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If You Must Know, a Pole Rammed Up Your Ass Would Make Me Happy

Nothing terribly interesting occured during my trip.  It was the usual cornucopia of long flights, strange hotel rooms, exorbitant quantities of time with my coworkers, and excruciatingly long work days.

I did, however, get a chance to fulfill a particularly long-held fantasy of mine.  To the disappointment of my readers, this one doesn't entail any tawdry or lustful behavior (insert collective sigh here), but much to my delight it does involve a soul-enriching act of feminist misanthropy.  Now I know, I know -- unless you are a first year Women's Studies student, "soul enriching" and "feminist misanthropy" aren't words generally juxtaposed in the same sentence.  But bear with me.

You see, during my trip I ran into one of those annoying men who, by the mere act of passing a woman on the street and casually glancing in her direction, can miraculously come to a groundless yet definitive conclusion about the state of her emotional health.  I'm sure you're all familiar with them -- those ambling, dumb weirdos who walk by and, without prompting, exclaim something to the tune of, "Awwww, don't look so sad!" or, "Come now, why aren't you smiling?" regardless of whether or not there actually exists a look of malcontent on your face.  I've been dogged by men like this my entire adult life, and I know I'm not alone.  And while some may find harmless their "innocent" or "good-natured" comments, I find them problematic, not to mention annoying.

I call these men Mood Oglers because the directives they launch at random female strangers accomplish the exact same thing that the actions of their gruffer yet more honest brethren, the Whistlers and Honkers, do: namely, to objectify women.  But while the obvious nature of the Whistlers' and Honkers' motivations renders them laughable, the Mood Oglers' more clandestine tactics are maddening.  Their behavior implies that women owe all strangers of the opposite sex a wink and a smile because by virtue of their gender they are mere anesthetized decorative objects whose dispositions and facial expressions should be rightfully dictated by the men who just happen to be looking their way.  Indeed, when a random male passerby tells a woman that the circumstances of her life can't possibly inspire anything other than the appearance of obliging congeniality, he ignores that woman's humanity -- a humanity that is both capable of experiencing the full spectrum of mortal emotion and that doesn't owe any stranger explanation, concession, or modification.  In doing so, he casts her as nothing more than a pretty, cheerful, vapid doll.  Never mind that just because she's not smiling doesn't mean she's unhappy.  Never mind that the sad or angry expression on her face might be merited by an experience of pain or grief that isn't anyone else's business.  Never mind that the Mood Ogler's ugly mug might, in fact, be responsible for her frown.

For years, I've put up with these creeps, and I've been polite.  Of course, I've fantasized about putting them in their place by saying something like, "If you really must know, my dad just died," or "Well, I was in a good mood, but the last dumbass stranger who told me to smile got offended when I said 'fuck off,' and that made me angry."  But instead, I've shrugged them away quietly, raising my eyebrows and twittering incoherently but compliantly or, on my less churlish days, offering feeble but deferential giggles or smiles.

However, as you might imagine, since my cancer has recurred my days of Mood Ogler charity are officially over.  So when I was accosted during my trip by a strange man's grating plea to "Cheer up -- things can't possibly be that bad!" I had to impugn, "Actually, I'm dying of cancer, and your shiny, balding head and appalling halitosis aren't making the journey any easier, dickwad."

I think that if I pass away from this disease I will now be able to do so feeling content and fulfilled.  Peaceful, even.  Because I've finally achieved something remarkable -- something that will have a lasting effect on the world.  That's one less Mood Ogler the sisterhood will have to abide.  And in the absence of family legacy or profound artistic achievement, picking off these sniveling assholes is pretty darn satisfying.  In fact, although my time on this earth may be abbreviated, I am locked and loaded like Rambo over here.

So attention all Mood Oglers: Just try me, dipshits, and you'll see that my trigger finger -- unlike the expression on my face -- is insanely, dare I say scarily, happy.  Now YOU cheer the fuck up, okay?

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Comments

Ahhh.

It's nice to have you back.

Whoa. Did you really say that? I am in utter awe of you...and I thought I was the master of the curt reply! Quite hilarious, quite justifiable, and--I'm sure--quite effective.

What I want to know now is: How did the M.O. respond?

Thank you, sister.

Thanks for articulating exactly why it is so irritating to be told to smile. I just wish you didn't have such a good comeback.

I am in awe of your superior talent and ability. I've been a victim of M.O's my entire adult life, leaving me wondering why so many people think I'm angry. Godspeed.

That is so awesome. It does suck that it's true, though (here's hoping the "dying of" bit turns out to be an exaggeration, for a long long time).

I've never noticed it before as such, but mood oggling's happened to me and, strangely enough, never manages to improve whatever mood I'm in. I love your rejoinder!

You go girl. But thanks for making me spray my coffee all over my new LCD screen! You cracked me up.

Nice to have you back.

