Woman plans to hold smile indefinitely until construction worker tells her it's okay to stop

If he was that forceful when he told her to start smiling, he must have an equally passionate opinion on when she should stop.

KELOWNA, B.C.—If he was that forceful when he told her to start smiling, he must have an equally passionate opinion on when she should stop.

Penelope Whitman has been actively holding a full and enthusiastic grin since 8:38 am on Monday morning, when, on her way into work and fully immersed in a murder podcast, she hurriedly passed the foreman of a condo construction site who shouted at her that she'd be a lot prettier if she smiled.

"I mean, I was engrossed in the details of a shocking homicide. Also, I was preparing to lay off two people as soon as I got into the office, but clearly this random man I've never met is better acquainted with the current needs of my face than I am. I'm not sure how, but who I am to question it? Anyway, since my one and only goal in life is to look as visually pleasing as possible to everyone at all times, I gave into his demands and instantly broke into a huge, dreamy smile."

But that's when the interaction hit an unexpected snag.

After yelling his comment, J.J. Johnstone abruptly disappeared into a small white portable trailer and didn't re-emerge, leaving Whitman no choice but to simply continue down the street to work with her lips stretched across her face to an absurd degree.

"Until he tells me it's okay to stop – until he says something like 'Okay! At ease!' or 'That'll do it, thanks!' – I just want society to know that I am committed to this smile, every minute of every day, until I hear otherwise," Whitman explains while maintaining the unsettlingly aggressive smile.

Unfortunately, after maintaining the terrifyingly intense smile all day at work – and yes, even through the firings of two very emotional colleagues – Whitman failed to run into Johnstone on her walk back home.

"I passed the same construction site so I assumed I'd find him there and he'd let me know my smiling had been sufficient," she shares. "But when I got there at 6 pm, it was a different foreman on duty. God damn it."

Whitman says she had no choice but to continue grinning all night as she watched Sophie's Choice and later read a chapter from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Later she argued briefly with her husband about property taxes and wrote an obituary for her recently deceased great-aunt Carol.

Now days deep into her ordeal, Whitman says her facial muscles have grown unbearably tired and sore, and that she was forcibly removed from her great-aunt's funeral last night after family members agreed she looked "inappropriate", "disrespectful", and "also super-creepy".

"Please," Whitman whispers tearfully as she pops four extra-strength Advil and massages her jaw. "If you're out there, construction man. If you're reading this. Find me on Facebook. Anything. Please."

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About the Author

Sophie Kohn


Sophie Kohn is writer and producer with CBC Comedy, a stand-up comedian in Toronto, and a graduate of Second City's Conservatory program.