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Don't Tell Me to Smile

We've all heard it: "You should smile more!", but why is this a thing we are still hearing/saying? As a woman with RBF, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard this while casually out in public and at past jobs; one supervisor went as far as writing in my end of year evaluation that I needed to work on my face. The question is: Why is this any of your business? How does my face change your life for the worse? And who instilled such a sense of entitlement in you that you feel it is appropriate to comment on how you would like my face to rest????

The saddest part of this reality is society wouldn't dare tell a man such a thing. This is a standard placed on women, to be kind and gentle, and not having a smile plastered across your face 24/7 somehow means you are not doing your womanly duties. I hate to break it to everyone, but I can perform at my job and collect my groceries without smiling. I actually prefer to do so. How exhausting to have to focus on the task at hand AND continuously force a smile.

I recently had an incident take place that made me start to think about how harmful this whole mindset is. I was at the gym, minding my business, resting in-between sets (yes, I wear my mask at the gym, this all happened in a matter of seconds), when I noticed a man looking at me. My first instinct was SMILE. All those years of being told I looked mean and bitchy because I wasn't constantly smiling had become my go-to, my self-preservation technique. I felt uncomfortable and I thought to myself "I better smile so HE doesn't think I'm a bitch."!!! I have been so conditioned that I put my boundaries and potentially my personal safety to the side in order to please.

But wait, it gets better. I later got a DM on Instagram (my personal account) from this same man. He started explaining how he saw me at the gym and found me attractive. He wanted to reach out and see if I would be interested in going out on a date with him. I told him I was in a relationship and declined the offer. He didn't want to let it go and decides to drop this: "Then why did you smile at me? You smiled like you wanted me." EXCUSE ME?! He turned my nervous smile into a cause to place blame on me. His unwanted advance became my fault.

This mindset is beyond dangerous. There is no excuse to place blame on someone who rejects your unwanted advances. This goes back to our talks about consent. You NEVER assume someone wants you or anything you are offering. This man was a stranger and he was trying to make it sound like I brought all of this on myself. This is victim blaming. I did nothing wrong. It is never your fault if someone's ego gets bruised because you don't want to do something. Do not feel guilt in these situations. All the blame is on the person who is inappropriate. Always.

All of this just solidified how we have to change. I resorted to an act (smiling) that I was not comfortable with and was then shamed for that exact act. We are living in a lose lose world. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Stop smiling if you don't want to smile! You do not have to give up pieces of yourself to make others comfortable. You don't owe anyone anything. #donttellmetosmile

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