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Why don't you smile? Friday February 17, 2017

I was reading some catalogues in my shop when a customer said to me , "It can't be that bad, smile". I tend to have a serious face when I am reading or thinking but why does a complete stranger feel they have the right to comment on my facial gestures.

For all they know a friend may have died, I may have found out I have a serious illness or maybe that I am just thinking and don't see a need to smile.

If this was the only time someone had said this that might be ok but I do get people commenting quite regularly. If you want me to smile do not tell me to, as this will make me frown!

In case you think I am Oscar the grouch's cousin or am grumpy - I do smile and laugh when I feel it is appropriate. I just don't like someone, especially a stranger telling me when I should smile.

I wonder why in the last ten to twenty years people feel they have right to ask strangers to smile. Is it part of the "Everyone must be happy' movement?

I do think a lot and I don't smile while I am thinking.

A young friend was dancing at a family gathering when a friend of the family came up and told her she would look much more attractive if she smiled! My friend was so surprised she did not reply. What would you do if someone said that to you?

Have you ever had anyone ask you to smile?

How did that make you feel?

Are you someone that comments to another about their lack of a smile?

Can you explain why you do that and if it helps?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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the room above the garage Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 6:14am

Hello Leah, you've sent me back. To my very early teenage years and on my paper round...I can remember a group of workmen whistling and shouting things on a daily basis. One day it was exactly this you describe. And I wondered did they not realise I was scared and uneasy, smiling would be impossible! I'm a smiley sort now but that can sometimes be The Mask. Thank you for the blog, I'm now down memory lane...I remember the weather, my blouse... love ratg x.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:54am

Ratg Paper round that brings back memory I had an egg round but being clumsy then it did not last long.The smile as a mask that's another topic! Thanks for sharing your memories Leah x

Eva Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:06am

I used to have this happen to me every so often, but not in the last few years, more so when I was younger about 25 years ago. It used to bug me.

I asked my dad to smile when he had come out of his coma, he asked why, I explained that he had a beautiful smile and he would get the benefits of a serotonin boost running through his body that might make him feel a tiny bit better. He didn't smile. I don't know though if he could, I didn't see him smile before he died. The closest I saw was some animation in his character, once when they had gotten him out of bed and proped up, I think the novelty of the new vantage point, which didn't happen too often as it was too tiring for him. And once when some old friends visited. I miss his smile.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:58am

Eva Thanks for sharing your memories of your dad in such an honest way, I was very moved by your writing,Leah xx

Tilly Mint Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:56am

I think sometimes people telling someone to smile is an innocent and clumsy but we'll intended way of someone checking you're ok and or acknowledging that you may appear unhappy and letting you know they've noticed. However I find it infuriates me regardless of why they do it. I'm tall and naturally thin and have an angular face and appear stern looking especially when concentrating. Example being perhaps in a supermarket which is a challenge for me as I have long term PTSD. I have to focus and shut out what I can and am not rude or superior but can't afford to take my mind off the task in hand. If I venture to look at others their expressions are quite extraordinary. I love people watching but I never judge. I tend to try to empathise and invisibly wish them well. Some people seem to want to influence you whether they know you or not. I feel that's about their own insecurity and ignorance. Some people will move heaven and earth to avoid accepting who and how they are and that's their business until they start to try to adjust everyone else to suit their needs. It's similar to those who give advice you've not asked for and use the word 'should' a lot. Telling someone to smile is so much more than just telling someone to smile. Another one is being told to 'cheer up'.

John Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:33am

wow, "It's similar to those who give advice you've not asked for and use the word 'should' a lot." - that really resonated with me. That drives me mad when people do that to anyone

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:00am

Tilly Mint Thanks for your wonderful explanation. I am glad I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable when people tell me to smile.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:01am

John Thanks for your comment. That also annoys me too.

Dragonfly Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:38pm

Great blog Leah which has provoked some very thoughtful comments - such as yours Tilly Mint, I'd never presume to tell someone else how they might appear or behave. My daughter wrote a great blog on the subject too recently. It's only happened to me a few times but is guaranteed to make me scowl!

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:50pm

Dragonfly Thanks for your comments. I agree that Tilly mint's comments were very insightful. I think maybe people feel they are being helpful when they ask others to smile and as people have commented here, some people have found the comment helpful. I am always interested in how moodscopers respond.

Orangeblossom Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:00am

Hi Leah, I remember my Mother saying similar words to me at the age of 15 or 16. "You won't attract any boys with that expression on your face. Try smiling instead of looking grumpy." My thoughts were not friendly though I didn't say them to her. So I also don't like being told to smile.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:03am

Orangeblossom Thanks for sharing your comments. I suppose I expect mothers to say such things but not strangers!!

Anonymous Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:05am

I have exactly the same memory as Orangeblossom - as if attracting boys was so much more important than thinking through some serious thoughts! It set up a dilemma that created a lot of confusion for years - thoughtfulness not as important as attractiveness.
And, yes, strangers on trains or buses telling me to smile - or cheer up! -made me feel awkward and even more uneasy than I already was.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:05am

Anon Thanks for sharing your uncomfortable memories. I am not sure why people feel they have to tell complete strangers how they should look.

