looking at me, it really doesn’t matter, I seize up– something about the “don’t be a whore” message that was beaten over my head my entire life).

So when I am not flirting, like not even thinking about flirting, and a male friend or partner describes by behavior as “too nice,” I get frustrated. According to most of the men I’ve talked too, smiling too much is a definite sign of giving off signals. I get it, there’s such a thing as body language, and we are always giving off signals, and different behaviors carry different science-supported meanings. But ladies, I’m telling you, this happens constantly when I’m not actually flirting. Wtf?

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Acknowledging the fact that different cultures interpret nonverbal communication differently, I’m starting to wonder if men and women are actually different cultures.

For as often as I hear men refer to women as bitches, I’m dumbfounded. You mean one minute it’s too nice to smile, and the next minute, if a woman doesn’t smile enough, she’s a bitch? Seems to me that any woman who manages to perfectly walk that fine line should join Cirque du Soleil and start traveling the world. Am I the only one, ladies? What’s been your experience?

Listen, folks, I’m much like the woman in the painting:

“My favor at her breast,

The dropping of the daylight in the West,

The bough of cherries some officious fool

Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule

She rode with round the terrace– all and each

Would draw from her alike the approving speech.”

A lot of things make me happy. And when I’m happy, I like to show that I’m happy. In short, I’m not good at playing it rude. And although I was raised with strong cautions against looseness, I was also raised to be really nice. So much so that I think I’m actually really nice. And my nice usually looks a lot like Elaine Benes shoving some man halfway across the room.

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Your thesaurus may be a little different from mine, but I assure you that “really nice” is apparently also a synonym for “man magnet” “giving off signals” “telling him you want him” “telling him he has a chance” “being a boner master” and/or “being immature or naive.”

Well, gosh darn it. I’ve tried being “less nice”, which defined by my thesaurus and men, also means “cold” “a bitch” “stuck up” “being uncomfortable because I can’t be my genuine self because men have an inability to interpret social cues, like the difference between ‘we’re just having a good conversation’ versus ‘we’ll be having sex soon.’”

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Again, ladies, please chime in here. Do you find yourself having to go the extra mile to not give off the wrong signals to men? Have you found yourself becoming less friendly because men frequently misinterpret your kindness as a come on? This isn’t about male-bashing; I just want to share some experiences and maybe gain some perspective. That being said, I’d also love to hear from the guys. What’s your experience been like from the other side?

I’m going to be talking more about this subject on my Instagram Live on Thursday 8pm est. I like to call it Lit Talks. I’d love for you to follow me there. We’ll also be discussing this weird and interesting poem. Wait till you hear how his wife died, and what he’s up to now!


My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?

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30 thoughts on “You Smile Too Much

  1. Girl I feel this so much. I’ve been told by friends that I’m flirting with people when I myself have no knowledge of it whatsoever, but then when I don’t smile or don’t engage with someone, I’m told I’m being stuck-up or moody. It’s one of my huge frustrations, when someone, especially a guy, feels like they have a right to tell me how and how not to act. If I smile too much, then I’m flirting and being a ‘hoe’ but if I don’t smile at all I get told to ‘smile more’ or I’m called stuck-up. My lesson? Don’t feel like you have to go the extra-mile for anyone, definitely not to cater to someone else’s feelings. If you being your friendly self is their perception of flirting, then that’s their issue, you shouldn’t have to change the way to act to appease to them girl, keep killing it x

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Priya, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Yeah, it’s totally a damned if you do or don’t type of thing. It’s not even just the misconstruing my kindness but after I say I’m not interested, they persist in asking because I think “nice” means I can be worn down. Then it’s like nothing short of rudeness sends the message that I’m not interested! It’s crazy out here, lol. xo

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  3. It’s not up to me to tell any woman that she isn’t doing one thing or another in regards to her behavior. Maybe there is a reason for a lack of smiling so finding out those reasons is a good way to turn a frown upside down.

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  4. I feel this on every level. I had a male, as I was walking by, aggressively stare me up and and down. And then he said hi. Obviously feeling uncomfortable, I continued walking without a word and he proceeded to become angry at me because I did not say hi back. Men are just too easily influenced and tend to over react and over analyze a woman’s behavior. And are can be completely oblivious to their own actions and body language.

