I recently reread Amy Poehler’s “YES PLEASE” to get a break from the non-stop barrage of whatever passes for reality these days. It’s a fun read; she’s honest and hilarious and inspiring and wonderful. And it tickles me to no end that both she and Tina Fey use the same expression when recounting situations where they were powerless to do or say anything in the face of life’s assholery. They both said all they could do was “smile like a flight attendant.”
As a career sky waitress, it’s always satisfying to feel like people GET IT.
When I’ve been in depression’s death grip in the past, I was told to “SMILE!” at work on a fairly regular basis. And although the passengers I see are all shapes and sizes, genders and ethnicities, a true cross section of what America is comprised of, the demographic of the person instructing me to fix my face was always the same. Always the middle aged or older white dude, usually dressed in Dockers and a casual Friday polo shirt, often sporting a smug look of their own.
Really, I get it. We all want our customer service professional to be warm and receptive and greet us with an expression that indicates that they have nothing on their minds besides fulfilling our every want and desire. I also take notice when my cashier at the Trader Joe’s seems a bit surly. But I also recognize that perhaps my cashier may have just broken up with her boyfriend or girlfriend, she may have had to report to work after holding her mom’s hand while she went through chemo, or she may just be concentrating REALLY HARD on ringing up my dark chocolate peanut butter cups correctly and THAT IS HER AUTHENTIC FUCKING FACE for that moment in time. She doesn’t need to put on a show for me, as long as she is doing her job. I often want to say to the dudes who have all the face advice that they shouldn’t worry, my bitchy resting face does not mean I will not be quick like a bunny to get them a Dewar’s and water and some more nuts. But I don’t say it, of course. I’m too busy pouring the Dewar’s and water, aka DOING MY JOB.
Why do I think it’s only this select group of dudes who always have to share their two cents worth in regards to turning my frown upside down? Not totally sure, but it appears that the rest of the population, aka everyone who is not a middle class middle aged white dude, are busy taking care of their own lives, lives where they understand what it feels like to be marginalized to some degree. Perhaps everyone else just inherently understands that although the airplane certainly leans towards being pink collar, it’s not a geisha house and telling someone else what to do with their face is some privilege flavored fuckery.
My intent is not to use this space to go all man hater on you. I recognize most dudes I come in contact with are perfectly pleasant to be around. Perhaps you’re thinking I should lighten up. Perhaps I should and perhaps I will. I mean, these folks don’t mean any harm, right? Agreed. But might I suggest the next time you encounter someone and feel the urge to tell them to SMILE, that you instead offer them something to SMILE about. Tell them they have a great haircut or a cute sweater or whatever seems like a genuine and positive observation to make. Say “thank you” like you mean it, and take your peanut butter cups and be on your merry way. BE PART OF THE SMILE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE SMILE PROBLEM.
Just a thought. Enjoy your day by sporting whatever kind of face suits you.