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Put on a happy face

I looked in the mirror the other day and was startled to see that I was frowning. It seems to be my default expression. I tried smiling, but the best I could manage was a horizontal line. How did this happen? It’s not like I grew up in a tough neighborhood. A friend of mine did and he said that you had to walk around with either a scowl or one of those kind of vacant, but threatening, expressions like Sylvester Stallone. The idea was to give muggers the impression that it would only take one more thing to set you off and that they should look elsewhere for an easier mark. After a while it became permanent.

Look around. I find that most people do not look very happy. At best they project a kind of bored neutrality. There are a very few that are smiling, but they are immediately suspect. Are they members of one of those blissed-out cults? I would never make it there. With my inability to form a really good smile they would always be asking me what’s wrong and bringing me up before the review board for insufficient bubbliness. I would be drummed out of the cult, albeit to a happy beat.

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I do have a sort of remedy for my condition. Charlton Heston, for whatever you may think of his gun affiliation, mastered the reverse smile. Watch the movie Ben Hur closely sometime. If you can stay awake until the part where he meets his boyhood friend, Messala, he gives a first-class demonstration of his technique. He frowns, but makes it into a smile somehow. I have been working on this. The trick seems to be in the eyes.

Maybe the key is your state of mind. Peter Pan teaches Wendy, Michael and John to fly by thinking happy thoughts. Often what you are thinking shows on your face. This has been the ruination of more than one budding relationship. This is where we get the saying, “If looks could kill.”

Plastic surgery is a possibility. The only catch is you could wind up looking like Dr. Sardonicus in the horror movie of the same name. His smile is surgically fixed, permanently, in place. I need something that I can erase if I don’t get it right the first time, so I guess tattooing is out, too.

Clowns cheat. They paint a smile on their face. In fact, they paint a face on their face. Anybody can do that.

Ooooooooh, right.


Bill Abrams resides (and practices his smile) in Pine Plains.

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