You ROCK!! I love your respose to that jerk.

Welcome back, and thank you on behalf of this woman for sticking it the mood oglers. Your description of them and their effect is so accurate.

Your response? Priceless.

You kick so much ass...

xxoo

The world gets a little brighter every time an unfathomably rude person gets a little comeuppance to the nuts (or gender-neutral shins). A few months back, I read over at another blog about this one woman who had been burned terribly as a girl, and when she had a baby and was bottle-feeding it with formula, a complete stranger bitched her out because "breast is best." So she flashed her horribly scarred breasts at this busybody to explain her choice of feeding method and (hopefully) permanently cured her of making judgmental comments to strangers.

Let us all vow to provide a shattering rebuttal the next time we meet a Mood Ogler or Drive-By Judger. The looks on their faces after we destroy them? Priceless.

If you could simply email me with a list of times and days you could be available for coaching? Thanks doll!

Perfectly and deliciously stated lady. Girl, you straight up rock!

You. Fucking. RULE. Maddest of mad props to you.

Superb!

The day my grandfather died we got a particularly eager phone solicitor, he wouldn't take that Mr.Fleming was unavailable. I was so delighted to say "he died this morning" and listen to the silence on the other end.

You are my HERO! Now I'm just hoping to get an M.O. drive-by so I can gleefully exclaim, "Fuck You!" with a wide, wide smile.

You just gave me a well needed snort!

Many thanks.

Oh, I hate M.O.s and I love you wonderfully bitchy retort to that last one. And your internal retort, "Well, I was in a good mood, but the last dumbass stranger who told me to smile got offended when I said 'fuck off,' and that made me angry." reminded me of something that happened 3 years ago when I was walking home alone from a show.

. . .

I was going to share the story but realized it was way to long to do here in the comments. So it is posted on my blog if anyone wants to read it.

we've all been there, like we're decoration for their pathetic lives or something. well done: I'm just sorry you had the opportunity to put him in his place with that particular line.

You don't know me, cause I've been lurking for ages...

Time to de-lurk to say: Oh my god - I idolize you! You are my hero!

I gotta know too...what did he say? What did he look like???

Amen....allow me to feel what I am feeling. Very good points.

I too have been plagued by these people my whole life. I can't even begin to estimate the number of times that some guy has said, "let me see a smile" or "cheer up, it’s a beautiful day" I FUCKING HATE IT!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have had such a hard time describing to people why I hated this particular behavior so much but you did it perfectly. I'm going to go back and read this one again so I can internalize it.

The worst one for me was on a beautiful summer day when I was walking back to work after attending the funeral of a 4 year old boy I had been know for two years through the volunteer work I did. He died of AIDS. It was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life as I had been thinking about applying to adopt him if he survived that particular health crisis. So my eyes were puffy and I was pissed that my work hadn't even given me the whole day off and I had to go back there. I'm waiting at a light and this guy leans into me and says, "Cheer up sweetheart. You're dressed too pretty to have that sourpuss look on your face." Well, I just wasn't having it. I ripped into him and it felt soooo good. "Actually, I'm coming from the funeral of a 4 year old boy who I loved. I am not your sweetheart and I am not a sourpuss. I am a grieving woman and I don't know what makes you think that that kid of comment is appropriate to make to a stranger but let me just tell you right now that it isn't appropriate." He just mumbled an apology and moved on. When I told the story to my husband later he thought I had been way to mean. It's nice to know someone gets it.

Thank you! You are my hero.

I think I love you. So glad you're back.

I figured out a while ago that being brutally honest is satisfying in just so many ways.

I was relatively gentle with a cold-calling real estate drone ("We're not going to re-list because I have cancer"), but that doesn't mean I don't have huge admiration for your take-down of the MO (love that title, too.) Like many people, I never think of the perfect comeback until much later, when of course it's useless. I am in awe of people like you who are quick enough to think one up and gutsy enough to actually say it.

N-ii-cc-e!

Glad you're back.

You rock.

What is it with these guys?? I thought I was the only one accosted by these idiots. I wish I had been there to see the look on his face! Way to go!!

Amy E., you were not too mean. My goodness. I'm so sorry about that.

You are fabulous, and/but I'm w Galoping Cat. More power to you at all times!

BWAAHAHAHAH! I literally just spit my coffee out all over my monitor...that was excellent. And welcome back!

"Actually, I'm dying of cancer, and your shiny, balding head and appalling halitosis isn't making the journey any easier, dickwad."

I have fallen in love with you and I would like to have your children.

I'm standing up and cheering. I just may be a little bit in love with you - hope that's okay.

Glad to see you back, thank you for the laugh, MO's everywhere better watch out, you might just have started a revolution!

That was such a beautiful description of MOs and of men in general who feel compelled to tell a women they have no relationship with she is pretty or she turns him on. The only thing more baffling than that is the notion that we should be polite to these drive by mini-stalkers - ick. Good job taking that guy down - you are a role model to us all.

