Friday, April 4, 2008

smile tightly

When people say "white smile," the people listening usually think of teeth. But there's another kind of white smile:

Like many other people, when white people see or walk past someone they know, they smile. But the white smile is often a tight smile. Why is that?


  1. Not sure if I should smile or not. . . . don't want you to think I'm being too friendly. . .

    How about the stern smile that mostly uptight self righteous white men use where they are supposed to be smiling and every feature of their face says they're smiling, but their mouth is downturned into a frown position. WTF? I never trusted people who did that becausee they always turned out to be pricks.
    Charleton Heston was the king of the frown-smile.
    It says "I'm too tough ass to smile warmly, so I'm gonna give you this piece of shit smile of mixed signals.. . .be glad and worship me that you got this much out of my royal face."

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean, SH. You describe those smiles well! :-)

  3. y'know, that may be gendered as well, there. I mean the photo of that woman--she's raising her shoulders, has the weakish hand up, looks like "please don't attack me, I'm small," a bit.

    whereas men often don't smile because it's a sign of subservience.

    which is a good chunk of why you get a lot of men (of various colors, although I've probably been addressed by white men more than anyone, for whatever number of reasons) going "Smile!" to a woman.

    and why you'll hear them snarling about it afterward.

    but at the time, it might end up looking something like that.

    It's also a cultural and location thing. I live in New York: you just don't fucking smile at strangers. You don't LOOK at strangers.

    In Southern California, where I grew up, you will see a lot of toothy white blinding Baywatch smiles. but, the rest of the body language matters too.

    f'r instance: watch how people physically greet each other. If they hug, and if they do, -how- they hug. What parts touch and what parts don't. Again, that's a lot about gender and orientation as well, but yeah, the "white" thing probably does enter into it.

  4. Thanks bd222, there certainly are other factors at work here, as well as regional differences in how they all play out. You complicate the picture, as it were, well here. I do think, though, that as you say, whiteness is its own influence here, lending another meaning to the phrase "white smile."

  5. I really get this. I'm an African woman, but have a 'white smile'. I use it with the white people at work!


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