Claire Went There

And wound up here

Smell and the World Smells With You

Several years ago a friend mentioned her new habit of looking waiters and cashiers in the eye when she spoke to them. She said she realized that they were always looking at her, but that she was looking at her bag, or the table, or just somewhere off in space. She was happier now that she was acknowledging and actually engaging with those who were helping her. I, too, had recently become an aggressive smiler – grinning at everyone, all the time, and I was also much cheerier and more open to the people around me. It only took me 45 years or so to adopt this ridiculously obvious habit.

My grandmother on the crazy side had a full-blown facial tic that caused her to look like she was smiling maniacally all the freaking time. She would stretch the corners of her mouth back, show her parted teeth and squinch up her eyes – kind of like The Joker if that helps with the visual. This happened maybe 6-7 times a minute. A minute. And while I can assure you that this woman was most definitely not smiling that much, everywhere she went people smiled at her. I can remember being very little and hearing my Mother and Aunt chuckling because Grandma did not like or understand why the shopkeepers or gas station attendants or anyone really, was acting so damn familiar with her. But she was “smiling;” she looked like the kind of person she absolutely was not.


Grandma looks nice

I have one of those faces that looks bitchy in repose. When all of my features relax, or when I’m concentrating, or not actively engaging my facial muscles, I appear unapproachable or maybe downright mean. There was a time when I cultivated this look. I guess I thought it made me look tough yet sexy, or bad but intriguing like Pat Benatar or Madonna. I made 80s bitch-face for 20 years.


I would smile all the time if I had that “shirt.”

Then one night during my power suit decade, I stopped at a Quickie Mart after work to buy cigarettes (which added to the working-girl-gone-rogue vibe). The cashier rang up my purchase then looked at me with his head tilted and said, “You smell.”

You smell!
What? I don’t smell!
You smell! Smell!
No! Stop!

The cashier then turned to his co-worker and said something quickly in another language that uses lots of hand gestures. The co-worker stepped to the counter and said, “He wants you to SMILE. He says smile!” His friend nodded his head and said “Yes! You smell more and it makes you nice!”

Three things came from that night. First, I tell the story all the time because it’s awesome and sweet and funny. Second, I smile all the time, at everyone. 18 years ago some dude from a faraway land working at a Quickie Mart on a busy road off I-75 told me I smell and has since changed everything about how I greet life and people, and how other people perceive me.

And third, I stopped smoking, because it’s possible that I did smell.


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28 thoughts on “Smell and the World Smells With You

  1. ha ha. now i smell too.

  2. tara pohlkotte on said:

    ha. love that. i agree though that how we face the world affects how the world interacts with us.

  3. So funny, as I am always hearing people say “oh she just always looks angry” and my thoughti typically “well, she might not if she tried smiling” (or smelling)

  4. OK, this is awesome! I was smelling the whole time!

  5. Yes! It makes all the difference in how people perceive you. It took me up until the last few years to figure that out. I’ve realized working with the public all the time that if you smile and make eye contact with someone, they like you, think your friendly. On the other hand, I have met people that I think are bitchy or unfriendly, why? Because they didn’t smile…it’s really that simple..

  6. erinmthrelfall on said:

    🙂 Love it!

  7. ha this is awesome. I *owned* bitch face for like ever. 😉
    I smell so much more these days too.

  8. I love how you meandered through this from person to person, ending with your own funny story. Great post! Glad you linked up with yeah write.

  9. I may now start encouraging everyone to smell more and see where it gets me! And your grandmother sounds like a real hoot to be around ;).

    • Oh good heavens please let me put your idea of my grandmother to rest! She was terrifying in the Grand Dame of the Deep South kind of way. And crazy as all get out. Bless her heart. 😉

  10. Eye contact in general makes a big difference in how people respond. Smiling at people might be a bridge too far for me, but eye contact… I can usually handle that.

    • Really? I think deliberate eye contact is harder! But the smiling thing is easy — I live in the south so it’s a smile, eye contact, and then a comment about the weather – 24/7 (hot ain’t it?).

  11. Natalie DeYoung on said:

    I am the queen of the bitch face. I tell people, “it’s just the way my face is,” because I hate smiling when people tell me to smile. Hm. Maybe I’m just bitchy… 😉

  12. Ahaha! I think I’d have busted out laughing if someone told me I smelled. In this case, he’d have thought I was delivering on his request, and I’d have left thinking I did smell. That thought makes me laugh even more. Great story!

  13. I have a bitchy resting face as well. I loved this story so much. It made ME smell!

  14. I literally laughed out loud at that. I am also someone who smells a lot more than I used to (possibly in more ways than one since I gave up antiperspirant). 😉

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