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“Smile, Sweetheart” – Powerful Woman Monologue #12

April 2, 2012

The author of this post asked me to keep her identity anonymous, which I am happy to do. If you’re interested in contributing but uncomfortable with attributing your name to it, feel free to send an anonymous submission!

“Give us a smile! It’s not that bad!”

“Smile, sweetheart!”

“Let me see that smile!”


I hear this at least once a week.

I am sick to death of men telling me to smile.

I am not a model. I am not a flight attendant. I am not a receptionist, a waitress, or a concierge.
A smile is not part of my job description.
It is not a part of my uniform.

There are a variety of positions where smiling is indeed  part of job, but my current position is not one of them.


And you know what I don’t see, ever? A man, or even a woman for that matter, telling a man to smile.
“Smile, sir!” is not a sentence I can remember hearing outside of an official photography session.

Nope, it’s just the ladies who are expected to be happy as our heads hit the glass ceiling and we’re asked if we really want that letter of recommendation because we’re “young and might want to stop working and start a family.”
I wish I was kidding.

Surely we have so much to smile about.


I should be allowed to walk down the hallway without a man trying to dictate my mood.

Can’t a girl just be somber sometimes? Can’t I feel morose or distracted on my way to the restroom? Can I not contemplate great injustices as I join the lunch line?

I’m so tired of these men who think that because they have a penis they are able to comment on how my face looks at any time.

I have never had a woman tell me to smile in my place of employment. If anything, they might ask me if there’s something wrong. Did something happen? Am I ok? Why do I look so sad?  (Usually I have to tell them “no, this is just how my face looks.”)

The men though? They just TELL ME to smile.


And you know what enrages me more?


It’s a reflex. It’s learned behavior. A relative stranger says smile and you just can’t help it. I think it’s groomed into us over the course of a dozen years of school pictures.

So I smile.

And I seethe.

And I continue to search for the perfect response.

One that gets my point across without getting me fired.
Any suggestions?

About the series: Powerful Woman Monologues are compiled in response to the media’s representation of women as inspired by the film Miss Representation. If you would like to participate, email me. Any kind of creative contribution is welcome from anyone.

Special thanks to Ashley of Little Leaf Photography & Design for graciously creating the badge for our series!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2012 9:59 am

    I usually respond with a scowl and a fast walk in the other direction.

    (Am I the only one who has also been told to smile by older, grandma types? They usually say something along the lines of “Life’s too short, smile!”, which I guess says more about their thoughts on mortality than it does on them wanting to see a smile.)

  2. April 2, 2012 10:47 am

    I loathe being told to smile. I usually want to respond with “Why?” But…that’s not socially acceptable, is it? Why can’t I just walk around with a neutral expression, like everyone else is?

  3. April 2, 2012 8:53 pm

    Ah this drives me nuts. I usually smile out of a reflex response, like the author. Sometimes I frown more. I haven’t thought up a clever quip to come back with.

  4. April 5, 2012 12:14 pm

    I find a tight, “shut the hell up” smile works. And I never really noticed how one sided this whole “smile” business was. I only ever noticed how annoying it was. Good observation.

  5. April 11, 2012 4:23 pm

    I am SO GLAD I am not the only lady who hears this… more often than not. Also, I’m glad I am not the only one who is bothered by this!

    While I don’t have a canned response, I generally move forward ignoring whoever told me to smile. Because, while a smile is nice, I don’t have to do it all the time. Period.

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