Friday, July 29, 2011

Worry If You Want To

Over at Shakesville, Melissa aptly noted:

"Telling people to 'smile' and/or 'laugh' is not, in fact, nice.

Telling people how to behave is an assertion of ownership; it is disdainful of individual agency, a failure to acknowledge boundaries and autonomy."

Some women are familiar with the phenomenon of random men commanding us to "smile" or "cheer up" whilst passing on the street. It's a small microaggression, but it's always been pretty annoying to me. Like, who the hell is some stranger to tell me how to feel or display my emotions? It's like some men don't realize that women are people with legitimate reasons to be feeling however it is we're feeling at the moment.

Anyway, when I read Melissa's post, I immediately thought of the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and realized that it has always bothered me on some level. It came out in 1988 and I remember it being on the radio a lot back then. I vaguely remember people wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan and a big yellow happy face.

These shirts, they taunted, "Oh, you're gay and your mom might hate you because of it? Don't worry...just be happy anyway and pretend your problems don't exist!"


And, if you listen to the lyrics, it's actually really condescending and is basically the song version of a dude commanding someone to "smile." A sample:

"Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
When you worry call me
I make you happy
Don't worry, be happy
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got not girl to make you smile
But don't worry be happy
Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don't worry, be happy (now).....

There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good little children."

Like, sometimes, we don't have to pretend that everything is fine if it's not, right? Being sad, unhappy, or worried is a regular part of the human experience and we should be able to have those feelings even if we run the grave risk of showing our frowny faces and being a buzzkill.

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