One thing men should not do is tell a woman to smile. If you see a woman by herself and she's not smiling, don't tell her to smile or cheer up. Ever. It's intrusive and rude, and you're overstepping the bounds of propriety.
Because she may not want to smile at that moment. She may be concentrating. She may be reading. She may be dealing with some bad news. She may even be thinking, "I hope this mouth breather doesn't tell me to smile."
There's a reason she's not smiling, and that reason is none of your business.
It's not up to you to monitor the mood and happiness of strangers. You don't need to tell them how to feel. You're not the Happiness Whisperer. And you're not a trained joyologist which apparently is a real thing.
I know, I know, you're only trying to help. You like to see people happy, and you want to spread joy and sunshine and rainbows. I don't blame you. We could all use a lot more of that. But it's not necessarily wanted, or at least they don't want it from you.
There are times I enjoy feeling a little maudlin, especially on a gray autumn day. I just want to putter around the garage and embrace this feeling. And I don't want some Happiness Scold pestering me to "Cheer up! Smile! You look prettier when you smile."
Mostly because no one has ever called me pretty. Manly and rugged, yes. Constantly, in fact. But not pretty. Regardless, I don't want someone to tell me to feel a different way than what I'm feeling now. It's none of their business.
Think about it: Would you like it if strangers regularly told you to smile or cheer up? How would you feel if they didn't like the look on your face and told you to change it? Wouldn't you be annoyed if someone stomped into your life and told you to feel a different way?
You'd leap to your feet and stab your finger at them. "Don't you tell me what to do!" you'd shriek. "Who are you to tell me how to feel? Of all the unmitigated gall—!" and you'd rage on for a good ten minutes.
Of course, you wouldn't actually do that because you're a good person. But no one would blame you if you did.
That's what happened with the last person you told to smile: they wanted to shout at you to mind your own business, but they didn't. Remember that the next time you're on self-appointed smile patrol.
It's not just happening in the real world, though. Everyone is getting it from the Happiness Scolds on social media these days. All their toxic positivity is cluttering up my social feeds, telling me to cheer up because things could be worse, tomorrow's a new day, and I'm not allowed to feel sad.
"Today has been a really tough day. I lost my job, my car got stolen, and my house burned down."
"Oh, cheer up, buckaroo! It could be worse! When the universe closes a door, it opens a window. We're just going to be loving on ya!"
"What does any of that mean? Why didn't the universe open up another door? Why would you love on me? That sounds awkward and creepy."
Happiness Scolds never let you feel your feelings. They constantly try to make you feel better by spouting platitudes emptier than a pie plate the day after Thanksgiving.
To the Happiness Scold, there's always some bright side you weren't looking on. No matter how things are, they don't want to let you have those terrible, awful feelings that every normal human being has. It's their loving mission to joyfully stamp out sadness in all its wretched forms. It's gotten so I can't even share anything that's not 100% positive and joyful. It's like being in a cult with Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
And they're helped out by the At Leasts. The ones who tell you that, no matter how bad you have it, they or someone they know had it worse, so your feelings aren't actually valid, and you should just shut the hell up.
"My mom just died."
"At least you still have your dad. You should be thankful for that."
"My dad died ten years ago.*"
"At least you got to spend time with your parents. I never knew my parents, I was raised by wolves."
(*Note: This is not a real conversation. My dad is fine.)
People need to process their emotions. Some do it in private, and some like to do it publicly on social media. I don't know why. Maybe they want to feel seen. Or they want people to know that they're in pain, but they're not going to let it stop them from living. Or maybe they're just attention seekers who feed off the drama.
Whatever the reason, it's not up to us to fix them or cheer them up. They don't need inspirational quotes and Bible verses to tell them their feelings are wrong, misguided, or a minor inconvenience.
If someone is feeling sad, let them feel sad. Don't try to cheer them up, don't try to make them feel better. And never, ever tell them to smile. No one wants that kind of interference.
But they do want ice cream. Because I'm feeling a little down, and I need a pint of peanut butter and chocolate, stat!
Photo credit: The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959 (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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