Tales of an Uncontrollable Smiler


Smiling: A Blessing and a Curse

I have a problem. I smile too much. When left alone, I am not smiling, but once someone starts talking to me, I start smiling. I don't even realize that I'm doing it. Sometimes it's mistaken as flirting, sometimes it's genuine, and sometimes it's my way of dealing with an awkward situation. But this uncontrollable smile has gotten me into trouble. So what's best for me as a solo female traveler? Never smile and not meet anyone or get to know the culture better? Or smile a lot more than I should but deal with some of its unwanted consequences?

The Eiffel Tower

My smile usually gets me into trouble with people begging you for money or trying to sell you things. You know those men that try to get you to buy a scarf but run away the second they see the police? Yes I smile at them too. And they usually take my smiling head shake as a yes. In Paris I've taken to just saying no thank you and they leave me alone. Maybe it's because they know I'm French and won't get anywhere. Maybe it's because I'm being polite and telling them flat out no. Whatever it is, I can still smile but not have to be pestered because my smile is not an invitation. I guess I will have to test out that smile on the even more persistent Italians. 

Whenever someone makes eye contact with me on the street, I smile at them. What am I suppose to do? Frown? That seems rude. So I smile, which can be bad if you are in the wrong areas. Last year in Montmartre I smiled because of that dreaded eye contact and it turned into men whistling and catcalling at my mom and I. Sorry boys but my smile is not an invitation. I just don't know how to handle awkward situations. 

So is my smile dangerous for my travels, I would like to think it isn't. I am also very capable of a frown when I am not pleased with someone. But if it's just awkward or friendly, I'll have a smile. But the second it becomes too serious my teacher face comes out. I would like to think that I know how to get out of sticky situations. So what is the appropriate amount of smiling and to whom? Maybe I'll have this answer by the end of my journey. Maybe I'll never get the answer. Until then I'll continue to awkwardly smile at almost every situation and laugh about it later. 

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