An Open Letter to Steve on the Dating App Hinge, Who Told Me to Smile More

I’ll admit, I don’t usually enjoy unsolicited advice, but there was something about yours that was different.
Publish date:
November 1, 2016
online dating, dating apps, smile more

Dear Steve:

First, I want to thank you for your support and encouragement. You don’t know me at all — like, at all! — and yet, you took a moment out of your busy day to try to help me. Your profile suggests that you are a psychiatrist in private practice, so your days are no doubt lousy with women who actually pay you for such deep insight. I don’t know what I did to deserve your pro bono services, but again, thank you.

Anyway, you’re right. I don’t smile much in my pictures. I was actually born with a rare genetic disorder that makes it impossible for me to smile. JK! That was sarcasm. Oh god, I should probably also try to be a little less sarcastic, huh? I bet my sarcasm falls into that same bucket of boner killers where my inability to smile — or even smize — currently resides. (I should probably also stop saying “boner killers.” It’s not very ladylike. Point taken, Steve.)

I’ll admit, I don’t usually enjoy unsolicited advice, but there was something about yours that was different. Maybe it’s how advice-y it was. Or, maybe it was the unsolicited-y-ness of it. I think mostly it’s that I dig where you’re coming from, Steve: You didn’t say it outright, but I know what you’re telling me is that I’ll probably never find a man if I don’t smile more.

If I don’t look more welcoming and happy, how will a guy feel secure enough to approach me? How will he feel safe and supported? I probably look a little aggressive in those photos, right? I’ve heard that before, Steve. My eyebrows are kind of naturally arched? So I always look a little bit angry? Which must be terrifying? (I’ve been told that phrasing statements as questions can do a lot to take the edge off, so as not to unintentionally traumatize you. I hope it’s working?)

I don’t want you to feel like you’re not unique and special (Steve, you are!), but other men have told me to smile. Once, I was in a store, and, I don’t know, I guess I was focused on shopping or something crazy like that, because a guy who worked there walked right up to me and said, “You’re going to have to smile sometime.” And you know what? He was right — at least ever since they passed that law about women needing to look happy all the time. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s not just smiling that’s a problem for me. Men also sometimes tell me to relax or calm down, and I usually don’t like that either, but now I realize that they’re trying to help me. Just like you are, Steve. And again, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. Sometimes I think I don’t say thank you enough, to men in particular, so I’m trying.

It’s weird, actually, when I stop and think about life before I met you. (It’s so hard for me to even imagine, Steve.) I’m the editor in chief of a magazine and website; I have a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of science and a master of fine arts. I’ve interviewed some of the most fascinating people on the planet, including St. Vincent, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, and Sarah Jessica Parker. (Do they smile enough? Wait, sorry, this is about you and me, Steve. Jeepers, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused!) I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like I’ve accomplished a surprising amount without knowing you. And now I’m wondering how I did that.

OK, OK, you’re right: The one glaring omission in my picture of success is a relationship. (God, Steve, you can read me like a book.) It’s true: You and I met on a dating app, so I’m clearly single. (I can only imagine that you’re on Hinge accidentally, as you seem to smile all the time.) And, right again, Steve, my history with men has had its ups and downs: Bad boyfriends I stuck with for too long, good ones I didn’t appreciate enough. None of my exes have cited my inability to smile as a reason for our breaking up, but now I’m wondering if they just didn’t possess your courage. In fact, I wonder if my not always looking happy and pleasant and good is not only what drove them away but also what made it impossible for them to tell me that’s what was driving them away. Oh man, meta, huh?

Wow, Steve, just getting this all off my chest makes me feel so much better. I can feel myself getting healthier by the second. Hang on, it actually makes me want to smile. Was that your secret plan this whole time? It was, wasn’t it! I’m wagging my finger at you right now in a joking, not-too-aggressively-sexual, not-at-all-threatening way, Steve.

Anyway, you’re a really good listener. Trust me when I say that my I am smiling so big right now that my face is positively in agony. Thanks for all the support, and good luck on Hinge. Not that you need it!!!