A smile. A thing of poetry. A facial expression formed by flexing the muscles near both ends of the mouth and by flexing muscles throughout the mouth. Okay, somewhat poetical. It denotes pleasure, sociability, happiness or amusement. Or even a strange mix of all of them. It’s also an expression of love, happiness, pride, contempt or embarrassment. What is a contemptuous smile? It’s a strange look, isn’t it? A cross between puzzlement and constipation. Smiling evolved in humankind as a method of communication, such as the wonderfully named ‘sexual interest advertisement’, which sounds like the name of an underground ‘90s indie band. Studies show that female smiles increase physical attractiveness and enhance sex appeal to heterosexual men. But the opposite isn’t true. Studies show the facial expressions women find most alluring and sexual in men are pride and shame. Seriously. Women have been scientifically proven to be attracted to facial shame. I don’t know why. They showed women a series of photos, and the shame face was the winner in the attractiveness test. Women are odd. Shame is a flaw or a weakness. Women love flaws and weaknesses because it’s something they can work on, and if there’s one thing they never stop doing, it’s ‘working on you’. But I happen to agree. There is something to be said for how interesting a flaw is. I particularly like carpets. Ba-dum-tish…
Smiling isn’t always positive. If you see a baby smiling, run a mile. Many cultures view it as a negative thing and unwelcoming. Like that time I went to Bulgaria. A nod of the head means ‘no’, a shake of the head means ‘yes’. To make it more interesting, nobody there speaks English. It was like Jeopardy. Some cultures view too much smiling as a sign of shallowness or dishonesty. The Japanese tend to smile when they are angry or confused. In Asia, they tend to smile when embarrassed. In other cultures, however, it’s a friendly greeting or invitation. In the area of the former Soviet Union, smiling is seen as suspect and evidence that the smiler is ‘up to something’. And a certain Barry Manilow views smiling as so important he can’t smile without you. How lovely. You’re singing that famous old song now, aren’t you? Aren’t you? I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh and I can’t sing… That song came out 12 years before I was born. Bet you of a certain vintage aren’t smiling now.
Psychologists have found that forcing a smile in a bad mood increases one’s mood to ‘good’. When you smile, you’re more relaxed, which is beneficial for your health and immune system. Smiling is our first facial expression, we first do it in the womb. People who smile frequently live, on average, seven years longer than misers. It leads to a decrease in stress-induced hormones that negatively affect one’s physical and mental health. A human can detect a smile from 300 feet away. And contrary to popular belief, it takes more muscles to smile than frown. So cheer up, you miserable bastards.
I don’t think I smile any less or any more than the average fella. I’m distinctly average. I don’t have much of an opinion of smiling, but I discovered something writing this post. Smiling is a natural phenomenon that we take for granted, but actually, it’s rather important to whom we are as a species. Smiling is smashing. As Cher once said, ‘A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home’.
That’s actually an anonymous quote, but since I don’t like anonymous quotes, I randomly attributed it to Cher.
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