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.”