Lilly’s Blog: Sad Girls Finish Last

By | June 9th, 2010 | 9 comments

No one likes a sad girl. Think about the quiet girl in middle school, the sweet girl who was slow to smile. Was she sad because she had no friends? Or did she not have friends because she was sad? I believe melancholy young women make others uncomfortable because being sad, genuinely unhappy, is a denial of a profound message sent to girls.

It is not easy to be around unhappy people, regardless of their age or gender. But girls are expected to be sugar-and-spice, daily cheerleaders and little angels. The pressure faced by girls to be perpetually sunny is so intense that gloomy girls are met with intolerance.

I was not the happiest of campers in middle school. I vividly remember being badgered by my gym teacher: “Smile, Lilly! Smile! Smile!” It was a daily routine. Until I forced a smile, the well meaning yet misguided man would not leave me alone. I was not looking for sympathy; I was not looking for attention. But attention is what I got. Peers and teachers alike openly expressed their exasperation with my introversion.

I didn’t get it, why was my seriousness so offensive? What rule was I breaking?

Meanwhile, the popular girls around me giggled, shrieked and guffawed about nothing in particular. The stupidest joke made by a friend or a boy would send one of them into hysterics, and much like the hyenas in the Lion King, soon the rest would be LOLing, ROFLing* what have you.

In retrospect, I understand why middle school girls laugh at everything and anything, never stop smiling and always keep the conversation light. They’re adhering to a cardinal Good Girl rule, a code I unknowingly overlooked: the comfort of others comes first.

Like I said earlier, it is difficult to be around introverted, sad people. One must then deal with the messy emotions of concern, sympathy and empathy. It is far easier to be in the company of cheerful youngsters. And no one does cheerful like a popular middle school girl. She has perfected the act. People enjoy being around her because her predictably sunny outlook puts them at ease. Those around her can rest assured; she will always laugh at their jokes. No matter if she finds them funny, her laughter makes the comedian feel safe and that is paramount.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being happy, emotive and bubbly. For the record, since adopting a more optimistic outlook in high school, I am no longer such a morose bookworm. But there is something to be said for the fact that, as early as middle school, girls begin to do what feels comfortable for others, and not what feels comfortable to them. It starts with pretending to be happy on a bad day. But it leads to laughing at joke even though you actually find it offensive. It leads to letting someone’s hand stay on your arm even though you feel unsafe. It leads to losing touch with the internal voice, the emotional intuition that tells us how we truly feel. So while others tell you to cheer up, I say cheer up…if you want to.

*For those of you who are abbreviation illiterate (it’s okay, no need to be ashamed):
LOL-Laugh out loud
ROFL-Rolling on the floor laughing

Lilly is a high school senior and guest blogger for Read more about her here.

9 Responses to “Lilly’s Blog: Sad Girls Finish Last”

  • Kirsty says:

    What a spot on blog, I remember being that quiet girl in school and know one, mainly other kids at school got me. I was labelled ‘shy’ and people were always amazed when I said something classed as out of character. I just want to say I admired this blog, I only wish I had read this when I was at school.

  • lynn says:

    Thank you! Amazing post!

  • Alexia says:

    I definitely agree with all you’ve said. I was unfortunately born of a mother who blamed everything on me, screamed at me and called me names (Yea.), and for the longest time I thought I was the problem. So I rarely, if ever, smiled.

    Instead of asking me why I was so glum, Every. Single. Adult around me would go out of their way to chide me because I wasn’t a super-smiley bubble. They would blame me for “being so difficult”. They practically abandoned me when I needed help the most. Of course, the people my age weren’t so nice.

  • Judy says:

    Lilly, you have learned a very valuable lesson and will be a much more compassionate person than many. The PE teacher made those comments because he didn’t know how to deal with his discomfort. What was easier for him, to learn to acknowledge your personality or to tell you indirectly that you were the problem? The answer is obvious to me. I grew up with a mother who always said…”if only you would just be like your brothers, why do you insist on being so different?” She never acknowledged who I was or how I felt because it was too hard and too uncomfortable for her. I am 55 years old and she is no longer here, I still feel like that child. Our society needs to be more accepting and compassionate. Thank you for your blog.

  • Lilly — excellent blog. As someone who is an extrovert and generally a “sunny” person……it REALLY upsets me when I’m geniunely sad and people try to cheer me up. I don’t want to be “cheered” up because I need to work through my sadness and be with it. It amazes me how uncomfortable people can be with sadness and even more so, with profound sadness (like a parent dying….). The questions (2-3 months after a parent dying) — “how are you doing? back to normal?” I won’t go any further, but a “spot on” blog. thank you

    • Lilly says:

      Hi Maureen,
      Thank you for reminding us that is not only habitually introverted girls who are asked to cheer up. We all have rough days, a reality that is not easily accepted by those who expect girls to be perpetually sunny!

  • Rosa says:

    I totally feel where Lily is coming from. I have perfected the act of being Mary Sunshine all day, everyday, even when my heart is breaking and my life is in the toilet because that’s what good girls do. In high school, I remember having those days when I just wanted to wear my hood down over my eyes and be alone, but everyone was so used to me being their own personal ray of sunshine that I had to force a smile and put on a show. Some days I would come home exhausted just from smiling! And, now I feel pressured at 30 to laugh at my boss’s lame jokes and so on because of what I learned as a teenager. But, I am happy to say that I am snapping out of it and learning it’s ok to just be what I feel at that moment. I have 2 daughters, one who is almost 10 (double digits…yikes!), and I have to catch myself from snapping at them to put a smile on their face. Thank you, Lily for reminding me to check myself on that!

  • JenR says:

    I am moved every time I read Lilly’s blog entries. She’s absolutely right — it says something about the teacher who tried to make her smile, but the message she got was that it was her problem, not his. I remember being a melancholy middle school girl, and my dad used to say, “What do you have to cry about? I’m the one with the mortgage payments.” So I get he was under stress, but it shouldn’t have undercut my emotional life.

    Now I have a middle school daughter, and I will admit that life is easier when she’s sunny and cheerful. But it’s much more interesting when she’s whatever she’s feeling, and I hope I can let her be the way I want others to let me be. We’re all entitled to our emotional life.

  • Mandie says:

    Wow, I totally agree with everything here. People always notice when you look “sad”….and sometimes I’m not neccesarily sad, I just don’t have anything to particullary be happy about – I’m nuetral. But it doesn’t seem to be acceaptable.

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