Monday, June 02, 2008

Working on my smile.

If I don't know you and I pass you on the street, chances are, I try to flash you a friendly smile. The thing is, when I do this, I seem to have some problem coordinating my mouth muscles, and so what you get can best be described as an "mmmf" face, the sort of face that Charlie Brown makes when he is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and grunting in assent.

When I see someone I know, I'm freed of my muscular paralysis and able to give that person a genuine, open-lipped smile. Why I can't do this with people I don't know, I'm not quite sure, but I suspect that it has something to do with feeling awkward.
(Sometimes, when I pass large groups of teenages, I forget how to walk and have to concentrate really hard. This doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to, but it does still happen occasionally.)

I'm pretty sure that these are the physical manifestations of intense self-consciousness, and they are difficult to overcome.

So, while my "mmmf" face may possibly still be a friendly face, I'm working on a simple smile, not even a full-force, tooth-showing smile, but just a slight upturn of closed lips. I practiced it in the mirror - I don't have to put forth much effort for it to look real, but because this particular smile feels so unnatural to me, not being my regular, without-thinking smile, I need to work on it. It actually looks fine, but it feels like it looks ridiculous, and I have to keep checking the mirror to make sure it doesn't.

(I've tried the teeth-together smile with lips bared, which some people can pull off quite well, and this actually feels very comfortable on my face, but unfortunately, when I do this, I look like a maniacal beaver readying for the attack.)

Please tell me that I am not the only one who has this sort of problem.


jessabean said...

I have it too! I try to coordinate the "mmpf" smile with a head nod to acknowledge my fellow city residents, but sometimes I feel like I look like an ass.

Green said...

When I was little I got verbally smacked down for smiling inappropriately. Turned out I smiled when I was nervous. Which often meant I was smiling when I was in trouble. Thus, I got in more trouble.

Based on the reactions I get from strangers I must smile at them when I'm listening to my iPod since I get so many smiles from people I don't know.

Maybe you should get an iPod and think about how happy you are to be listening to music as you walk around and the smile will just come?

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I have seen people in public do just that, and wondered what their problem was.

Stuff Daddy said...

That's bizarre! I have always had the same issue.. I have never spoken to you about it... Weird huh? Nurture or nature?

bobvis said...

I would quite literally be willing to pay a consultant to help me with my smiling issues (assuming I had confidence in their abilities). I never do anything close to an open-mouth smile. I think I just have varying degrees of not-entirely-pissed-off. Oftentimes I am *trying* to smile, and others tell me they couldn't tell. Maybe I just have a psychological block against appearing like I have a goofy grin.

So, yes, you are not alone.

Mark Peters said...

Heh. I have the same problem. And I may have to add "mmmf face" to my dictionary.