    I also tend to get the nervous giggles a lot. They are very hard to control. So even if I’m not interested in a guy, he automatically thinks I am because of this. Not noticing that obviously I’m feeling uncomfortable and am just trying to get out of the conversation lol.

    Anyways, shout out to those men who actually read social cues well and are not completely ignorant.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Niesh, I know exactly what you mean. When I ride my bike around my neighborhood in the mornings, I constantly encounter men who stand there and stare me down even after I smile or wave hello. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling like I’m not even human. And yeah, giggling is like blood in the water. If I turn a man down and he persists, I also tend to smile more because I think subconsciously it makes me feel better about rejecting him. But then he’ll totally ignore my words and try even harder. Here, here! Shout out to the guys who give a damn. Thanks for adding your comment, love. x

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    2. Niesh, as I’ve often explained to my diverse-gendered circle of friends, one HUGE anatomical flaw that we men have is that our blood-flow goes in only ONE DIRECTION at any given time. The blood is either in the cranial region or all down in the penile region. The latter obviously is a MENACE to society!!!! Ugh. 😔 Sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I struggle with this constantly. I want to be the type of person who smiles at everyone in the grocery store, but more often than not my face freezes in front of a guy because there is always the steadfast thought that they will misinterpret my smile. It’s infuriating. I smile, and their whole face lights up – and that would be nice – if I didn’t instantly feel like they were sizing me up as a potential bed mate. Should probably just wear a t-shirt that says I smile because I’m happy, not because I want you.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Cara, you’ve just given a perfect, perfect example. I remember you writing in the about making more of an effort to connect with strangers. I’m all for smiling at people in public spaces and have actually been making more effort to do so, but I’ll much more readily smile at an older man than one my age. I try and keep eye contact as brief and neutral as possible a lot of the times because seriously, a smile is often taken as an invitation. I just want to be a nice human!

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  6. HAH! I think a majority of this ambiguity lies firmly on the male ego (fragile or hyper-testosteroned and points in between – LOL).

    Depending on the boy’s or young man’s male environment growing up, many are (weirdly fallaciously) taught via peer-assimilation/pressure that MEN are to be a 007-meets-Charlie Sheen-meets-Big Sean. Lyz… we are fed loads and loads of flatulent nonsense much of our life that ironically and stupidly seems to never go over (or not near enough!) to the FEMALE camp and ask them/you! Hey, here’s a NOVEL IDEA guys! Why don’t we just hand the mic over to the Ladies and SHUT THA HELL UP for more than an hour — better yet, most of the day/night — and LISTEN and ponder, digest, understand exactly what the WOMEN have been trying to say and tell us for…

    …oh, I don’t know… CENTURIES!!!!??? 😖

    Eh, that’s just my personal opinion Lyz. It usually isn’t too popular among my dense-headed gender of any Alpha-males. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Professor, for a male voice and perspective! I can absolutely understand what you’re saying about men being taught that backing down or not “going for it” is a sign of weakness, which may cause many men to feel compelled to prove themselves lest they be found wanting. It’d be great if people could just be people connecting with other people without expectation of “romance.” A fool’s dream, perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that poem! It’s so menacing and multi layered.

    I’m the girl that gets accused of not smiling and am always being told to “cheer up, love, it might never happen!” in the street. And there I was thinking I could just walk around without rigidly controlling my facial expressions in case they antagonise men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How absolutely infuriating! And “it might never happen” to add insult. Seriously, sometimes I don’t know who’s raising people, lol. Anytime we have to walkaround concerned about the state of our natural faces, or pushing aside what feels comfortable is obnoxious and such an utterly dumb human thing to do. Was it Emerson who said that society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood (womanhood) of every one of its members. Good luck out there!

      I can’t wait to discuss this poem on Thursday. It’s a great one. My biggest challenge will be keeping my time reigned in.

