It’s funny the way it happens. It’s always the same and yet it always catches me by surprise. I’m at work, usually by the end of my shift. I smile, say hello, and ask if I can help them because it’s what anyone with a job dealing with the general public will tell you they’re trained to do. I’ve heard it a dozen different ways: “you should smile”, “you’re too pretty not to be smiling”, “you don’t look happy.”
         When I hear these words, it always takes me back. I could blame their comment on my chubby cheeks or the fact that I’m constantly reminded that I look younger than twenty-one. I could even blame it on the fact that I’m usually exhausted from the amount of human interaction my job demands and as an introvert it can be draining.
My blood boils as I reply to them politely, because I know that whatever excuse can be made for me not being up to their standard of happy is an insult to the way I simply exist. By saying these things to women, men are critiquing the way we present ourselves in even our work environment: somewhere that we should feel like our intellect outweighs the curve (or lack thereof) that our lips are positioned on our faces. I should explain that I say men because a woman has never said anything of this nature to me, and it has never crossed my mind. Ask yourself: why do only men feel it necessary to comment on a woman’s appearance even when it’s less appropriate in her place of work?

         So even when our guard is down and our main focus is getting through the work day without any setbacks, we are reminded that to some degree we are still second-class citizens only a step up from the vintage dolls our grandmothers collected. Reminded that no matter our IQ or educational pursuits, it will always be demanded that we be easy on the eyes above all eyes. Reminded that women are separated into two categories: smart or pretty. Emphasis on the “or.” Simply put: f we are seen as attractive, that must mean that’s our only shining attribute.
         Do not let them make you live under the assumption that you have to choose between the two. Better yet, don’t live on the belief that physical appearance for your fellow man is the epitome of your existence. Be kind because kindness should be effortless. Be smart because knowledge brings growth. Smile because you feel like it, not because a stranger believes they are deserving enough to demand a physical response from you. Do not tolerate this blatant sexism. We do not exist to please others but to live a life in which we are satisfied.