gratutide-a-thon day 3: a smile from a stranger

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The original smiley face from the 70’s. I wish my face could do this so easily.

I can’t even tell you how much I love it when I’m somewhere, and a stranger smiles at me. Generally I’m so disarmed by this unusual friendliness, I look at the person quizzically, wondering if maybe I know them. I quickly flip through my mental book of faces, and try  to make an I.D. When I can’t, and I realize I don’t know the person, I try to smile back, but when I start to return the gesture, instead of my regular broad, toothy grin, my mouth contorts into some sort of awkward seizure-like Olympic gymnastics program, and then the person is gone. Now, I don’t know why my mouth does this, instead of just being able to casually return the smile like a regular person would do, but it pretty much seems to happen every time I’m in this situation. I’ve often wondered about it, since i am actually extremely happy and impressed to have someone who doesn’t know me at all give me a smile, because I realize it means they’re just a nice person who smiles at other people, and likely someone who might possibly think that this is something we should all be doing to make the world a slightly better place (which I agree with, if i could just get the action down). But what the hell is going on with my mouth, I want to know? I have considered several options. A) I am used to living in Boston, where people are not terribly friendly and slightly suspicious most of the time, and thus I am shocked by any rogue smilers. B) I am a little bit afraid that the smiler might be ready to take my wallet, or my bag, or my phone, and this is the reason my mouth looks like a cross between a childbirth scream of pain and a sneeze. C) I am not nearly as nice as I think I am. Or, here’s another idea; Having a stranger smile at you is a particularly life-affirming, a sort of physical cue that says, “hey, we’re all people in this big crazy thing together.” And that, quite frankly is not necessarily something you run up against everyday, so when you do, it can take you by surprise, and cause you not to know quite how to act (or in my case, exactly what to do with your mouth). Although there is this one other possibility, which is when my daughter read this, she told me she did the exact same thing! She even showed me what her mouth does, and if i’m doing the same thing she does, I can’t believe people have not run screaming from me before. So, I guess it could just be genetic. Anyway, I feel good for a very long time after a stranger smiles at me, even if I can’t quite smile back. 

2 thoughts on “gratutide-a-thon day 3: a smile from a stranger

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