smile noun, a pleased, kind, or amused facial expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed.
I Came to buy a smile—today—
But just a single smile—
The smallest one upon your face
Will suit me just as well—
The one that no one else would miss
It shone so very small—
I’m pleading at the “counter”—sir—
Could you afford to sell—
I’ve Diamonds—on my fingers—
You know what Diamonds are?
I’ve Rubies—live the Evening Blood—
And Topaz—like the star!
‘Twould be “a Bargain” for a Jew!
Say—may I have it—Sir?
I’m shy. I don’t start spontaneous conversations usually. The thought makes me panic a little. The words don’t flow and I stutter when I’ve tried. Eye contact freaks me out and I feel like the other person is staring at a booger or a hair that doesn’t belong on my face. On some days, smiling is the only way to communicate, just a little bit, that I am not a complete and total bitch. I really do want to talk to people and make friends. I’m just not good at doing it cold turkey. I need to warm up to it. The smile is my starting point.
It’s sort of amazing that turning up the corners of your mouth can say so much and that others can use it to judge your personality or feelings at a particular moment in time. I suppose this is reasonable. Our mouths take up a large portion of our face. They provide breath and nourishment. When I’ve been pissed off or in a bad mood, I’ve found it physically difficult to get myself to smile. You would think it wouldn’t be so hard, but a smile isn’t quite a smile unless is conveys something – like warmth or humor. I don’t know how it communicates these things, but a smile just does. There must be some sort of research into how we can physically communicate so much with so little movement. There has to be some sort of science to it.
Then there is the smirk, which is sort of like a smile, but not really. It’s a bit lopsided and snarky. We smirk when we “told you so” or are enjoying the misfortune of others. A smirk is an anti-smile in a way. It’s a sure sign of being smug. Yet it’s still a sort of smile, right? Again, this whole smile theory should be some sort of scientific endeavor.
When I think of smiling, I think of beauty queens in swim suits floating over sparkly stages with smiles plastered perfectly in lip gloss matching their bikins. Politicians discussing government on talk shows with their foundation plastered faces flashing pearly whites at the camera. Toothpaste commercials with young twenty somethings getting ready for dates when – oh my! – they realize their teeth aren’t blindingly white. (Someone should seriously make a diagram of the whiteness of teeth over the course of history. If you watch old movies from the 70’s you’d be amazed at how un white they are.)
Nearly every day I walk down the long corridor at work facing the oncoming traffic of coworkers. It’s an awkward situation for someone who isn’t that outgoing. But I have found that my best plan is usually just to smile a small, closed mouth smile at my fellow passerby to let them know that I am, indeed friendly, just not in a talkative way. In contrast to those professional smilers – the beauty queens and senators – a smile for me is a life raft saving me from being that awkward or weird person who doesn’t know what to say. It’s my genuine effort at putting something pleasant out there into the world without taking too much of a risk. Those two little corners at the sides of our mouths hold way more power than they reasonable should.