Friday, 22 November 2013

Friday Feminism: on smiling like you mean it

there is a difference between smiling and being happy. in thinking a little more on how to expand upon this sentiment i have guiltily harboured over a great many years, i can't quite remember an exact time when i was told that it was good for a girl to smile. nevertheless, i somehow knew this, and have known it for a long long time. it's more appropriate to smile than frown. fake it 'til you make it, honey. smile, it might never happen. turn that from upside-down. smile, it can't be that bad. smile, nobody wants those ugly frown lines. why don't you smile? you're so beautiful when you smile. smile, and the whole world smiles with you.

i call bullshit. there is a difference between smiling and being happy. sometimes a smile is just baring your teeth, and that seems more like a scary savagery to me. 

the thing that i always feel, the instant that someone tells me to smile, is that they somehow believe that their need to see happy people around them is more important than me choosing my own facial expressions. their need, not mine. smiling doesn't make me happy, one way or another. i don't buy that. i'm not saying we don't smile when we're happy - that's when i'm most likely to smile, but one does not necessarily follow the other. 

the well-meaning folk might not even know just how offensive i find it to be told to smile, and i try to be generous, and give them the benefit of the doubt. being that i know it's more their issue or insecurity, i keep the choice remarks from slipping out of my mouth. no, i'm not having a bad day, sometimes i'm just doing my job, and nowhere in my job description is it specified that data entry must come with a side of smiley face.

there is a difference between smiling and being happy. if i am not happy, i hardly think being told to smile by someone who doesn't know my business is going to turn it all around for me. 

it comes to a few much bigger issues. 
1) just how scary it is for people to be ok within themselves that they are not happy all the time. but a person cannot be happy every minute of the day, and that is ok- not a failure or a flaw. i have a lot of days where i'm not ecstatic or even happy as such, but it doesn't mean i'm anything less than content with my life. or sometimes i'm not even content with my life, but i'm ok with having those days. because i'm a human. it's not unusual and it makes the true happiness that much sweeter.

2) the expectation of women to cover over the truth of how they feel for the sake of keeping up appearances is just total bullshit. like it's in a man's power to say a few magic words, and a woman will suddenly drastically have all the crap they're inevitably dealing with wash away like it was a triviality. like a woman's ability to feel other emotions besides a need to appear pleasant to strangers detracts from her deep and significant beauty. 

women are told to smile by strangers on the street. sometimes it's yelled out of cars. if these hollerers, these unknown men who feel so free and easy to comment on and order about the faces of women they do not know, were hollered back at, how would they like it? sadly, i fear the truth is that there are not a lot of women who would respond with the requires bravery, for fear of what might happen. and i think that's a thing to not smile about in and of itself, frankly. 

women are often the pointed end of a punch line for such unacceptable human habits as: feeling feelings in public, getting upset about being treated badly, having opinions they don't keep to themselves, talking too loudly, expecting decent human behaviour, and other overly emotional aspects. to be told to slap on a smile and cover it up is simply ridiculous, and undermines the reality of what might end up being suffered in silence. 

if what you mean when you are telling someone to smile is that "you don't seem very happy today. I wish you were happier right now, and I want to be there for you to help you be happy"' then say that instead. feeling like your inability to smile at whatever you've been dealt that day, or week, or month, makes you another level of failure when you're really not, you're just fine. it's actually alright if you're not happy today. you're not a failure for having a day that leaves you angry, sad or even 'meh'. i suppose this post might come off a bit grumpy, but i truly believe in each person's right to be themselves. being told to cheer up, as an order, is sometimes a hard thing to hear. it's unfair to tell someone who suffers depression that all they need to do is smile.

you're a lovely wonderful human with all of the feelings, so feel them, if you want. feel them all over your little face. the rough weather makes the good weather just fantastic.

so smile if you want to, and don't if you don't. you're ok just like you are, whether or not i can see your teeth.

and i haven't even touched on my favourite fallback, which is 'i'm not unhappy, i just have bitchy resting face'. 
more on this another time!

1 comment:

  1. ohhh, getting cranky flash backs from years ago at work...a "smiling incident" shall we say. Still pisses me off years later.