real life

A woman was given a “kind” note by a stranger. What was inside will infuriate all women.

Jane was sitting on a train, minding her own business on her way to work, when she noticed a stranger looking at her.

The man eventually got off the train, but not before dropping a folded note on the table in front of her which read: “Count to 10, then open”.

Inside, the UK woman found something so infuriating, she decided to share it in a Facebook video for BBC’s The Social

Jane explained that the note read: “You should smile, even if the world’s getting you down, a face as pretty as yours wasn’t made to frown.”

Unsurprisingly to any woman who’s similarly been told to “smile” by a complete stranger, Jane was unappreciative of the advice, saying it made her feel “uneasy”.

don't tell me to smile
The note Jane received. Image: Facebook/BBC The Social

"There are so many ways he could've expressed concern for me, rather than handing me a note telling me what I should do with my face and then running off the train before I could even respond," she said.

Instead, thanks to the man's instructions to wait before opening, he made sure he wasn't around to see her reaction.

Anticipating the negative comments she expected to receive from people who considered his actions as that of someone "just trying to be nice", Jane explained why they weren't helpful.

"When you look at this incident in isolation, you might think I'm overreacting a little bit, you might even think that I should've taken this as a compliment.

"But actually that's missing the cumulative effect that incidents like this have on women every day.

"Many women do feel vulnerable when people comment on their appearance, especially in public."

Her advice to men (or women) thinking of leaving similar notes?

"If you're not sure how an action that you're about to take is going to be perceived by someone else then just cautious. Just don't do it."


Jane's perception of the note received mixed reactions from the more than 4000 people who commented.

Some thought that Jane was being too "sensitive".

"He left a little note to brighten your day and your [sic] moaning? I don't get it.. men can't do any right," one woman wrote.

Others, meanwhile, identified with the vulnerable feeling that comes with being reminded that strangers are watching and judging your appearance.

"I wonder if this guy would ever say something similar to a man? This feels sexist unless he would normally say this to guys as well," one woman wrote.

"Just because she’s beautiful, she should smile all the time? I sometimes get this comment (to my face) too from men. This is unsolicited advice. Mind your own business. She has the right to have any facial expression she wants without strangers commenting on it."

Others agreed that the man easily could have made the interaction less uncomfortable for Jane: such as asking if she was okay or leaving a note that simply said "I hope you have a lovely day" without demanding she change her facial expression because she's "pretty".

Have you ever been told to "cheer up" or "smile" by a stranger? How did it make you feel?