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The land of smiles

No, not Thailland. Waitressing:

Pretending to love one's work, to be overjoyed by the ability to serve you coffee or pizza or dance for your tips, is an integral part of the job for service workers. “Service with a smile” is expected from anyone who deals with customers, and as Josh Eidelson and Timothy Noah pointed out last week at The Nation and The New Republic respectively.

Noah starts his report with a tale of a “slender platinum blonde” at Pret A Manger who he let himself believe was in love with him. “How else to explain her visible glow whenever I strolled into the shop for a sandwich or a latte?” But in reading a London Review of Books piece by British journalist Paul Myerscough, Noah realized that the Pret was actually pushing its employees to go above and beyond, to live up to a list of “Behaviors” that include having “presence” and touching one's coworkers publicly.

Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC also commented on the rise of emotional labor, citing Noah and Eidelson's pieces. He wrote:

It may be slightly uncomfortable to be served coffee by someone who clearly hates working long hours for a minimum wage, but it’s unclear that the best way to deal with that discomfort is through escalating worker coercion—especially when employee rudeness or visible unhappiness helps to make their low wages and poor working conditions visible.

What Noah, Eidelson and Resnikoff mostly overlook is that this is deeply gendered labor, and its requirements are based on behavior that is expected of women beyond the workplace.

Ugh. What a great concept, "emotional labor." And, oddly, or not, one of my hot buttons: I hate sensing expectations to feel one way or another almost as much as I hate having my time allocated; that's why I hate holidays: "The Ten Minutes Happy" is just as coercive and repellent to me as "The Ten Minutes Hate."

Gendered indeed!