Saturday, September 05, 2009

Smiles aren't cheap.

When I'm walking by myself in public, I have often been stopped by (older) men who tell me that I need to smile. It's already happened to me twice this week, once by the guy manning the elevators at the Empire State Building (I'm getting my tourist jolleys out before work begins) and on the packed subway on a Friday evening, by a man who I assume is a dock worker, because he was wearing a union shirt. (YEAH THE WIRE!)

"Smile. Life ain't that rough." "Girl, the day's over! Smile!" Sometimes, it's just, "Smile."

When I was working at Starbucks, years ago, I was praised as a fine barista. The one time I was criticized was when the manager talked to me saying that I need to smile more and be cheerful to the customers and ask how they're doing. I didn't know that I wasn't smiling, and all I wanted to do was get the customers their coffee as quickly as they wanted it to be done.

Whenever I'm told to show my pearly whites, I'm always caught by surprise, because the advice implies that I was in a foul mood. I never am, at least, I never am when I'm told to smile. I suppose I look like the crabbiest girl on the street when I'm not conscious about emotions.

I started thinking about how I must look to strangers, and the type of first impression I give off and how unapproachable I must be. (Although, I frankly would not like to be approached by the type of people who feel inclined to tell me that I need to lighten up.) Then, I started thinking about why it's expected that I smile, and realized that it's because I'm a short and unthreatening-looking kind of girl (until the see my biceps), and because I'm meant to be the mascot-like persona that these people like.

It's a little step further than what these men must have meant, but I resent it. First, you would never tell men that they need to smile more. They're allowed to be non-bubbly. They're allowed to be jerks and assholes without a whole lot of repercussion, except money and power. Second, women are expected to be full of emotions, even if they have nothing to be emote about, especially when the sole objective on their mind is to get from point A to point B. Third, smiling takes an extra muscle on your cheeks! It's actually a movement that doesn't need to be repeated when not provoked. There's value to it, and it doesn't need to be whored out.

I'm less emotive than some but I'm not an ice queen. I have been told that I am a personable, likable, but calm person. I cry at some movies, but I hate romance movies, and reading Twilight only left me with a shrug, and an "eh", but Harry Potter Book 6 left me with clammy hands and a block in my throat.

I feel I ration my smiles appropriately, and that it should not be expected, especially if I don't know you, and I don't intend on knowing you. My smiles are saved for the appropriate occasions, and they are appreciated and I appreciate it because of it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Body Type"

I generally do not like and female-geared fitness magazines.

I mainly don't like them, because a) I don't care/know a whole lot about skin care and expensive fashion and b) their health/nutrition advices are regurgitated over and over again.

My old roommate P subscribed to Men's Health, and I often found myself more interested in what was written in there than other magazines like Shape. However, for Christmas, I decided to try out their female counterpart Women's Health as a gift subscription, to see if I'd find it equally worth my time.

Sadly, (although better than a lot of others) I rarely found information in there that enlightened me. HOWEVER, there was one thing that I noticed one day which put Women's Health in the realm of publication that I can mildly appreciate. That, my friend, is the addition of "Athletic Build" in their "Body Type" category.


You know the body types that magazine feature some times. "Boyish", "Curvy", "Pear-shaped", etc etc. They often use it as a basis of what you should wear to hide your flaws and flaunt your best features. I'm sure many people, including myself, didn't fit in any one of those. There are usually only about 3-4 options, and you can't categorize American women figures into 4 types.

My issue was always, the following: I was way too bulky for "Boyish", I didn't have enough boobs for "Curvy", and I was an upside-down "Pear-shaped". I had wide shoulders and a narrower waist. Hence, I was man-ish. I was a swimmer for a good part of my life! My shoulders are broad and my arms are a forced to be reckoned with. At my farewell luncheon, a co-worker had praised me, stating that I was "not only the strongest woman in the office, but one of the strongest people."

So, when I saw this and their bathing suite guide last month, and was pleasantly surprised with the addition. Until this point, I kind of considered my features man-ish (as I just mentioned), but I like the newer label of "Athletic". That's right, bitches! My arms swim, and my legs ran a marathon. It's a good thought.

It's a struggle enough for everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin, as it is for me, even now. But when a publication recognizes something you thought was not common, it's kinda nice, no? I'm still on the fence about categorizing your body type in general, but Women's Health receives some kudos for representing an often ignored one. That's better than most.