It’s Okay Not To Smile

I have to ask how many of you girls out there have been in a situation where you were just really pissed off. Or sad. Or just straight-up didn’t feel like smiling. You didn’t even have a reason, maybe, you just didn’t want to smile.

And then somebody decides to tell you “Come on, honey, smile!”

Or “Let’s see that pretty smile of yours!”

Or “What’s a pretty girl like you got to be so upset about?”

And maybe you wanted to scream at them that it’s YOUR mouth and YOUR smile. And that nobody else in the world gets to tell you what to do with it. That you’re the one who decides when you smile and when you frown and when you keep your lips set straight and that it’s up to you and it’s nobody else’s business why you feel like doing that.

Maybe you don’t just feel like screaming, maybe you actually DO scream at the person who said this. Or quip at them sarcastically. Or roll your eyes and ignore them. Or give them any indication that what they’ve just said isn’t okay in your book.

And maybe you just give in and smile for them.

I’m really hoping you don’t do that last one.

I really hate the idea that women, especially young women, are supposed to live in this happy joyous bubble of wonder where everything is always great. Or even if it’s not, we face it head on with a smile because, golly gosh, that’s what girls do, right? We smile when everything’s down because we understand that we have to keep our heads up high and prove that even in the middle of a disaster we have poise. We smile to lie to people about our lives because, hey, nothing’s wrong here! Absolutely not!

And why? I mean, what does anyone else gain out of me or another girl smiling “for them?” I’ve been told to smile because it’ll make some guy feel better. Oh, great, I’m supposed to completely change/lie about how I feel in order to make YOU feel better? And I should be happy because I’m making YOU happy because I’m PRETENDING to be happy? The lack of logic just fucking BURNS.

Recently, Shirley Manson of Garbage posted to her Facebook about the constant criticism of Kristen Stewart because she “never smiles.” “What the hell do they want from her? For her to ponce around like a so called normal teenager and smile a little more, no doubt.”

And then, she went on to say:


No matter how you feel about Kristen Stewart, you can probably sympathize with the idea of someone wanting you to smile when you just don’t want to. With being expected to change how you feel, or at least change how you act outwardly, regardless of how you feel, in order to please someone else.

And of course Garbage came into their own in the 1990’s when girls like Manson and fellow artist Fiona Apple were very bold in saying “No, fuck you, we’re not happy, we’re not going to pretend, we’re not going to smile.” They got mocked for it, of course. Apple was lambasted by the public after a speech at the MTV music video awards:

This world is bullshit. And you shouldn’t model your life — wait a second — you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself.

Ironically, it was also MTV and the 90’s that gave us Daria Morgendorfer, the epitome of “I don’t smile if I don’t want to.” The smart, sarcastic Daria was commonly known as “The Misery Chick” to other people because she just didn’t act the way people expected a girl to act. She didn’t rush to please. She didn’t pretend to be someone she wasn’t. And she didn’t always win. But she was always herself.

I guess there’s really two points here. The first is: dammit, I miss the 90’s. The second, and far more important, is:

Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with your smile. That is yours. You have earned it with every bit of life you have lived. And if you wanna share it with the world? Do it. If you wanna keep it to yourself? Do it. Because the only thing that’s wrong is trying to be someone else for the rest of the world.