Stop Telling Me to Smile

Unhappy big gorilla eating
I’m the girl with the long face in all the pictures. Class pictures. Family pictures. Office pictures. It doesn’t matter, I’m that girl. Because of my so-called resting bitch face, I’ve had a lot of people encourage me to turn that frown upside down. To them I ask, why? A smile doesn’t change who I am. Just because I’m not smiling doesn’t mean I’m not happy. Or kind. Or fun. I’m all those things and more. So why force a smile when I’m just as content keeping a serious, sullen, or straight face?

You’d be surprised of the answers I’ve received over the years:

Everyone else is smiling. (So? I’m a leader, not a follower.)

Smiling makes you prettier. (And crying makes me? Ugly?)

You looked pissed off. (Really? I feel quite chill.)

I’d appreciate it if you’d smile. (I’d appreciate it if you’d let me, do me.)

Most of the comments have been from friends and family. They dare mouth what everyone else is probably thinking. Then there’s been that rare occasion when a complete stranger tells me to smile.

For instance, at the DMV.

“You’re supposed to smile,” the woman behind the clicky, flashing, picture thingy tells me.

“According to who?” I silently inquire, feeling all at once uncomfortable and forcing a grin.

Worst. Driver’s license. Ever.

It happened again while standing in a corner during an office holiday party.

“You could smile and at least pretend you’re happy to be here,” my co-worker piped up, reeking of spiked punch and too much cologne.

I could, but I just spent the entire day with you. Will the madness never end?

Then there was that time walking through Manhattan.

“Smile, gorgeous!” the man said, while not so discreetly looking at my chest.

Maybe I would’ve have taken him up on the offer if I hadn’t just spent twelve hours in a board room staring at bar charts. Perhaps if I hadn’t been kept awake the night before by honking taxis and screeching drunks, I could have obliged. But chances are I wouldn’t have caved. I would have done exactly what I did that day and continued to mouth a flat line, while being completely disinterested.

I’m that girl. Except when I’m not.

When my husband grabs me and reminds me that I’m his “five-year woman,” the longest relationship he’s ever had (and me too), I smile.

When my children jump onto my lap and sing, “Patty cake, patty cake, bake your man. Bake me a cake and then throw it in the trash,” because I can’t find it in my heart to correct them, I smile.

When the Velcro on my baseball cap gets stuck on the sleeve of my mother’s sweater, rendering a Twister-like duo, I smile.

When Joseph Gordon-Levitt nails a Janet Jackson classic on Lip Sync Battle, I smile.

When a random stranger smiles at me and says nothing at all, more often than not, I smile.

You see, it’s all about the moment. I smile when I want to and when a little bell inside goes off. If I’m inspired or loved or entertained, I smile. When something incredible or magical unfolds, I smile. It might be a rare moment, but it happens.

Smiling is a good thing, I know this. It’s just not my thing.

So while I appreciate your concern, please stop telling me to smile. I will. I do. But on my terms, not yours.

You could try chocolate, but even that’s a far cry.



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