Isn’t that the opening to great story? One that is either wonderful, hilarious or horrifying depending on where you stand.
This past weekend there was a lot of talk on my social media feed about feminism, catcalling, objectification and friendzoning. One article in particular brought me back to a very uncomfortable memory.
This article: Reasons a Catcall is not a Compliment
Now, here is what happened (and once in a blue still happens) to me…
There is a guy (man actually, much older than me) that works at my job but in a different department. He frequents my department often as his job requires him to. He also tends to be at the door every morning when I come into work and every morning comments on whether or not I am smiling.
Now I love smiling. I love it. I love that often I walk through the hallways at my job and by simply smiling at people I can (and have) changed peoples expressions from distraction/sadness to joy (even the smallest amount of joy). I love doing this. There is nothing like seeing someone nervously waiting outside a medical office and be surprised and happy that a staff member walking by looked them in the eye and smiled. It takes me back sometimes. It’s sad how often we overlook and disregard the people passing by us.
Anyway, the problem wasn’t being complimented on smiling until the smiling became demanded of me and not just once but several times every single day. Particularly first thing before even stepping foot in the building. It’s not a secret I have been dealing with anxiety and my job has been a leading cause of it. So it’s not too surprising when I say I go through periods of complete dread at walking in the door. During those times, I am probably not smiling. Plus this person has no idea what could have been happening in my life. Nor did he inquire.
Everyone has bad days. Everyone.
This does not mean that I (or anyone else) am obligated to smile to anyone. I am not here to improve your day because you want me to. However if this was a customer this would be a bit different.
So this is how it went…
Him: “Where is my first smile of the day?”
Me: [frowns, turns face away from him, attempts to rush through the door] "Grrrr"
Him: “My day is ruined now because you won’t smile for me anymore!”
This turned into me fake smiling and then not wanting to do that as this person pestered me several times a day. I don’t like fake smiling. It’s not natural and it makes me feel horrible.
This then became a public harassment. I didn’t realize it at the time. I knew I was uncomfortable and I couldn’t get over why I couldn’t just smile and shut him up. It made me feel awful that I was more likely to vomit then answer this simple (seemingly non evasive) request.
He would make sure everyone in the area knew I would not smile, grimaced around him and that he was upset by it. He used his request and his denial as a way to embarrass and shame me into smiling for him.
He finally gave up and then I accidentally smiled at him in the hallway one day (as I generally smile at everyone) and he started again. Then gave up again and then got me while I was going on break in front of a bunch of my coworkers and attempted to call me out and shame me on no longer smiling for him which only embarrassed and angered me. He hasn’t since but I am fairly certain it will happen again.
I know this sounds ridiculous, because seriously it’s just smiling. However, the fact that one day I didn’t want to and it became an issue for this person is the problem. Smiling is something people do because they want to. It’s something we give to each other that’s free and uplifts people and should never be demanded of a person.
This person is not a friend and not a family member. He isn’t even my coworker. I do not owe this person ANYTHING and it is NOT my responsibility to make his day better. I walk around and smile at people all day long and if they don’t smile back I don’t get upset about it and when I am having a bad day people usually ask me what’s wrong and let it go if I choose not to respond. They do not demand I change my emotions for them and because of that we get along pretty well.
Seriously though, if someone doesn’t want to do something for you (this applies to men and women) attempting to force them to do it is not the way to go about it. I still do not understand this person’s obsession with my emotions. The funny thing is he never once asked if something was wrong and honestly I know it’s because this has nothing to do me and everything to do with unhealthy control issues. Nothing I want anything to do with and I bet you do not either.