Smile!



“Smile!”

Seriously? I glare at the beaming dorkguard at Hilltopia Pool. I’ve just finished my swim and I’m tired and cold. It’d been an okay swim till the end when some spaz got in the lane with me and I had to dodge his wave slapping stroke.

Dorkgaurd Smile Commander approaches the women’s locker room door, repeating his smile command and then even goes so far as to make a smile upward shape on his own mug with his index fingers. Grinning widely in pantomime.

Shit.
"SMILE!!!" he commands again.
“Why?” I growl as he holds the door open for me.
“Because life is good?” he exclaims. “Because it’s a beautiful day?”

I sigh, shake my head. All my life I’ve had men, and it’s always men, telling me to smile. It really pisses me off and normally I’d just let this go but today, well…he got me on a short fuse day.
“You know,” I say, “that’s a really Sexist Thing to say.”
His own smile takes a downturn.
“Do you ever tell men to smile?” I ask.
He pauses for a moment. I can see that he’s thinking about this. “No…” he admits, slowly. “I’ve never told a man to smile.”

Triumphant, I push past him into the locker room, “Well, there you go,” I quip, not looking back as the door slams behind me.

Was I a bit too harsh with him? I mean, he was just joking around right?

Well, from his point of view, he was. But the underlying subtext is that women should always be walking around with a big hearty grin on their faces no matter how they’re feeling. That if they’re not smiling and cheerful, then something is wrong with them. They’re not feminine. They’re not submissive. They’re not some man’s baby doll!
Maybe my anger bubbled up today cuz I’d just seen this French Film about how the gender roles had been reversed. It was called, Je ne suis pas un homme facile (I Am Not an Easy Man) and the protagonist, a sexist pig who made stupid comments to women all the time about their height and their lips and their voices, bonks his head on a light post while gawking at some women in high heels, loses consciousness, and when he comes to, all the world's gender roles are upside down. Women have all the power. Women have all the management jobs. The men have all the service jobs. The women wear the power suits and belch and crack sexist jokes about men’s legs and asses and dicks.

So, when SmileGaurd told me to 'Smile!', this movie was fresh in my mind. Plus! I just had had enough.


A week later, walking in the parking lot to the pool, Smile Guard spies me and stops to wait for me. Oh, damn, I think to myself. Why is he in my Sphere?

“I owe you an apology,” he says, stepping beside me as we make our way toward the Y.
“Yeah, well, it’s an Education,” I say, smiling. “Apology accepted.”
“I’ve been looking for you all week, wanting to say I’m sorry.”

I grin. This is fantastic! I hope he’s lost some sleep over it too!

But I don’t say this, I am in a gracious mood today. Besides, he got it. He’s apologizing. Maybe he’ll think about it next time he tells a woman to “Smile”

Or even better, maybe he’ll never make this sexist command to a woman again. I wish he could go into that French film, shave his legs, wear high heels, be someone’s assistant.
That’s not likely to happen, I think to myself, as he holds the door open for me. I smile. Thank him.

Okay, okay.... I admit, there are a few things I like about sexist behavior. At least he didn’t tell me to smile as I scan my card at the desk and head down the stairs for the pool.

Comments

Carrie Canine said…
Love this post! I hear this all the time: “Hey, it can’t be that bad. Smile a little!” So demeaning. I really want to say, “So, you have experience with 25-year-old sex traffic victims who are cutting to soothe?” I understand that reality testing of this kind can be off-putting but I sometimes want my response to feel like a slap in the face. Just like I’m being expected to “snap out of it” so my sadness doesn’t cause distress in someone whose emotions are as complex as an Oreo cookie. I get it.
Cj said…
Hey Carrie Sue! I like your comeback! I mean, c'mon! What are we smiling dolls for all the men who happen by us on the street? It is demeaning! And like the Dorkguard admitted, he never tells men to 'Smile'!

So, yeah, thanks for the feedback and keep on frowning when it's appropriate. And not when it's not! I mean, emotions--they are not just something you turn on and off no matter what men think--frankly, I think men have a hard time with emotions and so they don't want to 'see' anything other than smiles...esp on a woman's mug--how's that for a broad generalization?
Ian said…
I agree with the sexist aspect, of course. Women are supposed to be sweet and pretty and cheerful. But also there is this desire in our facile culture for artificiality... to fake a smile as if that changes things. Work the positive spin, like in marketing or public relations to distort reality. People don't want to deal with the hard facts, that things really suck sometimes. So don't be critical or smart or insightful, just slap on a happy face. Like a mask, like saying "have a nice day" automatically, or that idiotic smiley face emoticon. Another one I recently heard is "turn your frown upside down" though that made me laugh at the absurdity. Oh, and one reason it's more dangerous to tell a grumpy-faced guy (male) to "smile" is that you might get a punch in the nose. Thanks poolpuss, for another great blog story.
Cj said…
Yes, Ian, the superficiality of how women should behave is reflected in this comment that I get all the time! As Neesie said, "If I got a nickel for every time a guy told me to smile, I'd own a villa in Tuscany!" But yes, it's a bigger cultural mindset too. Everything as to be 'positive'---no one wants to say or act negatively and that includes our faces!
So, thanks for your thoughts here. And, yeah, I shoulda punched the Dorkguard in the face. That woulda really taught him a lesson. But, oh, yeah, right, women aren't supposed to do that !!

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