I've spent my life being told to cheer up. 'Smile darlin', it might never happen', was a phrase I heard at least once a night when I worked in a bar. One time I snapped, told the patron my uncle had just died. It was a lie, a terrible lie. Touch wood for my Uncle Nigel - sorry. But I was trying to prove a point.
And today something happened that has led to me writing this blog post to make my point loud and clear.
I was on my way into work this morning. I was fighting with an allergic reaction to something so my eyes were bright red, sore, dry and itching. I got barged by someone rude when I was trying to get onto the tube, and then I was reading a horrific story in the newspaper about a woman who got her unborn baby stamped on by the father in broad daylight because she refused to get an abortion.
As all of this was happening, I got a text. 'You look grumpy in the mornings!' It was from a friend who has spied me on my commute, and I was unreasonably angry about this. That was when I realised, I wasn't angry at my naive friend. It was a pent up rage at all of the hundreds of times I had been told to 'smile' by men. That I looked 'unapproachable', 'miserable' or 'angry'. I get it at work. I get it walking down the street. I get shouted at out of cars. I'm sick of it.
- You don't know how their day is going. Something truly terrible could have happened, and you're putting your foot in it.
- When you say it to someone at work, like myself when I was a barmaid, think to yourself: would you smile during an 11 hour shift with no break? Would you walk around serving arrogant assholes with a big cheesy grin while you pour their drinks? No. Because for one, your face would hurt. For two, you would look like you were high as a kite. And three, you're there to work, not to smile. Don't get me wrong, anything relating to customer service should always include a smile in the service. I'm happy to flash a smile when taking an order, or handing them their drink. But when a barmaid is wiping a table, collecting glasses, reloading the dishwasher, pouring ten shots of jager... don't tell her to smile. Ultimately - it's sexist. Would you be saying the same to a male server?
- Who are you to make a comment or a joke about someones appearance? I'm fully aware that when I'm relaxed my face looks furious. You think I like the fact that I have to work ten times harder to prove I'm not a bitch when I first meet people? I hate it. And I don't need people constantly reminding me every day that I naturally look unfriendly.
- What are you hoping to gain from it? OH, HE TOLD ME TO SMILE, HAHAHA *GRINS AWAY*. No. It's patronising and a weird way of trying to assert dominance over someone. I have the right to walk down a street with my natural features relaxed, if this is displeasing to your eyes then stay home.
To conclude, I've got better things to do than spend my time giving myself a muscle strain trying to hold a smile in place just so that men might think I'm prettier. I am not obligated to smile.
Disclaimer: Once again I do want to point out, obviously women can be just as ignorant and say these types of comments to men. And obviously women do subject men to the same type of sexual gaze and objectification. However, as always, I'm writing from my own experiences in which I have never, ever, been told by a random woman to smile, against countless experiences with men.