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Pissed Off At: People Who Tell You To Smile

March 23, 2013


Because this blog isn’t just about political issues: it’s about the things that piss me off.  And this is a big one.  Because when someone is telling me to smile, I’m generally in one of two states:

1. Not depressed.  In which case it’s insulting to have random strangers assume that I must be upset–when I’m really fine–and therefore in need of their expert advice–when I’m really not, even when I am depressed.

2. Depressed.  In which case somebody telling me to smile is not going to magically make the unhappiness go away.  Especially since said person is generally a stranger, and not someone interested in doing the actual work it would take to really make me happy.  Like being my best friend and listening to me bitch about my problems, or giving me a bunch of money.

I’ll smile if you pay me! Really!

And that’s the key, isn’t it?  When people tell you to smile, it’s not because they genuinely care about your hapiness, it’s because they are put off by your non-smiley appearance.  Either because seeing someone without a smile on threatens to disturb the rose-coloured bubble they usually live in, or more likely, because they think you’d be much sexier eye candy for them if you’d only smile a little.  And then the message is: “Smile because I tell you to.”  Just like working a customer service job, except you’re not even getting paid.  Not exactly a recipe for happiness there.  More likely a recipe for me wanting to punch you in the face.

What I’m wondering is: do guys get this too?  I’ve heard/read a lot of women complaining about this, and saying that noone says it to guys, but maybe guys get it too and just complain about it less.  (If that’s the case: before you men congratulate yourselves on how much less whiny you are than women, consider that you’re not also dealing with the other kind of street harassment, the kind that involves offensive comments about your derriere.)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2013 6:43 pm

    I’m generally a smiley person, but your story reminded me of when I was working as a cashier for Wal-Mart. I was particularly smiley in that job because it helped my shift go by faster to be friendly as people came through, but sometimes people just HATED that I was smiling and friendly. I remember one guy in particular practically spit at me, “You sure are chipper, ain’t ya!?”

    All that to say that I think the people who try to make you act a certain way because they tell you to won’t be happy as long as you’re the one making the choice, regardless of what that choice is.

  2. March 24, 2013 10:20 pm

    This is interesting. I get told I should smile more all of the time. When you asked if guys get the same thing, it certainly made me think. Why is it that women seem to be told to smile so much/

  3. foobard permalink
    May 11, 2015 5:44 pm

    zomg, I hate people who do this. I was just in a store today where they had put up a chalkboard sign that read: Smile and get 35% off. Now, I normally am in a pleasant disposition, but this particular ploy pisses me off every time it comes up. In my mind, a smile is a gift that is given freely without being asked for. It’s like someone coming up to you and saying, “Hey, it’s my birthday, give me a gift!” It just doesn’t work that way. It’s a violation of an unwritten social contract and it pisses me off more than most things. And of course, what always happens is, you are confronted over the whole smile on demand issue. You are then forced to proffer a manufactured smile, which feels demeaning and is then followed up with something like “There, now that wasn’t so hard was it?” or “Did you finally get her to smile?” But, somehow it is forgotten that I am usually a happy person who is normally smiling, and have suddenly been transformed in an instant into some person who is some horrible nonsmiling jerk most of the time. But now that they’ve made it a point of contention. I will forever be more than just a tad resentful of the affront. I consider this to be a subversive social act that a certain type of person will do. You can probably neatly divide the world into the people who don’t mind be coerced into smiling on demand and those who profoundly resent it. I’m in the latter camp.

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