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Say Cheese!

September 18, 2008

Am I the only one who thinks about smiles?  Maybe I’m the only one who notices when a smile is fake, or real?  Possibly, it because growing up with a facial deformity, I learned to study other people’s faces and expressions?  I know I’m quite intuitive, but also my emergency services training taught me to notice the subtle facial tics and twitches that indicate whether they are telling the truth, or not.  I’ve learned that smiles are not always what they seem to be.

I doubt that smiling was that common before the invention of photography.  We see in those early photos, a bunch of very somber people.  Over time, people learned that their severe looks would be displayed forever and someone got the bright idea to “smile” before the shutter was clicked.  “Say ‘cheese!'” Became the standard phrase.

Now, it seems that if you’re not a smiling kind of person, people give you some harsh labels.  Aloof, arrogant, unfriendly, and standoffish, to name a few.

Some of us are not sanguines.  Some of us are tired, sometimes.  Some of us are thinking about something else.  Some of us are introverts – or just distracted.  And some of us, when we smile really big, it makes us look like tweaked-out, toothless, meth-addicts.

I think that smiling, in certain situations, is a learned response that doesn’t always portray who we really are.  I believe that sometimes a genuine joy creeps over us and we bust a smile, but most of the time, we don’t naturally smile.

Sometimes we hear a joke, see a baby, or watch our spouse do something cool – but some of our smiles appear to be just forced.  It is this political season that has brought this to my attention.  So many of the poles are just giving us an image we want.

I don’t know that Obama is any more “real” than McCain, but I’ve seen very few images that show a forced smile.  Maybe he’s just more polished?  I doubt it.  If you look carefully, you see that he has to plaster on the smile too.

It’s one of the things I love about being around my kids.  When they smile, it’s real – and it lights my heart on fire.  My son is quite smiley, hence my online moniker for him:  Smiling Son.  My Darling Daughter’s face is also filled with joy, but already, at three, I see her learning to put on the plastic when the camera comes out.  It makes me never want to take any more photos of her again.  I don’t want to turn her into a little plastic Barbie doll.

What if, instead of being concerned about our appearance to others, we started being concerned about what is in our hearts.  If our hearts are filled with joy, won’t it show on our faces?

You can usually see a real smile when you look into the eyes.  I think most people are decieved because they’re not looking at the details.  They are fooled by the overall gestalt of the face.  Or, they think the smile on the mouth is the true indicator.  Next time someone smiles, or you see a photo of someone smiling, look at their eyes.  You can tell.

Think about it, even Ted Bundy smiled.  If he didn’t, why did people trust him so much?

Just remember, beauty is only skin deep – and anyone can fake a smile.  It’s what is in the heart that counts.  For me, some of my highest values are authenticity and truthfulness (see my about page).  I have trouble faking a smile – even for a photogragh.  But I get some heat for this.

Anyone who knows me, knows me to be friendly, down-to-earth, and real.  Just look at my heart.


What do you think?  Am I whacked?

  1. dougcoleman permalink
    September 18, 2008 9:21 pm


    Well certainly you are whacked. But that’s beside the point 😉

    I like this post because it validates my attitude about smiling. I am not a big smiler. It’s not that I don’t smile, I just don’t smile for no reason (bad grammar, but you know what I mean).

    If asked to smile for a picture, the best I can even try to muster is a “shit eating” grin. My wife thinks that when I am truly tickled or happy, I smile more with my eyes than my mouth.


  2. dougcoleman permalink
    September 18, 2008 9:35 pm

    I just remembered that you are a fellow INTJ. That explains a lot.


  3. September 18, 2008 10:27 pm

    I too have that grin – especially around my wife!


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