Where’s Your Smile?

imageAll right, ladies, shall we heave the sigh on three? One…two…

Why do those words irk us so? We’re walking down the street or sitting at our desk when someone sweetly demands that we smile. There are lots of articles on the subject, with people settling into two camps: pro-smile and anti-smile.

But are women really anti-smile? I’ve been told on several occasions to smile more, that I look ‘too serious’. But if no one is with me, should I just smile into the air? Doesn’t that make me look unbalanced? Since women are often judged on their rationale AND their emotional state, the order to put on a happy face can create a dilemma. The Mood Police is out on patrol, employing stop-and-frisk when we least expect it. Given their reputation for hostile engagement, I have little choice when they demand I cheer up. Smile or be called a string of curse words tailored to women! Smile or be judged unlovable and infertile! With such weapons pointed at my vital organs, I give in and smile.

When men see this, they often say ‘That’s better’ as if the Medusa of my unsmiling face had to be neutralized. But to demand a change in my mood implies mistrust of my judgment. It insinuates that whatever I’m thinking about is unworthy of consideration.

Believe it or not, all of this runs through a woman’s mind when you demand she smile. My particular beef is with men, because they claim to want to be my hero. But do they really? Let’s say my arm is broken. The heroic thing would be to make me as comfortable as possible while driving me to the hospital. Instead, I’m told to put on a jacket because the sight of my mangled arm makes THEM uncomfortable. There’s no desire to help me—only to put the unpleasantness out of sight. I would love for a man to be my hero, but why do they demand results when they’ve put in no effort? Who walks up to an apple tree and demands a pie?

On the other hand, I admit to a degree of success by smiling. More people do approach me. They tell me what a great smile I have, and I thank them for the compliment. But encounters that lead to friendships or good conversation rarely come from me pasting on a smile. No man who demanded I smile has ever gotten my phone number, let alone my respect. Thankfully I know people with enough self-confidence to not project animosity onto the corners of my mouth. In turn, I’ve learned to do the same when approaching others. I am not so thin-skinned that a person not smiling is somehow a diss to me. Nor does it mean they are in a bad mood. And even if they are, they have every right to be. When you respect a person’s right to be in whatever mood they’re in, they will appreciate it. And when someone appreciates you, they can’t help but smile.

Is this better?

Here… is this better?

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