Archive for the ‘Smile!’ Category

Everybody Smile!

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Smile!
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Smile!  Everyone smile!  We can’t possibly take the picture, get comfortable at the party or go on with our busybody lives until everybody smiles!  We don’t care anything about what’s going on inside you, we just need you to smile for posterity, pretend every little thing about life is grand and make it easy for us to like you!  We won’t ever be real friends but whenever you see us, we hope that you’ll smile!    

A few weeks ago a real friend told me that when she met me for the first time, almost 10 years ago, she thought I was intimidating.  Her first impression back then was of a tough-as-nails, take no prisoners, incredibly serious person who hardly ever smiled.  I think it actually pained her a little to share this with me so I quickly told her not to worry; I hear it all the time.  People who have, over time, become friends of mine will eventually drum up the courage to tell me they used to be a little scared of me.  Scared of me!  Can you imagine?    

Okay, I know I really don’t smile that often.  Ever since I was a small child, people, including total strangers, have thought it was fine to ask me what I had to be so sad about and tell me to smile.  It’s been one of the most annoying little things about my life so far, you know, one of those persistent and predictable irritations you could happily do without.  Most of the time I’m neither frowning nor smiling, I’m just, simply put, in neutral.  Nothing is making me sad, nothing is making me happy.  I’m just at rest, facially speaking.  And when I completely relax my face my mouth does happen to turn down a bit at the corners.  So when I’m happily going about my business, having an ordinary day, I guess I kind of look like I’m frowning.  But too bad!  Can you imagine the energy I’d have to spend every minute of every day to concentrate on smiling just a teeny bit so I don’t look like I’m frowning?  And then do it constantly so other people, strangers, don’t feel the need to worry about my well-being?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Yes, I appreciate your concern but please leave me the fuck alone!

I don’t remember how many times, at age 4 or 5 when someone would walk up to me and say, “Smile, little girl, why are you so sad?” I wanted to calmly respond that, well, my father died when I was 16 months old so not only do I miss him but it’s starting to sink in that he’s actually gone forever and I’ll never get to know him.  Or respond at age 7 or 8 that, well, my “step-father” hits me and my sisters and tells us we are complete zeroes and he bashes plates at the dinner table and once he even shot my step-sister, his own flesh and blood child, in the ankle with his BB gun, but other than that everything’s just fine and dandy so you’re right, I should be smiling.  Thank you for reminding me.  I know it’s much more comfortable for you when the little kids you see at the mall or the Little League game or the playground, especially the girls, look like spaced-out, mindless Stepford Wife zombies and you can continue on, floating in your little bubble, thinking God Bless America, all’s right with the world.  I’m sorry I force you to think.

There might be a kid or two now with the guts to talk to an adult that way but back in 1963?  1967?  I don’t think so.  If there were, I was not one of them.  So all my life I have had to develop different strategies for dealing with people who are intent on convincing me that I should at least look happy to better fit into their comfort zones.  After 54 years, I’m getting a little tired of it.  There’s the smile weakly and shrug strategy.  There’s the knitted eyebrows and “Huh?” strategy.  There’s the leave me alone I’m deep in thought writing poetry in my head strategy.  And my personal favorite, the point to my ears sorry I’m not wearing my hearing aids I’m half deaf and didn’t hear you strategy.  But really, people should not have to defend their choice of facial expressions every minute of every day.  We should, absolutely, be concerned about each other.  But as adults who tower over small children we should also be painstakingly aware that the so-called innocent things we say to them can affect them profoundly, perhaps for decades to come.

Newsflash!  I AM very happy.  When I see you, if I know you, I will smile.  If you say something funny (and I hear you) I will laugh.  If you say something sad I will probably frown.  If you need a hug, I’ll have a hug ready.  Please don’t be scared of me.  I’m intense, yes.  My face does idle in neutral a lot.  But my heart is full of joy and love.