Tag Archives: shy


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?

-Emily Dickenson

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.




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osculate verb kiss

My son just recently learned how to kiss on demand. He opens his mouth wide and suctions it to your cheek with a loud “mmm—ahhh” sound when you ask him for a kiss. It is my favorite thing in the world. When I was kid I used to dread family occasions or holidays when people were over and I was forced to kiss or hug people. I remember I would run and hide when I heard the doorbell ring just to avoid it. I come from an Italian family so the formality of kissing friends and family is important and one is considered rude if you do not do so. I suppose the main reason I clam up is due to being shy – an attribute I truly believe I was born with.

The world can be very cruel to people who are shy. It is not a trait that the majority of people find endearing. Shyness is often misunderstood and in our extroverted culture, not something that gets you very far. I have been shy since as far back as I can remember. You probably wouldn’t tag me for this trait these days as I most often disguise this aspect of my personality.  There are still clues to it but I fear that most people mistake it for weirdness, snobbery, or pretension – which is most unfair.

It seems most people stereotype shy people as being sweet and mouselike, hiding in corners, timid and shaking. But that is not the case at all. Shy people have opinions and passions just as strong as extroverts. Just ask someone who is shy and I am sure you will get an ear full – once they get to know you. I don’t know if all shy people are this way, but I just enjoy observing and not participating. I’d rather take in everything and make a story about it than participate. I don’t enjoy making the first move. I like to go slow and ease myself in when I think it’s safe and when I’m ready. There’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion. And shyness doesn’t mean that one has to be a wallflower either. Shy people are like little secret packages waiting to be opened.

I have always channeled my shyness through writing. The first time I did this was my senior year in high school where I wrote an article in the county paper about not going to the prom…and about how happy I was not to go. I received many cheers and jeers from it, but for once I had a voice and I didn’t have to speak to put it out there – and people listened. In college, I wrote for the newspaper for 4 years in the commentary section, no less. Unfortunately, upon graduating in a bad economy, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist as I had planned and gave up my voice for a long time…until most recently with this blog. My writing has become an extroversion where my everyday life is lacking.

My shyness makes me fear being the center of everyone’s attention, yet long for it with all of my being. I believe there are many people like me. Instead of overcoming or ridding our lives of this attribute, we find a different language – writing, dancing, singing – that releases our voice in a different way than just playing a role at a party and keeping up conversation.

Shyness is at the core of creativity, grace, humility…all of those traits that people find lacking in society and that most people strive for. Perhaps they are so rare because most people misunderstand them as negative attributes…the way the world mistakes shyness for so many other unsavory things.


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