“You should smile more,” my husband, Alex, said.
My inner feminist reared up. How dare you, I thought. Next you’re going to tell me I’m shrill. Women have been told to smile for generations. I don’t owe you a smile.
I thought about whipping off my bra and burning it with the vanilla candle on the kitchen counter, but decided he’d like watching that too much. No free boobs for you, mister.
“Why don’t you make me smile. Be funnier,” I shot back. I stared at this man I’ve known for 24 years, this man who up until two seconds ago was a better feminist than I was. What was he thinking?
My husband wanted me to smile more. I glared at him defensively, gathering my words for what was sure to be a scintillating take-down of The Patriarchy, and then I saw his face. This face I’ve loved for over half my life, beard now speckled with gray, same twinkly blue eyes, with more crinkles at the corners. He looked … vulnerable. I sent an order to missile command to stand down.
I realized he wasn’t saying women in general should smile more; he was asking his wife and best friend to show happiness at his presence. He needed to know I could still light up around him after 20 years of matrimony.
This wasn’t a “women should smile” thing. This was he missed me smiling at him. Somewhere along the way I’d stopped smiling.
How did this happen? I host a podcast called Lighten Up, for crap’s sake. I was all about finding the humor in life and cultivating a home filled with laughter. Yet lately I walked around the house with murder face looking like I would bludgeon my loved ones any second. I love you, but if you leave your plate in the sink again I will shiv you in your sleep.
I wanted to argue and tell him he could suck it, but I really do love this guy so I decided to try. I’d reserve my best resting bitch face for the world outside, but at home, I’d try smiling
I started breaking into cheesy smiles randomly in the middle of breakfast or when I walked into his office to tell him something. My face can go from Batman to full Jim Carrey in the blink of an eye, so the sudden full-blown smiles made him crack up. He laughed, which turned my performance smile into a real one.
I started taking grinning selfies and texting them to him randomly. I’d send him one, then from the other room I’d hear him laugh. I’d smile at my phone.
My mom had a saying hanging in her kitchen when I was a kid. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s true, and a little terrifying, the power I have as wife and mom. When I glare, everyone around me gets somber and skittish.
As I’m remembering to smile more, my kids are more relaxed, everyone is lighter and funnier, and we all feel safer together. I mean, am I on a smile-induced power trip right now? Maybe? I’ve weaponized my smiles and unleash them when my family least expects them. BAM! They get a smile. My smile makes them nervous. KEEP READING