Funny, I Don’t Recall This Commandment

Apparently there is an 11th commandment.  All women, especially young women, must smile at all times regardless of what is happening in their lives and regardless of what’s on their minds.  It’s funny how I can’t find this commandment in the Bible my grandparents gave me.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was on the verge of losing my last scholarship because I was failing a class.  This was a class in which the professor was literally making things up.  That made passing his exams a challenge, to say the least.  And as it turns out, he was famous with other professors for doing just this…as well as for failing scholarship students.

He believed that everyone should earn an F at some point in their schooling, and also (apparently) believed scholarship students had not previously had that experience.  He also (apparently) didn’t understand that for some of us, that F could mean no more college.  Seriously now, some folks cannot attend college without scholarships.   What kind of danged fool doesn’t get that?

But I digress….

I went to the dean to discuss this issue, and was given this enlightening advice: “You should smile more; you are much prettier when you smile.”

Hey – who cares that your ability to attend college is at risk?  I know what you should do – SMILE, be pretty.


Though I did manage to finish college – eventually – I also had the grand experience of working three part-time jobs while going to school part-time.  I was previously working one part-time job and going full-time.  So what the dean said to me was super helpful to my situation (and yes, that’s sarcasm).

Almost any woman can tell you that she has been commanded to “smile”.  For years, I couldn’t walk anywhere without hearing it.

“Smile, damn you! Smile for me!”

About 10 years ago, I was walking, trying to work through my grief over a high school friend’s tragic death.  For three days I tried to do this.  And each time, every 10 minutes or so, some man whom I did not know, would tell me to smile.  Sure, these people thought they were being friendly.  But trust me, this is not friendly.

If you want to be friendly, you smile and say “hello”, you don’t tell some other person to do it first.  And… had these men smiled at me and said “hello”, I would have mustered the energy to smile back. But that’s not what happened.

When my body gave me the 37th birthday “gift” of 10 extra pounds some years back, I wasn’t thankful.  But I did suddenly look my age.  And there was a gift that came with that.  Men no longer commanded me to smile everywhere I went.  Apparently, in middle age, women are permitted to grieve or be lost in thought.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when an older male colleague commanded me to “look up” and “smile”.   I was just thinking about eggs.  I love to cook.  I also enjoy eating.  My thoughts were bringing me a sort of unadulterated private joy.

My first thought was “Seriously?  I thought I was past all that.”  My second thought resulted in my response…

I looked him in the eye and calmly replied, “No.  You smile.”


6 thoughts on “Funny, I Don’t Recall This Commandment

  1. I guess it all goes back to the obsession with positive attitude. People are also notoriously oblivious to what is going on in somebody else’s life. Barbara Ehrenreich was encouraged to smile through her cancer and got so pi**ed off that wrote a book.
    10 pounds extra means everything is fine and you are relaxed and healthy in the different parts of the world, but in the USA, well, yeah…

    1. I agree, but you will notice that women generally do not do this to men. Men OFTEN do it to women. So…I think it’s also because women are still subconsciously seen as public property. I could go on (and on and on) about that (but I won’ t; ).

      No doubt men get pressured to be “positive” these days too. If you hit the tag “you are not god”, you’ll see my early rants about magical positive thinking. I have been meaning to read that book….

      As for those 10 extra pounds…they turned into 20. I am pre-diabetic, so I shouldn’t shrug it off as the INEVITABLE result of my mid-life baby-making. But DANG IT, that 20 pounds LOVES ME and it so wants to stay!

      Thank you for continuing to read and comment! I enjoy having you ’round here!

  2. I used to get that from other women, a lot. I suffered from severe depression in high school (though, of course, I had no idea what that was). There was one girl who was very perky and kept coming up to me and saying “Smile, God loves you!”

    I wanted to stab her.

    If you want someone to be happy, why not ask them what’s wrong? Or ask what you can do to help? Anything rather than telling them, “Be happy, because obviously you have no reason not to be happy.” That’s like telling someone (as mentioned in the Bible), “Keep warm and well-fed,” without offering them a coat or a meal.

    1. Yikes! As if the teen years aren’t hard enough! I rarely got it from women. Somehow…that would have made it worse. This would have put me over the edge too!

      I completely agree with your Biblical reference. And even if one is just passing by, how much nicer to OFFER one’s own smile….

      THANK YOU for your comment!

  3. I can’t recall having people tell me to smile. And I’m not always smiley/happy. Usually, someone would ask if I was okay or if something was wrong. If I didn’t want to talk about it, I lied and said I was okay. If I did want to talk, I shared a bit.

    I don’t know….if I saw someone grinning while they sat alone, I’d think they were disturbed. I’d stay far, far away…

    1. Hmmm…I wonder what’s different that this didn’t happen to you. It would be amazing if we could figure such things out. But then, perhaps life would be less mysterious…which isn’t always a positive thing.

      The last part of your comment made me laugh! Thanks!

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