“I’m fine!” Please Stop Asking!

THE fakest smile EVER!

THE fakest smile EVER!

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.

photo credits:
La Giconda

25 thoughts on ““I’m fine!” Please Stop Asking!

  1. Tabby says:

    “Smile! God woke you up this morning!”

    I don’t seem to recall him asking me to smile about it, though…


  2. […] “I’m fine!” Please Stop Asking! (javaj240.wordpress.com) […]


  3. Kate says:

    I used to be the non-smiley kinda person. I grew up w/a very bad set of teeth, then came the braces. Even after all the dental work, my smile is real crooked and goofy looking to me. I purposely made sure I never smiled much, even when I was happy. I just hated hearing the comments. And also hated when people begged me to smile. But as I’ve hit middle age and gained 3 lovely grandchildren, I’ve heeded their little pleas for grandma to “loosen up and have fun”. I realized they were getting the wrong impression and to them, they didn’t care about my malformed mouth. They just wanted to make grandma smile. So when they say “smile”…I do! And they do. And life is good.


    • javaj240 says:

      There are definitely things that can make me genuinely smile. I’m sure that someday grandchildren will be one of them!


  4. javaj240 says:

    You are, sincerely, welcome!


  5. peachyteachy says:

    I believe that you are the first person who has ever extended the implied permission not to smile. There’s a lot of cultural guilt attached to not activating all of those endorphins that miraculously accompany smiling. I sincerely thank you.


  6. I think this is why you like Bency so much. Okay, I realize he’s 5 but his demeanor is identical to yours and I don’t see it ever changing. He rarely smiles and he is extremely serious, philosophical and snarky. A few weeks as I was tucking him into bed I asked him if he was happy. He said he was. I then asked him if he was the happiest kid in the world. He looked at me in a puzzled manner and said, “How the heck would I know that? Do you think I know every kid in the world? If I had to guess I would save I’m the 10th happiest kid in the world.”


  7. Feeling self-conscious about not smiling might be the problem. Isn’t it kind of sexy? I don’t remember too many marlin brando obvious smiles. Obviously mad-dancing is great as it s
    does not involve pre-conceptions about what we’re supposed to be. I work in a field where i can actualy feel compassion for people, so smiling is a way of saying ‘there’s hope’, even if at a human level.


    • javaj240 says:

      I guarantee you that I would smile compassionately if the situation called for it. I can’t muster up a whole lot of compassion for the idiot who ordered and got French fries, but is now insisting that he ordered a sweet potato. I’ll fix his problem, not because I have compassion for him, but because I don’t want to listen to him. Oh, and I’ll do it while I fakely smile.


  8. I would prefer someone to give me their genuine attention than to be distracted by putting on a fake smile. People can tell if its not genuine anyway. Just be yourself and get them talking about themselves. That should put everyone at ease. You have a wonderful sense of humor….so I suspect the smile is just internal. 😉


    • javaj240 says:

      It is my sense of humor that gets me through the day. Seriously.

      And, I agree with you… people know the difference between the “fake” smile vs. the genuine article. Still, I am often forced to go with the former.


  9. Made me smile, I have a sister who all through her life got people, stranger’s even coming up to her and telling her to smile. Great funny read enjoyed it very much


  10. javaj240 says:

    You strike me as one of those “natural” smilers, LOL! At least for folks like you, the exuberant among us, your not smiling may actually indicate a problem… not so with me! I will never be accused of too much smiling.

    I will mad-dance with you anytime. And, I’ll probably be smiling if I’m with you!


  11. Great post. People are always on me if I’m not smiling. Because I am naturally such an extroverted, energetic person, any time that I’m less than OMG THE WORLD IS AMAZEBALLS!!11!11! people assume that I’m in some kind of depressive state. It’s pretty exhausting.

    I also want to mad-dance with you. And I wont mind if you don’t smile. 🙂


  12. Jackie, you sound a lot like me (except that, fortunately for all concerned, I don’t work in a field that demands the constant smiley-face). My most natural expression is what I think of as “neutral” or “thoughtful,” but apparently it comes across to some as “scowling.” It’s frustrating to be told, “You look mad,” when in fact I’m just working out a knitting problem, or writing a blog post in my head.
    Thanks for articulating this!


    • javaj240 says:

      Yes. Yes. A thousand times, “Yes”. I say, “I’m fine. Just thinking.” a lot!!!

      This post was inspired by an experience I had yesterday with two complete and utter assholes. My boss told me that if I actually attempted to “feel” my fake smile, these idiots would have been happier with me.(They wouldn’t have. They lied through their teeth about their “horrible” experience to get a free meal. I knew it. My boss knew it.)So, I smiled AS I called him an idiot. I think that was pretty nice of me.


  13. alaskachick says:

    THANK you!! LOL, I cracked up all throughout reading this post! Yes, yes, yes! My response is usually “Talk to my Mom, it’s the face I was born with!” Seriously!!
    ~ I remind myself of this though, because it really is annoying I agree, they ask because they really do care (mostly)… so don’t go bonking them on the head (even in your mind) and just keep telling them “I’m fine!”
    Cracked me up, (still laughing…inside of course!), so thank you.


    • javaj240 says:

      I have NEVER “bonked” anyone on the head. I have thought about it, though. I’ve definitely thought about it. LOL! I don’t think I can give up thinking about such things — those thoughts make me happy!


  14. Rick says:

    Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!


  15. Ginger Kay says:

    I’m not a smiley face person, either, and I hate those, “Smile!” commands. Nothing makes me feel less like smiling than being ordered to do it.


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