I’m not what one might call a smile-er. I’m generally a very happy person and pretty excited about life. It’s just that, if I’m not actually laughing, then I’m usually in some deep, consuming thought that leaves my “resting face” a little…. Indifferent, or often, intense. In my old age, I’ve become more aware of this and I’ll consciously make the decision to smile at opportune times, but most of the time, I’m in a whole other world, just enjoying the inside of my head. There is something about smiling that complete strangers feel comfortable criticizing each other about it or demanding it from one another passive-aggressively. The absolute worst is when someone I don’t know walks up to me and says, “You know, you’d be so much prettier if you’d smile.” Ugh. What possible progress could they think they are making with me? Is that supposed to make me happy? When I do actually get to know people, I usually hear this exact phrase: “Wow. You’re so nice. I thought you were a bitch when I first met you. Ha ha.” I was even almost fired on the first day of my job here in Los Angeles because I didn’t smile enough. I remember the first few months I worked there, my face would ache after shifts from smiling so much. It has been about a year and a half since my first day at that job and I will still have days when I leave and I have to massage my face while I drive home. So now because of this job, not only is smiling not a natural quality of mine, but it is a chore. That’s fine. I recognize its importance. The simple act of smiling can lift your mood and the mood of those around you. I’m all for smiles. But, sometimes, I just need a break. I look forward to letting my face just, rest. Today was one of those days.
Today started out great. I ate a healthy breakfast. I even went for a hike, which I haven’t done in a long time. The drive to work was totally free of traffic. I got to work with 5 minutes to spare. (This is rare. Usually, I’m running into work still fastening my belt and wiping the stains off of my shirt. I don’t like to waste a minute of time there that isn’t absolutely necessary.) Work was going really well. I was motivated, having fun with my co-workers, and I was smiling A LOT (so I thought) and it didn’t even hurt! I got done fairly early and was excited at the prospect of a work-free rest of the day. As I was leaving, my manager pulled me aside and said, “Hey, Andrea. You did great today. I’m really liking your leadership and communication skills with the team.” (Discussions with Managers usually start off this douchey, so I wasn’t alarmed.) “However, today I noticed your smile has faded a bit. Here, we like to maintain a positive mental attitude and…………” I didn’t hear much of what he said after that. I’m sure it was more brilliant, corporate rhetoric inspired by the BAFOONS who run the company. I was fuming! If there was ever a reason to not hate this job and to SMILE, he just squashed it a hundred times over. What did they want? Should I show more teeth?! Both rows?! Hell! I’ll even show gums if that’s what they want!! I CAN SHOW IT ALL BABY!! But, I said “Ok,” and I left.
My face had been through so much that day that I just let it do what it wanted on the drive back to West Hollywood. I puffed and stretched my cheeks as I filled my water bottles at the Aquafil. I tried to see how far I could suck in my lips between my teeth while I picked up my prescription at CVS. Then, I just let it all go as I walked up to Trader Joes to grocery shop. I was probably even drooling. Who cares? My face was relaxed and I was feeling great. As I approached, I noticed two youngsters with clipboards outside the store stopping people, asking them to donate to the Red Cross. ‘Oh no!’ I thought. This was a confrontation to dread later when I would be leaving. Of course I WANT to donate to the Red Cross. I just don’t want to do it today if requires me to talk to one of these kids. They were occupied with other patrons as I walked in, so I could only hope they would still be distracted as I left. I hoped this as I started to shop. By the time I was checking out, I had forgotten about all about the Red Cross. (I AM starting to see how this makes me seem like kind of a jerk, but you understand, right?) I enjoyed a small-talk free and practically smile-free check out experience (I wanted a break from smiling, but I’m not an animal.) I left with my parking validation, change, and receipt in hand. Before the automatic doors opened, I could see through the glass that the two volunteers were now unoccupied and waiting to pounce on their next victim. As I walked through the doors, a gust of wind hit me and I was fumbling to get the contents of my hands into my purse. I looked up, dreading the inevitable interaction. The girl volunteer looked at me and exclaimed, “Miss, you dropped something!!” I turned and looked all around. I probably dropped cash or even worse, my parking validation. I was quickly looking up and down, all around. The wind was really blowing and money could have been at stake! I saw nothing. As I turned back to grab my cart because it had started to roll away, she said laughingly, “you dropped your SMILE.” Still laughing, she pointed at me with a gotcha’ gun. A GOTCHA’ GUN.
I must say, I’m very proud of myself for not leaving with a handful of that little bitch’s hair.
The memory is a little blurry and in slow motion, but I think I knocked her clipboard out of her hand and gave her male counterpart a good glare as I walked by. I think they asked if I had a moment to talk about the good work of the Red Cross, but I did not respond. Years of experience has taught me that most of my initial reactions to these kinds of situations are of the “over” types. I just walked to my car with my hands gripped tightly on the handle of my cart. I took deep breaths and tried to sort through what she had just done to me and the irony of the whole situation. Not only had that volunteer made me dread the end of my shopping experience, then tricked me, making me look like an idiot in front of several strangers, but she had brought to my attention, a new, totally fucking annoying and NOT funny way to point out that I was NOT SMILING.
When I got home, I was still fuming and hoping that I could share every detail of this story with my boyfriend, but he wasn’t home. How unfortunate for him. I was met by my cat. I settled for venting to her and angrily said, “Everybody SUCKS today, Fitz!” She looked at me with the indifference one might expect. So, I smiled at her. Still, she was indifferent. She totally gets me.