Smiling isn’t on any national curriculum. But apparently, it’s something some folk naturally do. (I know right, who knew?)
Alongside your birth certificate, you’re not given a smile guidebook. When you start school, you don’t have to sit an exam that analyses your ability to express a constantly upbeat expression. And when growing up, your parents didn’t take you to the doctor to explain their concerns for the disappearance of your smirk. You know why? Because there are no rules.
So let me ask you this: Why do complete and utter strangers deem it necessary to request a smile from my face when it’s in rest mode? Just because it made a decision early on in life for said expression to portray a sullen bitch, it’s not an invitation for people to demand positivity.
In a society where gender equality imbalance is being fought globally, it should surprise me (but sadly doesn’t) that 97.4% of these comments are put to me by men. Remarks for me to cheer up or smile more are just tiresome. Why are they interfering with me when I’m in autopilot? Why does it matter if I’m smiling or not? Why do they think they deserve to see me sport a big fat grin?
Eleven times out of ten, the reason behind my moody demeanour is Chronic Bitch Face. But to all those that aren’t usually a victim to CBF’s glare, there’s going to be a reason behind their glum appearance. And I can guarantee you now, that reason is going to be none of your business. You jeering ‘Gis us a smile love’ is going to be the last thing they need. A bad day, fresh from an argument, a grievance or hearing disappointing news – there are so many factors that contribute to your expression. And when it’s not Chronic Bitch Face, smiling is going to be the last thing on their mind. So how about you butt the eff out alright?
I’m bored of people telling me that “it might never happen” if I don’t cheer up. I mean, what do you say to that? How are you meant to respond when such words are uttered in your direction? Over the years I’ve experimented with replies: Fake smirks. Rolled eyes. Verbal excuses. But now I come to think of it – do they even warrant acknowledgement for their rudeness? No. It’s my face and I’ve come to terms with the fact I look like a bitch when I gaze. You should too.
Yes. I’d go as far as saying it’s a form of harassment. And Tatyana Fazlalizadeh thought the same, when four years ago she started the art series Stop Telling Women To Smile. She didn’t stop there. Because the issue of street harassment towards women lies much deeper than this. Posters of her work above can be seen around the world, with strong, simple and clear messages. It’s unwanted attention. Uninvited comments. An invasion of personal space. We’re going about our own business. If I needed a daily reminder to smile, I’d just set a reminder on my phone. (If there isn’t already an app for it, Apple, you heard it hear first.)
And riddle me this: Why do men not pick up on the miserable faces of other men? Guys get moody. Their faces show it. So surely they should be on the receiving end to one of your “be positive” jibes, no? Whether they’re fellow CBF sufferers (yes, they do exist – Kanye West) or are just peeved that they lost at a game of Fifa, their pissed off look can go by unnoticed and they’re off the hook. They can get away without having their concentration broken by someone they’ve never met before. But your facial expression shouldn’t fall into a double standard trap. Not in this day and age.
That’s the thing with CBF. You could be thinking about a new puppy you’re on your way to pick up, or that funny thing Lucy did at the weekend or even that meme that was just shared in your group Whatsapp. But on the outside, your face just says vengeance.
In my books, that’s totally fine. There are no laws that depict how your face should appear when in a daydream bubble. And it really grinds my gears (making that look of vengeance intentional) when nosey bystanders burst it.