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You Can’t Command Happiness

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right, or something major went wrong at the beginning of the day? You’re feeling like crap, and quite literally nothing could make your day worse. Given that nothing could make your day worse, what is the last thing you want to hear?

Probably something that makes it seem like your problems mean nothing. Something like “Hey, smile!”

Apparently, this is something of a semi-common practice, telling someone who doesn’t look like they’re having a good time to smile, because, of course, if they’d just smile, everything would be better. Often (though not exclusively) directed toward women, it takes on a bit of an objectification element, like “There’s no reason a pretty woman should be sad—she’s pretty! What more does she want?!” There’s also the egotistical element of it: “You should smile because I’m gracing you with my presence.”

If you want someone to smile, maybe come up, introduce yourself, and get to know them? I know it sounds crazy, but the more you get to know them, the more chance you’ll have of saying something that will actually make them smile on your own merit.

As much as it sucks, we do need to accept that unhappy things happen, and that people don’t smile all the time. We all have problems in our lives, and a lot of them can’t be made to go away simply by being made to smile.

Some of you are going to groan when you read this, but the whole reason I’m thinking about this is a post off of Dear Blank, Please Blank: “Dear teenage girls everywhere, Chin up beautiful, you don’t want your tiara to fall off. (:”

Before I give you my response, I want to say that I know this was not meant in unkindness. Had it been, there would have been a lot more snark in there.

“Chin up, beautiful” is just another way to say “Hey, smile!”, which I hate being told. No, random stranger, I will not smile just because you asked. I’ll smile if I’m happy, and you telling me to smile is sending me in exactly the opposite direction. It’s like saying, “What are you sitting around looking not-happy (not necessarily unhappy; just not like you’re having the time of your life) for?” The “beautiful” on the end for me just sort of makes it sound like, “Oh, cheer up–you’ve got your looks, haven’t you?” as though teenage girls don’t go through stress, insecurity and heartache, and especially not about things other than their looks. And if the speaker is just going for the general “Someone out there must think you’re beautiful. I think you’re actually just okay/ugly”, then it’s downright disingenuous. Heck, even if “beautiful” refers exclusively to inner beauty, saying it won’t make someone’s insecurities about themselves magically disappear, not even if you say it over and over again, because that doesn’t necessarily make someone believe it.

It’s not that it was meant unkindly, and goodness knows we all need little acts of kindness in our lives, but “Have a nice day” or “I care about you” is, in my book, much more comforting to hear than what sounds like a command to look put together for the world, even though I might be going to pieces on the inside.

I wish that little sayings like this could make everything magically better, but sometimes, it’s cathartic (if not particularly nice) to just have a good cry.

However, I do rankle at effectively being addressed as a pretty princess. I’m not a princess—I’m a normal young adult woman with my own thoughts and feelings. And princesses are, too, I’ll have you know! We’re all entitled to be and to feel; to cast aside our masks when we’ve had enough and, à la Train’s “Meet Virginia”, scream “I don’t really wanna be the queen”/“I don’t really wanna live this life”.

And then, when we’re done doing that, we’re entitled to pick ourselves back up and go on living.


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