Way to go, Cancerbaby!

Man, why is it so many people feel entitled to interfer with the details of other people's lives?

If I become rich and famous, I will want to hire you to be my bodyguard.
And possibly also my publicist.

As my adolescent band of friends say, you rule the pool.

Glad to have you back at the keyboard.


Spike "Don't tell me what kind of day to have" Harris

Awesome post. You inspired me to put a M.O. in his place today. When he told me, "Smile, nothing can be that bad" instead of giving the requiste fake smile or averting my eyes and walking faster, I stopped, looked him dead in the eye and replied, "Gee, you're right. So sorry the giant tumour in my infant's belly is putting a damper on your day." And it felt *good*

***swoon***. I heart you! In a totally non objectifying way, of course.

What a brilliant reply to that jack-ass, just brilliant!

B - R - I - L - L - I - A - N - T !

I can't remember how many times I've been accosted by a Mood Ogler. "Hey, what's wrong, why aren't you smiling?" Uh, nothing is wrong, now just fuck off!

I've often wondered if the Mood Oglers are trying to pick us up with a line like that? I love love love your writing (and your humour). Thank you for shutting him down so there's one less Mood Ogler.

Mad, mad mad props to both you and Amy E
Fabulous. Thank you on behalf of all women.

I'm in awe of you both.

Excellent. It took me years to get that monkey off my back and tell someone that my face wasn't there to brighten his day.

I'm a guy, and I've been accosted by mood oglers too. It's rude and condescending no matter what your gender.

Thanks for putting that guy in his place. Great story.

Bless you. I can't count the number of times some idiot has made the assumption that he gets to dictate the look on my face because, after all, he's looking in my direction, and my womanly function is to provide the most attractive possible wallpaper for his subjectivity!

I love this post. LOVE IT. I can't even explain how many times I have been Mood Ogled. I much prefer the twits who whistle or honk because at least they're not trying to hide their assholishness. I never know how to respond to the MOs and I always come away feeling vaguely uncomfortable and pissed off.

Good for you for telling that guy off!

Applause, applause!

Your analysis of mood oglers and why what they do is so obnoxious is right on.

I haven't been mood ogled in a long time, but I hope that the next time it happens I have the presence of mind to come up with a good comeback. Although I'm sure "fuck off!" will do in a pinch.

"Mood Oglers."

Perfect.

And your reaction was equally perfect. Over the years I've run into too damned many of these clowns, and have worked on replies like, "Guess it's the company I'm in" (when there's nobody else but me and the MO around of course) and a truly grotesque smile that makes them wish they's shut up. But what you told that guy was the perfect mix of slash and burn.

I'm sooooo old -- and that's probably why I don't get much of that crap anymore; they seem to confine it to the younger women -- that I remember "Smile, Baby!" as a '70s feminist gripe. Like a lot of other things, I can't believe we're still dealing with it.

*Thank you*

I'm weeping metaphysical tears of feminist cameraderie as I reflect on your brilliant post. It's high time we stopped excusing brutish offensiveness and enforcing norms of "feminine" behavior and appearance on women. We have the RIGHT to look however the hell we want to. On behalf of women everywhere, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happens the other way around: women tell men to smile. It's not a gender-specific issue. I consider women who tell men to smile jerks, too.

I don't doubt it does, Garuda, and at least one male commentor confirmed that he's been Mood Ogled himself. I'd still argue, though, that even with the existence of female Mood Oglers, there's still a gender component at play here. I'd also venture to guess that Mood Ogling happens much more frequently to women.

I just found you through The Hot Librarian's blog. What an eloquent and firey post. I often wonder about these MOs and strangers who ask you personal questions and think that they're entitled to an answer.

Please oh please will you come visit me and help me deal with some of the bozos I have to put up with?

God knows I need some of what you've got. My life is full of MO's, and worse...

Is it normal for a man to read this and, "Get It." I really get off on what you write ! Your anger is inspiring. Finally, to meet someone that uses "fuck" in their blog more often than I, well at least would if I had your balls.

Personally, I never commited this horrible offense.

I'm almost afraid to keep reading, I can't help commenting on your entries, I'm afraid I will get hate email !

Is it normal for a man to read this and, "Get It." I really get off on what you write ! Your anger is inspiring. Finally, to meet someone that uses "fuck" in their blog more often than I, well at least would if I had your balls.

Personally, I never commited this horrible offense.

I'm almost afraid to keep reading. I can't help commenting on your entries, I'm afraid I will get hate email !

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh-My-God...You made my week.......Thank You.

Women do the same thing.

Oh my god, those men should be shot. Its so damn intrusive. I haven't actually had someone say that to me in a long time, but they used to when I was younger. It was maddening. It's a power trip on their part, but it is subtle.

I think it is awesome that you said that!

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