Sally Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:26am

Hello Leah! I used to get exactly the same from teenage years onwards! It made me even more self conscious. Still get it at times. Yes, it's both annoying and intrusive. After all, they can't know how you're feeling, etc.
Thank you for pointing out that people's / the general publib's expectations of us are unreasonable at times.
My sister once had a Japanese student, male, staying, who told her "You'll never get married , you're too tall". Quick as a flash, she replied " I'd have two of you!" She laughed and laughed...he saw her point!
I can never think of what to say, but she just has the gift of " counter attack" with humour.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:06am

Hi Sally I can never think of a witty reply but if I do I always regret it as it comes out mean spirited not witty.

Jul Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:45am

Your blog made me smile Leah! Especially your last two lines. A work colleague once said to me just before I left, Don't forget to smile Julia, you have a lovely smile. No-one had ever said that to me before. I do smile more now because of that. However I have had many people always strangers saying to me, Come on Love, smile,it's not that bad you know. I particularly like Tilly Mint's observation.." Some people will move heaven and earth to avoid accepting who and how they are and that's their business until they start to try to adjust everyone else to suit their needs" Julxx

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:09am

Jul, Thanks for your comment which made me think. I too like Tilly Mints observation. I think don't forget to smile is different than you should smile, smile it may not happen, Leah xx

Ruth Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:08am

Smile, it might never happen. It has.

Wyvern Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:29am

Red rag to a bull. Cheer up love, it might never happen. Gaaah!!! Yes, especially when it just has happened, or is happening. I think I'd better not say too much about that :-/ Old serious face me, especially as a teen, was constantly getting that. And my boy is even more serious-faced. People used to think he was scowling, and he got into a lot of bother about it, but no, it is just his face. "It's not a look, it's my face" ... who said that in a movie?

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:09am

Ruth That is so true, thanks.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:11am

Wyvern Yes having a serious face can cause misunderstandings. Thanks for sharing your feelings and ideas.

LP Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:50am

Hi Leah,
A colleague at my previous work place said it to me. I was glad to be made aware of how I appear. I do try to neutralise my expression when I remember as I like to feel that my presence doesn't make poeople uncomfortable.
That's just personal to me though and I get how others may just want to be comfortable being themselves without being judged.
One thing that does get to me is men who feel in a position to women's attractiveness withought for one moment considering their own appearance! Not that theirs is of any interest to me, it's just the audacity! :)) Thankfully it's rare.
I saw a woman out with her grand children recently and her resting face was almost a smile and the lines on her face seemed to be kind and smiley, it was lovely to see.
I agree Leah, I prefer a live and let live approach to life. Interefering or minding other peoples business can be intrusive.
For me it's about intent. Maybe sometimes it's intended as playful banter, maybe trying to be cheeky and funny to get a smile, without thinking. I too have had, when I was younger "Cheer rup luv, it might neverrappen!" In a way I guess, I may have been brought back to the present moment from worrying or lost in negative thoughts.
Thank you for a thoughtful blog Leah.
Wishing you and all comfort and reasons to smile from the inside. LPxx

LP Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:53am

Missed the word "judge" before 'women's"

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:13am

Thanks LP. Your reply is very thoughtful. I think you maybe more patient and understanding than me. I find try to work out intent can be tricky.

LP Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 8:32am

Hi Leah, A lifetime of work involving children must be why I can, so that doesnt take anything away from your life experiences. Maybe it's not so much making an effort to work anything out, more just whether you've picked up a vibe. Xxx

Leah Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 9:15am

LP I have had decades of work involving children too but my patience did not carry over to my life!! I think we all have different traits.

Sue Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:47am

I found the opposite - I tend to smile to my thoughts. Once I was feeling a bit down walking along and smiled and said 'hello' to another lady. She commented, 'hello, I've noticed you because you're always smiling'. Cheered me up no end!

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 11:20am

Sue That is so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Marmaladegirl Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 10:51am

Me and my two daughters have pondered on this before. We think that our "resting faces" are very serious and we look fed-up even though are faces are actually in neutral. A stranger once said to me, "Cheer up love - it might never happen!" I didn't say anything but decided that if it happened again I would say, "Actually, it HAS happened thank you."
Take care everyone.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 11:21am

Marmalade girl I like the term resting face. Thanks for telling me of your experiences,

Milliecat Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 11:57am

i was wondering why this phrase is so prominent in the UK - i havent googled i thought maybe it is a post war thing...when life was really tough in the early 1900's - perhaps 'SMile it might never happen!' referred to being bombed....i have no idea really but that could make sense.
Otherwise why are people you dont know telling you to smile...i will maybe google it later unless any Moodscopers can through light on it. Today i shall go out and smile at everyone .....

