I have a compulsive smiling problem.
When someone gets on the elevator with me, I smile. When the bagger hands me my groceries, I smile. When someone opens the door for me, I smile. The only time I don’t smile is when someone at the grocery store says, “Hey, why don’t you smile for me?” and I want to stuff arugula down their throat, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.
I think this is a female thing. I also think it’s a desperate-need-to-please-others-and-be-liked thing, which I am working on getting over. I listened to a RadioLab podcast recently about the nature of laughter which revealed that we often laugh when things are not funny. We laugh as a social function to let people know, “Everything’s ok! We’re all friends here!” I think smiling is the same way. I smile to let people know I am not a threat. Please don’t give me trouble. Smile, smile, smile.
It is hard to stop smiling. I find the corners of my mouth being pulled up by invisible marionette strings. Don’t do that! I murmur in my mind. I have been reading my guidebooks in preparation for my trip to Europe and they say “Don’t smile in Paris! It can be seen as flirting.” The French don’t smile willy nilly like Americans do, which is part of the reason they are sometimes seen as rude. I don’t want to attract weird French men to me, so I’ve got to stop this compulsive smiling…or buy a fake wedding ring.
This is not to say I am going to stop smiling. I will not Botox my smile muscles closed. I will still smile when someone has been nice or if I really do want to flirt. I just need to stop smiling for no reason or strictly out of fear or discomfort. Don’t worry, I promise to smile in all my touristy photos.