Saturday, October 27, 2018

Please Stop Asking Me To Smile

Absolutely 100% my worst pet peeve? When someone tells me to smile. Please do not tell me to do this.  If I am told to smile, I immediately shut down.  Why is my smile necessary?  Why must I always be smiling? Why do people think that it is okay to tell someone else to smile? As if the current state of their face is unacceptable.

A few weeks back, my gorgeous sister Angela posted an updated profile picture of herself on Facebook. She looked beautiful. Her dark hair pulled back, her eyes shining, and a content look on her face. Someone liked and commented on the picture that she looked nice, but questioned where her smile was. Wait. What?  Handing out half compliments and then demanding that smile be plastered over her face before ever posting a new picture of herself? No. That isn't okay. And it was another female making this comment.

It really rubbed me the wrong way.  I haven't even talked to my sister about this.  So Ang, here is my notice.  It rubbed me the wrong way.  It does every time it happens to me, and I took offense on your behalf when the half compliment, half telling you what to do comment was left under your picture. Where you looked ridiculously fantastic as usual.  Keep smirking, and don't you dare smile for anyone but yourself.

When I was in Junior High, teachers called me Miss Smiles or Miss Sunshine. I smile frequently. I love life. I find humor in the mundane. And smiling is naturally an act that follows when something fills me with joy.  But they were also quick to note when I wasn't smiling. One male teacher would badger me if I wasn't smiling. As if my smile was necessary for me to fade into the background.  He would say things in front of the class and even make fun of me as he drew every eye to me.  I hated it. I told my mom and asked what I should do.  She told me to call him out publicly, without being rude and without calling names.  I had a plan for the next time he picked on me for not smiling.  He didn't make me wait long to put my plan into action.  The following week he was at it again.

"Kelli, why are you so sad? Where is your smile today?" He smirked as if he liked knowing that all the other kids my class were paying attention to his ridicule.

"I would smile, but you have felt the need to badger me in front of the class this entire quarter. Maybe if you left me alone, and carried on with today's lesson plan, that would make me smile."  And I graced him with only what I can call a snarky Kelli smirk as I stared him down to ensure he caught my drift.  He never pointed out my smile or lack thereof ever again.

In high school, I was doing poorly in a Chemistry class.  The female teacher loved reading scores out loud as she would hand back our papers and tests.  She announced my C- to the class and commented that at least it wasn't a D this time.  I was so embarrassed.  The boy that sat behind me and to my right zeroed in on my discouragement.  He whispered, "Maybe if you smiled more she would be nicer to you."  I dropped out of Chemistry at the end of the semester and took Interior Design class.  For some reason, I smiled all the time in that class.

When I was working for a financial institution in my early 20's, my friend Matt and I would often travel to the cities together to attend meetings.  We were attending one such meeting in Minneapolis and were meeting some of the Department heads. As we walked from floor to floor, I hung close to Matt as he knew most of the people I would be introduced to.  Matt was wonderful at making introductions.  When we got to one the last departments, (Investments and Annuity Sales) Matt introduced me to the supervisor.

"Ah! You are the teller from Excelsior with the most beautiful smile. Make sure you always smile. That will help you sell lots of Annuities." This 60+ year old man telling me to smile made me want to punch him. 

I replied, "Oh don't you worry. My sparkling personality makes up for my lack of knowledge. I promise you I will do well."  I was the youngest annuity contract salesperson for the entire financial institution. I sold more contracts than sometimes entire branches combined. Snarky Kelli. I couldn't help it.

My husband has witnessed people telling me to smile in one way or another.  His eyes get as big as dinner plates, his hands rise in a gesture that means he is out of this one, and he slowly steps away.  He shakes his head in disdain and walks away from any and all snark that I may or may not display. He just can't do it.

Even to this day, when I am closer to 50 than to 30, I hear this often.  Smile! Where's that beautiful smile?  Smile, it will make you happy! --Mind you, never in the history of smiling, have I wanted to smile when someone tells me to smile. Not even for a picture. If I am told to smile and then paid a backhanded compliment, I shut it down. Conversation over. Done.

So please, stop focusing on what people do or don't do. Women especially. Believe it or not, someones suggestion to smile makes for one uncomfortable conversation.  And life is uncomfortable enough without people trying to tell others what to do.

Sidenote: Is it weird that when someone tells me to smile, I want to revert to saying...You are not the boss of me!  ?

*Thanks to Jen Mann for the perfect picture for this post.
*And Ang,  thank you for letting me write about my beautiful sister.

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