You know who I’m not a fan of? People that tell me to smile. Setting aside for a moment the fact that I’m seated at a central location and it’s my job to greet visitors all day, I can say with certainty that I am not the only person who frequently falls victim to this. You know the kind of person I’m talking about, the one who moseys on over to your cubical, peeks in over the top as you go about your daily business and says, in an annoyingly upbeat voice, “Smile!”
I’m not really clear as to what this person’s intentions are. I suppose it’s entirely possible that the perpetrator of this crime of irritation is geniunely hoping to brighten your day by suggesting that you smile, in which case, that person is at worst legitimately mentally challenged and at best a social retard. Even if we give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume him/her to be sincere, the statement “Smile” is an indictment AND a command, both of which are annoying. The clear implication is that you have an unappealing, sourpuss look on your face, which obviously doesn’t offend you because you don’t look at your own face all day long, but apparently you’re expected to adjust your countenance to the preference of others. I think that’s bullshit.
I also think the idea that you would be smiling whilst sitting alone and completing office tasks is bullshit. What are you, the Joker? It’s natural for a person to keep his face in a relaxed state, and that state of relaxation does not a smile include. Smiling works your facial muscles. You wouldn’t sit at your desk with your arm flexed Popeye-style all day long, because that would be stupid and it would hurt. The same principle applies to the face. This annoyance isn’t confined to the workplace–the “Smile!”-er has been known to strike at parties, bars, you name it. I think most “Smile!”-ers are just looking for something to say, a way to start a conversation, but as a general rule any conversation is going to go better if you don’t annoy the other person right off the bat.
Because the desk that I sit at all day is roughly 20 feet from the main entrance to the building, people walk past me constantly, and there seems to be a prevailing notion that every time someone sees me there should be a smile on my face. I smile and greet people in the morning and I tell them “Good night” on their way out. The same people often walk by me multiple times in one day, and it is rare that more than 2-3 minutes pass without someone walking by. I am not going to have a perma-grin on my face for 8 hours, nor am I going to greet someone anew each of the 7 times he walks within my eye line. And if I did have a big Chesire Cat smile on my face at all times without cause, people would think I was a half-wit. Or that I was being blatantly insincere and saracastic. I find most people would rather you be stupid than sarcastic, but either way, I’m not fucking doing it all damn day long.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that “Smile!”-ers prey on women and not men, and I think it’s the result of a sexist notion deeply ingrained in our society that women are expected to be cheery and perky and men are not. If a man is sitting at his desk working with a straight face, he is perceived to simply be occupied with serious, manly business. A woman without a smile, however, must be having a bad day, PMS-ing, or most likely, upset over a man. Smiling is also taken as a sign of polite submission, and lord knows women are expected to be submissive in the workplace.
Of course the double edge of that sword is that the women who are smiley and bubbly all the time are often perceived as being ditzy, and god forbid a woman is too friendly, because then she must be a slut. I also realize that you may have encountered female “Smile!”-ers in your life, and I would argue that they too are playing out sexist roles sublty kept in place by a patriarchal society, even though they probably don’t realize that themselves.
Okay, I’m done with the feminist rant, although I’m pretty sure there have been studies that totally back me up on this. I’m too lazy to find them though. You know us women, totally incompetent, just sitting around filing away at our fingernails. Okay, really, now I’m done. The moral of the story is, unless you have a camera in your hand and I’ve agreed to be in the picture, or you are gifting me with a large sum of money or Bradley Cooper, don’t tell me to smile.
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