smiles and shaving

I shaved my head a few weeks back. It’s been a mixed experience.

I love how I look, mostly.
I love how it feels.
I love that it has simplified my morning routine from deciding to do nothing about my hair, to being unable to do anything so not even having to make that decision.
I love that I disrupt everyone’s view of what mamas, what nice ladies, what women, look like.
I love the way the water falls on my head during a shower.
I love the tactile sense of my scalp being rubbed.
I don’t love just how aware I am of the fear smile now though. You know the one, when you run into a man and you’re not expecting it so that lizard primate brain in the back of your head makes you show your teeth in a mixture of fear and defiance. I know what it feels like, smiling like that. And now I know what it looks like from the outside, watching the woman I run into in the bathroom fearsmile at me until she parses that I’ve got tits, or a dress, or lady-plucked brow shape, or whatever other set of signifiers she uses for ‘woman’.
I don’t love feeling that on my face, like some sort of backwards body awareness therapy, when I smile at the guys in the elevator. When I smile at the bad joke someone tells. When I smile through the sheer agony of someone dismissing my life’s work with ‘yeah, well, it’s about being professional’. When I smile because the other alternative is resting bitch face* and ‘why are you so cold’.
But I’m tired of smiling being the reward but also the expectation. I smiled, so whatever else happened was okay. As if this weren’t drilled into me from childhood, the years of ‘smile, you’re so pretty’ and ‘stop crying’ and ‘cheer up things aren’t so bad’ and ‘you’re so pretty when you smile’ and ‘smile’ and ‘stop frowning’ and all those demands. I’ve let the world take my smiles from me, make them meaningless.

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