The Absence of Smiles

Like many, many other people in the world, my family experienced some pretty hard times. There have been luxuries like graduations, celebrations, and trips cancelled. We’ve experienced lost jobs and lost the lives of loved ones (not to COVID, FYI). I still consider myself lucky compared to what others are going through. Yet, there is one thing we are all losing that I really need to start seeing again: real, genuine, in-person (not Zoom) smiles out in public.

It is hard to convey someone’s true mood for nature when we’re all covered up from the nose down, and the ability to share a smile is big deal to me. Not every smile is genuine, some are mere polite gestures that give a brief acceptance to the stranger passing by. These usually only last a brief moment, and don’t spread to the eyes, but they let us know “we are all civilized here.” (RELATED: Music to Help You Drag Yourself Outdoors)

When you can’t see that smile in the eyes, they might not as well be smiling. If no one knows you’re smiling you quit bothering. When you quit bothering trying to smile, that’s just, well, sad.

I am fully aware not all smiles are “good smiles.”

There’s the diabolical Joker smile that hints at, “I know where the bodies are buried and boy will you be surprised when you find them,” smile, and the bitter, “I really hate you smile,” that fades into resting witch face…while you’re still looking. There’s also the goofy smile of some people sharing an inside joke…that might be directed at you.

However, there’s also the genuine, neighborly smile of someone who is glad to see you, and the bright, toothy grin of joy and laughter. There’s an adoration of a child to their parent, and the smile of two people in love who don’t care if they make everyone a little nauseous. I miss those…and when people are covered up with nasty, baby blue bits of papery cloth, no smiles exist.

I’m not telling anyone they need to smile. Some people didn’t like doing it before this whole thing happened. But I am saying I sure appreciate them. When people are already isolated, lonely, sequestered and scared enough, seeing only a sea of suspicious, tired glances over masks tends to make it worse. In short: smiles matter.

When my husband and I were living near Santa Fe, we used to like to walk around the Plaza area. One day we passed someone who we swore was actor Robert Englund. He smiled happily at us when we walked by, and gave our dog an even bigger smile. That was the end of that, but forever Freddy Krueger is my favorite 80s-era horror icon because he smiled at my dog.

I learned this poem when I was a kid about the importance of little things, and I’m sure many others know it as well:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This is how I feel about the absence of smiles:

For want of a smile, a friendly moment was lost.
For want of that moment, a potential friendship was lost.
For want of real friendships, a community was lost.
For want of community, society was lost.
For want of civil societies, nations were lost.
And all for the want of just seeing someone smile.

I’m not trying to predict a fall of society, but I hope upon hope we will soon again quit being afraid to show our faces and our smiles.

Lord knows I need a few right now.

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