"Cheer up Love!" a voice pulls me from the mental shopping list I was ticking off in my head as I wait in line at our local Co-Op. I look up and see a portly, middle-aged men staring at me with the largest grin on his face. I stare back, deeply miffed that I have been pulled out of my shopping arithmetic.
"It may never happen you know!" he continues politely touching my shoulder. Again disbelief, what is he going on about! What might happen, I want to say, might the day come when men don't feel uncomfortable about a woman who isn't showing her appreciation for breathing the very same air as them! But I don't, I smile, laugh uncomfortably and hope to God the line hurries up.
He was just being polite, my friend says as I recount the tale to her, but is it polite to comment on my level of happiness when you know nothing about me?
I admit I often look miserable. I don't mean to, I just do, perhaps it's the fact the my birthday always falls near the most depressing day of the year, in fact this year it falls on that very day, surely if anyone can look miserable, it's me. Or maybe it is the fact I am always too lost in a sea of my own thoughts to worry how I look to you or that my resting bitch face is so on point. I don't know and I don't care but it is not your job to cheer me up!
Why do men always feel the need to tell me to smile to tell me to cheer up (a women had never said this to me). Perhaps my happiness makes you uncomfortable, less of a man, inadequate in some way. I am not put on this world for your amusement, to make you feel better about yourself and my smile should have nothing to do with how you feel about yourself.
And it's not just me; I hear men saying this to women and girls everywhere. My daughter walking down the street being told to smile, or girls in the corridors being asked by teachers to cheer up. I never hear the same thing being said to boys.
Other than the clearly sexist connotation to this, the mere suggestion is perhaps that our job in life is to make men happy.
I think this is having a detrimental effect on our young girls, with many describing themselves as depressed. Yes some are, but perhaps more are just simply thinking they are depressed because they have been told too many times how miserable they look!
Why is looking sad, not feeling your best or being miserable a bad thing? Why are we expected all the time to be happy and cheerful? Surely to be happy we also need to feel sad; surely to feel joy we must also experience misery. Perhaps if we allowed people to feel whatever they feel without commenting or demanding something different from them, then fewer women would feel the need to cover up feelings of unhappiness with a cheerful veneer.
The real problem is that we feel bad when we feel unhappy, we feel the need to hide our sadness because being positive is the in thing. As the adults perhaps we need to lead the way forward here, show young girls that feeling sad is not a bad thing, misery comes and goes and you don't have to smile at anyone if you don't want to.
Please mothers, fathers everywhere stop telling your children to cheer up, stop telling them to smile when they don't want to and if they feel sad let them be sad don't feel the need to fix their sadness they will be fine.
And men, if you ever feel the urge to tell a girl or women to smile or cheer up, please don't. Someone else's happiness has absolutely nothing to do with you and unless you have done something funny we don't have to laugh!