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:00pm

Milliecat I am form Australia so it is prominent here as well. I am not sure if it is prominent in UK or Europe or other countries. As I have said before I think people think they are being helpful and a few moodscopers have said it did help them. Maybe it is part of social banter like how are you? And talking about the weather. I may be reading too much into it- who knows? Thanks for giving me more things to think about.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:07pm

Milliecat I like your idea of an historical perspective. I just googled it but only came up with suggestions as to what it means not its origins. I think it may be like 'Don't worry be happy' just random sayings that started when we were all encouraged to be positive and happy!! It would be interesting if any moodscopers knows of ithe origin of smile it may never happen.Or if you find something out let us know. I am interested in the origins of sayings but many times there are several ideas and sometimes none!

The Gardener Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 1:12pm

Leah, another 'can of worms' opened. Ordering you to smile should come under the heading of Politically Incorrect. One of my daughters, a lovely girl, has a serious face in repose. I had pencil drawings done of her and her sister (both adopted mixed-race) and the portrait of the 'serious' one, who is not serious at all, was reckoned by the artist as one of his best - it hangs in the room next to me - it is the girl herself, if she had smiled it would not have been. As I am rather 'prominent' in this town, and there are three different local papers I am subject to three photographers every time I do anything - they all ask me to 'smile'. My reason not to is very personal - I have very high, almost Slav, cheek bones - if I smile my eyes disappear completely - as, also, a sign of age I have drooping eye-lids result not good.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:54pm

TG Thanks for your fascinating comment. It is true some people don't smile in photos because they that've bad teeth or like you they have a reason not to. I never knew you were a town 'celebrity' that must make it hard for you knowing that you may be photographed at anytime.

silvia Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 3:24pm

Leah that happens often to me too! I hate it when they say that and I never know what to reply, and I feel angry and although I think he/she should mind their own business I end up justifying myself.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 7:57pm

Silvia Thanks for your thoughts. Having read what others have said I can understand that the reason saying I should smile may just be trying to be helpful and has no bad intent. I like you want to justify myself .

Dragonfly Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 8:12pm

Leah I'd just like to say too that I always notice and think how lovely it is that you respond to everyone's comments x

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 11:35pm

Dragonfly thanks for your comments. I am lucky that I live in southern hemisphere so being in a different time zone it is easy for me to comment as it is usually in mid to late evening here and I have no life and am a hermit!

Dragonfly Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 6:07pm

Oh dear! I don't know whether to smile or feel sad - perhaps a bit of both. I would never think that of you given how and what you write x

Leah Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 8:46pm

Dragonfly Sorry my attempt at humour does not translate to the written word! So don't be sad for me. It is just a throw away line we use here not to be taken seriously. I wont try to be funny again!x

Dragonfly Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 9:25pm

Leah actually it's exactly the type of self- deprecating comment I might use! Please do carry on being funny :) x

Leah Sun, Feb 19th 2017 @ 12:31am

Dragonfly, my children used to say mum you are not funny, just embarrassing!! Have to love the children!!

A Suitable Handle Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 9:25pm

Leah, thank you so much for this post! I have a resting serious face -- when I'm lost in thought or reading, people tend to think I'm scowling or upset about something.

I've had people on the street (always men) tell me to smile or cheer up. Growing up, my mother would often tell me to smile as well, for appearances. As an adult, this all frustrates me very much.

I've discovered baby pictures, and found that the corners of my mouth have ALWAYS pointed in a perturbed direction when neutral. (I was adopted later in life, so didn't have photos until more recently.) While I'm always smiling at strangers or when I realize I'm being watched (partially from genuine feeling, partially The Mask that's been trained into me), my neutral face is less cheery and I really want others to accept that without judgement.

I realize that some people mean well, but I think it's kinder to comment on a smile that's present than to impose one upon a different natural expression.

Leah Fri, Feb 17th 2017 @ 11:39pm

A suitable handle- love the name! Thanks for your thoughts. I think we all have different reasons for our facial expressions. I like the expression serious resting face.

Peter Sat, Feb 18th 2017 @ 11:10pm

Thank you, Leah. «Life is better, when you're laughing.» «Smile, and the world smiles back to you» Phrases which came in my mind, and I know there are laugh-therapies and clown-doctors... I am thankful for everybody who makes me smile or laugh, but people who command others to smile are bearish and clumsy, their order is a harassment. Try to make me laugh, it's not so easy, especially when I am down. Thank you. xxP

Leah Sun, Feb 19th 2017 @ 12:30am

Peter Thanks for your thoughts, I like your distinction between people who make us laugh and smile and people who command us to smile or laugh.

Nicco Mon, Feb 20th 2017 @ 1:00pm

Like ratg you've sent me down memory lane. My teens were particularly difficult as I was always ill and I can remember people saying, "cheer up, it might never happen". My reply to them was, "Too late, it already has"! It used to annoy me a lot as I felt if they'd only know what I was going through they wouldn't have been so flippant but, in their defence, I think they were probably only trying to cheer me up and lighten my seemingly dark mood but it didn't work back then. I'm much more smiley now, and think of smiles as gifts to be given and received. Thanks for the blog Leah.

Leah Mon, Feb 20th 2017 @ 8:40pm

Nicco Thanks for your comment always welcome. I realise now most people who ask others to smile have good intentions. I like that you see smiles as gifts to be given and received.

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