And don’t forget to smile!

Materials: found cotton doily; embroidery thread
Dimensions: 41cm x 41cm

While going through my mother’s things recently I found an apology letter I wrote to her in 1992—age 16—after I had, according to the letter, behaved disrespectfully towards her. It is a sweet letter from an earnest teenager. The letter ends wishing my mother a nice day at work, plus the postscript, “And don’t forget to smile!”. 30 years on, and I am all in a tangled mess over this encounter with my teenage self. On first discovering the letter, I found the remark funny, but then I was more than a little concerned that this 16-year girl felt so compelled to remind her mother to smile in public. The repetitiveness of the rendering here points to how often women are still implored to smile in public, and this offhand remark is clearly indicative of this irritating, ingrained socialisation (as was evident recently when Grace Tame did not smile for Scott Morrison). There is, however, also an urgency in my childish request; that my mother is happy? I now know how unhappy she was at that time, which makes me sad. So, I do hope that my funny little letter did indeed make her smile!