Backstory #1: The Experiment


One afternoon in 2012, I did an experiment:

I sat just inside an East Austin bar and looked up at every woman who came through the door. I offered an open but neutral expression, just wanting to see how we’d share those first moments of eye contact.

I’d expected a lot of different reactions, from sneering to dismissing to smiling, but I got a surprise:

Every single woman who came through the door smiled at me when our eyes met.

Across a range of ages, ethnicities and stylistic identifiers, each woman smiled at the first female face they saw upon walking through the door. And mostly these were not polite, office-corridor half-smiles, but full-faced, unguarded smiles of regard for another human being.

Like everything else, smiles have become a topic of contention for the sociopolitical battleground: Don’t tell me I need to smile. I don’t owe  anyone  that. You don’t  know me. I’m not responsible for your comfort, your pleasure, your happiness. But the organic ease with which these woman-to-woman smiles were exchanged signaled something different.

It said a number of things in that moment: We’re confident. We feel secure in our surroundings. We see each other, and we ‘re cool with what we see. We’re not afraid of each other.

It said, we’re open to connecting with each other. And wherever women connect, there are possibilities waiting to be realized.

I raised a glass to those ladies and thought, “Someday I’m going to write about this.”

One thought on “Backstory #1: The Experiment

  • I was leaving HEB with my Honey on my arm and passed a young lady who looked familiar. She had a natural smile, that reminded me of someone I knew and I actually had that moment of familiarity where I was searching the data banks to remember her name… I knew her well, and her familiar smile invoked a smile in return from me. As my data banks searched for a name or who she reminded me of, I realized she was a friend from high school and would be now almost 50, she registered that I was smiling back at her and her expression turned to “stranger danger” disgust, and the next moments rolled slow motion, because even though I was hurt by the shock she displayed, the memory of my old friend filled my heart with joy, and I never lost my smile. She then went through a gambit of emotions as she looked back up at me and must have realized I was visiting an old friend, and her smile returned, as genuine as before. That old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression is more true than most want to admit. We have become such a guarded society that we lose so much on judgement of instant reactions, instead of realizing the power of a smile and enjoying the God given power of Loving and appreciating of the beauty of life.

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