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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Is Fired Up After Son Is Stood Up by His Date

DEAR ABBY: I am a 29-year-old female who would like to know why people feel compelled to tell random strangers to "smile."

I was in the market the other night and a man came walking by me saying, "You dropped something," and was pointing to the floor. I looked down and said, "I don't see anything." He then told me, "You dropped your smile."

Abby, I was SO not amused. I turned around going back to my business saying, "Oh, OK." The man proceeded to walk away mumbling, "Don't look so serious. It's only the grocery store."

I hate when people do this. It happens to me a lot and has most of my life. People -- especially seniors -- say, "Don't you dare smile for me, don't you dare!" Or, "Smile! You're too cute not to smile." An old gentleman said, "Oh, she's like ice -- so cold, never smiles."

What can I do if this happens again? I don't see the need to walk around the store or sit at my desk at work with a Cheshire cat grin on my face all day. Any suggestions? -- OFFENDED IN GILROY, CALIF.

DEAR OFFENDED: The man who asked if you had "lost" something may have been making a clumsy attempt to pick you up. That sometimes happens in markets. As to the "older people" who comment on your expression -- or lack thereof -- they may consider themselves so "senior" that they can "coax" you into doing as they would like -- like "coochy-kooing" a baby to make it laugh on cue.

Making personal remarks to strangers is, of course, rude. My advice to you is to distance yourself from those individuals as quickly as possible. Speaking personally, if I was approached the way you have been, the last thing I'd be inclined to do is smile or engage them at all. I'd be offended, too.