To the Women I Saw Yesterday

Dear Women on the Street,

I walked past you this morning, sun shining and snow glittering. I was wearing my long down-filled coat, with the hood up, practically wrapped up in a blanket. I want to ask you why you scowled at me, raking me over with your eyes–eyes filled with what seemed to be contempt and disdain and disapproval.

I don’t get it.

Was it the tall hood that looks sort of like an astronaut? But lots of other ladies use their hoods too.

No, mine isn’t fur or even fur-lined. Was it the unfashionable tan color you disapproved of?

And I don’t wear mascara or lip-stick, but surely I wasn’t so haggard-looking that my un-painted face shocked you into scowling.

I was smiling. Was that it? The sun was shining, and I was happy thinking about the day and what I had to do before hosting my sister’s baby shower. Was it the smile that shocked you?

Would it be too much to ask for you to smile back? Yeah, I thought so.

You know, some days it gets to be Too Much. Some days I think I’ve had it with women who obsess about their hair and skin and nails and figure and I want to say CAN WE PLEASE JUST BE? Can we just relax and say I’m ok–you’re ok. You’re ok, just the way God made you, and I don’t have to prove anything, and you don’t either.

This class-consciousness, this taboo list of what you can wear or not wear because of what year it was fashionable, this caste system that has untouchables and upper-caste, I’m sick of it. Sick of the favoritism and elitism and snobbery. Sick of the capriciousness and pressure to perform. Is that why you can’t smile–you’re worn out from it?

So I opt out of it, and I’m happy to be out of the race. I probably don’t care enough about clothes and how I look, but I aim to be clean, smell nice, and dress modestly. Which is a whole other subject, and we won’t get into that here.

But please, please, please, if the sun shines and the snow is like glitter, please smile. Just try to eek out a little pleasure from the spires stretching into the sky and children on sleds.

I know it’s a sad world, and we cry when we see the news about children being shot, and our friends are ill, and our hearts are smashed into bits for reasons that no one knows. I know, I know, and it’s ok to cry.

And I know it’s different in this country, when you used to be able to curry favor from the police if you told them about an insurrectionist like me who didn’t do everything that everyone else did.

But today is today! The sun is shining! I’m walking past you and I’m not SO ugly!

I beg you, ladies, please smile back at me! It would make me so happy.

6 thoughts on “To the Women I Saw Yesterday

  1. Oh, I would smile at you! It’s almost a game for me sometimes, smiling at people on the street, and seeing who will smile back. I think sometimes the not-smiling is cultural…or just the result of people-weariness while living in a city. But what a gift it is to have a spontaneous smile back! Like “Hello, I see you. You are a person too.”

    I get what you are saying about fashion too.

    • I see the people-weariness in my city, too. But I think here it’s mostly a way of giving each other space and privacy when you are constantly rubbing elbows. What you describe, Anita, reminds me of Ukraine. When Gabriel’s mom visited here from Ukraine and walked the streets, she said, “People are so happy here!” (in comparison to Ukraine)

      And I would have smiled back at you, too. 🙂

  2. I totally agree! I too love smiling at the many people I meet and am delighted when they smile back! One thing that bothers me is so many Mennonites that go out in public without a smile. Come one people! You’ve got something to smile about!

  3. this was good for me to read! I live in the quintessential southern town…. chatty, smiley, gossipy, it’s here. I will remember this the next time somebody holds me up in town, spilling all the latest gossip 🙂
    And a big cheery smile to you!

  4. my face, my heart, it all smiles for you! Cheers to you Anita for your blog…for your courage to not only be who are, because that can be as carnal as mammon, but for being who God wants you to be!

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