Last week, while at a live music event, I went to the restroom. As soon as I stepped out of the restroom, I was face-to-face with a man who was about to walk into the men’s restroom. Before I could even say a word he said to me “Smile! Why you look so angry? It’s Friday!” Who deemed it a qualification to smile as soon as you leave the bathroom?
This is just one of the many instances that I encounter at least twice a week. Naturally, my resting face is not a smile. To be honest, I only know two people who smile all day everyday. But this is besides the point. I don’t think it’s appropriate to stop what you’re doing to tell a woman to smile if she’s not doing it at the moment you feel she should be smiling. But it’s more annoying for me as Black woman.
Historically, Black women have been labeled as the “angry Black woman”. A narrative that has been told of us since the beginning of time. This concept transfers over to our everyday lives. We aren’t allowed to have relaxed faces in many settings. We don’t get to have relaxed faces at work without supervisors and colleagues thinking we’re upset. Our girls get in trouble at school because teachers think they have an attitude just by their facial expressions.
I remember a time where I was waiting on my drink at the bar in a restaurant. I usually find time to take myself on solo dates and this was one of the times. Anyway, I’m minding my business and this man came and stood next to me. As he was waving down the bartender he looked at me and said,
“You’re pretty, you should smile more, though. It makes people’s day.”
My brain quickly shuffled through the many smart ass responses I have stored for moments like that one.
“A person’s facial expressions don’t always equate to their mood. Plus, I’m pretty sure you would never walk up to a man who was a stranger and request that he smiled.”
He was shocked and then responded, “Well, no, I wouldn’t”.
After another minute of me telling him that he shouldn’t tell women what they can and can’t do with their faces, I walked away and found another table to sit at.
That interaction went more smoothly than others I’ve had in the past. Guys have gotten defensive and told me I was disrespectful for correcting them for telling me how to control my face. Others have tried to silence me but literally telling me to “shush” as I’m correcting them because apparently, I should not have an opinion about myself.
Imagine smiling all day. Smiling while you’re reading emails, doing chores, driving. Just holding a smile on your face all day long. I’m pretty sure your face would hurt. But outside of that, why is there still an expectation for us to smile all the time? What if something was really wrong with me that day? If I’m not smiling because something triggered me, am I not allowed to feel upset, according to your ideas of how I should look?
We don’t get to own our feelings about anything. People feel as if they can still tell us how we should look or react to normal emotional stimuli. I’m tired of it.
❤ Queen T