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  8. I honestly hate the extreme ends of the scale, like you said- either you’re too nice or you’re a bitch for not smiling. I especially get annoyed by old men (customers) asking me to smile while I’m working- sometimes when I’m not even the one helping them. Like, I don’t need to paint a smile on my face 24/7 especially if I’ve been working all day and I’m genuinely exhausted. I can still be plenty “nice” to customers without fake laughing at everything they say…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, well said Kitty. I can’t even imagine the situation working with customers all day. I do get a sense that a lot of men of an older generation refuse to let the old ways go. It’s like that Mad Men mentality– no matter how old a woman is, she’s still a girl or a doll.

      I watched this Netflix documentary on Hedy Lamarr last night and it had me stunned. She was a brilliant inventor and society at every turn refused to see her as more than a beautiful actress, just there to look pretty and entertain.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am from Minnesota. There’s a saying “Minnesota Nice” because we’re friendly to everyone. But any outsider who has relocated here actually calls it “Minnesota Ice”, a complex social dance of interpretation since we don’t say things directly and it’s actually hard to break through the falsity.

    That said, I have a new way of thinking about how I strive to behave…not “nice” but kind to everyone. Sometimes kindness is just being direct. Buzz off dude. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, Kris, thanks for this insight! You know, I was just about to hop on Instagram Live and talk about how I was raised to be nice and how it can cause issues. What you’re saying here is a perfect example of nice doesn’t equal better. I wonder if anyone’s written a book about that dance of your region. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? I’m being forced to embrace the buzz off slowly but surely. I’m freezing over!

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  10. I feel you. How many times have I heard that one before? Confusing men is too darned easy it seems. I have travelled that extra mile, and boy, it can be a strain on the senses.

    On another note, I find Robert Browning strangely disturbing. Always that hint of violence and love gone south…the fate of the Duchess and poor Porphyria. Just with a hint, he ensnares you, that Browning. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could’ve sworn I’d responded to this comment. My apologies darling. Yes, so damn easy to get their brains in a knot. Or they are just great at selectively picking up on body language. A stress on the senses is an excellent description.

      The Victorians were a weird bunch, right? So much angst and repression are bound to add up to some violence mixed in with that love. Browning was definitely tapping into the darkness of his time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No apologies necessary ever, Lyz. The Victorians were a strange lot. On the surface all that prissiness, and underneath, the darkness bubbling away. The first time I ever read Browning, I was startled. xx

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  11. I could have written this about me. I am a happy person, a sensual person, quick to laughter, comfortable with eye contact, and outspoken. I don’t do or say anything to anyone that I wouldn’t do or so in front of my husband, who I am deeply in love with and committed to. Despite having only had the one sexual partner ( yes, its true) I have been accused of being a “man stealer”, “slut”, “flirt” and “shameless.” Mostly I refuse to let myself be censored. I am who I am, and I like myself, If it means I have to turn down a few date invites in a week, so be it.

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    1. Here, here! Omg, yes to everything. I love to laugh, crack jokes, I’m a sensual person. They’d like to lock us in a cage. I think you’d really like this poem called Victoria’s Secret by Charles Martin. I really feel like to a large degree our society still holds firm to this notion that sexy or sensual women must be slutty or easy. I love that you refuse to let yourself be censored. Also, I can see why you and your husband are so in love. It’s not always easy to find that type of support in the face of all the backlash.

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  12. I completely relate to this!! Apparently I’m a ‘naturally flirty’ person when I talk to guys but it’s just me being friendly. And then if i don’t smile or really engage, I’m being stuck up or moody. Aghhhh it’s so annoying!! Glad you highlighted it in this post xx

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    1. Well stated, girl, and yesss. Some men seem to think we’re on this planet as eye-candy and to laugh at their jokes. The speaker in this poem is straight looney tunes. Insecurity and ego can just reek havoc on relationships. The older I get, the better I’m becoming at sniffing it out early.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Sad I missed this Lit Talk —— wasn’t able to make it —- had another commitment same time.

    I think it’s better to be “too nice” —- even if it’s a threat for ‘instant arousal’ —- and politely turn men down.

    You can’t really re-do a “b***hy” first impression 🤷🏾‍♀️

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