I am a fairly happy person. Sure, I have complaints. Who doesn’t? What I am NOT, however, is a big smiler.
Perhaps it’s genetic, but smiling just doesn’t come all that naturally to me. Contrary to what some people may think, given that I’m not a natural-born smiler and that smiling is equated with happiness, I actually am a relatively content person. That I have to work at it — the smiling thing — is mildly annoying, but I’m used to it.
Seriously. I have to will myself to do it. I have to become conscious of pulling my facial muscles in an upward direction. Some days I feel like someone should come running up to me, you know, with a bouquet of roses and award me the Daytime Emmy for my efforts in this area. So far this hasn’t happened, but I live in constant hope that it will. Maybe tomorrow.
It’s difficult, more difficult than the easy smiler can imagine, to plaster on the fake smile. I’d prefer to show happiness in ways that I’m more comfortable with, like a little “soft shoe” or something equally wacky, thank you very much. And I’m happy enough, often enough. For the love of God, I would really love it if people would STOP commanding me to “smile”! Even better would be if they could refrain from asking me, “What’s the matter?” Ninety-nine times out of a hundred my answer is going to be, “Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” Because I am. Really. I swear.
For the record, I do not wander through life mopey and dejected. Sometimes I do. You know, when I FEEL mopey and dejected. That’s not very often, though.
If you ask me, my countenance is more “thoughtful” than it is “stony”. I don’t run around scowling, just for the sake of scowling. Sometimes, though, there’s something to scowl about, particularly in my line of work. Do I need to elaborate on THAT? I thought not.
I don’t often feel angry. Annoyed? Sure. Yes. Absolutely. Angry? Not so much.
Can I go from annoyed to angry if the situation calls for it? You betcha! Admit it — so can you.
Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first), but I prefer legitimate emotion — even mild annoyance or downright anger — to phoniness of any kind.
Unfortunately, I work in an industry that reveres a sunny disposition. Demands it even. So, I do what I have to do. I smile for the camera, so to speak. It’s my “front of house” demeanor — friendly and upbeat. Different, by a long shot, from my “back of house” demeanor, which is more along the lines of snarky and exasperated. More the “real” me.
It’s the strangest thing, though — I actually FEEL happier in the back of the house. Even though it’s very likely that I’m not grinning ear to ear, once in a while you’ll even catch me dancing. Yes. I can dance WITHOUT smiling. I know. It’s a gift. I think, and I’m no behaviorist, but I really do believe that I FEEL happiest (even if I don’t LOOK it) when I’m allowed to be who I am.
Sometimes I can slip into my genuine personality with my guests — the ones that know me well. And, guess what? They like me better this way, too. I put them at ease. I make them laugh. With them, I have developed a deeper and more honest relationship. Always a good thing.
I find it far more relaxing to behave naturally. And I understand that smiling does indeed come naturally to some people. I’m just not one of them. (I’m no born dancer, either!)
The next time that you assume that someone is unhappy just because they haven’t pasted on the fake “front of house” smile, understand that you might be wrong about that. Dead wrong. If you have an opportunity to spend any time at all getting to know them, you might just discover that they even enjoy dancing.
I know this may be difficult, but please DO try to resist the urge to constantly harangue them with questions like, “Are you okay?” or “What’s the matter?” Unless they are visibly upset (shedding tears, keening, banging their heads against hard surfaces), it may very well be that they are just not born smilers. Live with it.