It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little bit

Leave it to NPR to fixate on the dated wallpaper in the master bedroom while completely ignoring that the house is infested with termites and the foundation is sinking.  Surely one of the more noteworthy problems with corporate America is the dearth of Asians in upper management.  Just like the problem with the U.S. government is a lack of [insert minority of your choice] in prominent positions.  Because, as having our first black president has shown…well, okay, nevermind.  As I was saying, we’ve really got to do something about this bamboo ceiling thing.

The apparent reason for this critical shortage is that a lot of Asians aren’t properly acculturated.  For instance, they’re unaware that in America you don’t get ahead by doing your job well, but by kissing the boss’s ass.  There’s also something called the “Asian poker face.”  This refers to the tendency among many Asians to refrain from smiling for no reason, a habit that seems to unnerve the whitefolk, who were raised to believe that it’s normal to go around with a blank expression of joy on your face at all times.

This last bit really gets me.  I’m not Asian, but I’ve had that exact experience countless times in my life.  More people than I care to remember have told me that I need to smile more, that I’m too serious, too quiet, too whatever, as if these were diseases that needed to be cured.  I’ve had people tell me, after getting to know me, that they had thought that I had no personality, or that I was an asshole, or, in some cases, both.  I must have gotten the wrong message from this, though, because it never occurred to me that I needed to be coached in the art of smiling on command.  Instead, I came to the conclusion that these “all-American” types are either insecure children who need the constant reassurance of a smiling face, or else they’re petty authoritarians who’ve taken it upon themselves to police what they consider to be aberrant behavior, and, either way, that they weren’t worth wasting my time trying to impress.  Besides, they shouldn’t be encouraged.  The last thing we need are more hucksters trying to dazzle us with the whiteness of their teeth.

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4 thoughts on “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little bit

  1. ” Instead, I came to the conclusion that these “all-American” types are either insecure children who need the constant reassurance of a smiling face, or else they’re petty authoritarians who’ve taken it upon themselves to police what they consider to be aberrant behavior, and, either way, that they weren’t worth wasting my time trying to impress.”

    Sounds pretty familiar!

    Interesting how fully grown adults with sophisticated educational experience and fancy parchments can still be insecure children, isn’t it?

  2. I got that more times than I can remember as a kid. It’s slowed as I came into adulthood in the last years, but I imagine this might be at least somewhat a product of the relative forced politeness of adults (teasing is replaced by disapproving looks). Though I have made slight efforts toward smiling at people when applicable.

  3. I’ve been told the same thing, that I don’t smile enough, even had people asking me what’s wrong when nothing is, based entirely on them seeing me not wearing a perma-grin.

    I have also had people say when I DO smile — or gawd forbid, laugh — I come off as “creepy”.

    Solution: write it off as projection bias.

    • That’s great. I remember starting a new job years ago and not talking to anyone for two or three months. And when I finally did start hanging out with some people, one guy kept telling me (half jokingly) that he thought I was a serial killer. Honestly, the reactions of other people can be kind of amusing, when they’re not in your face obnoxious about it.

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