Smile! (If You Care)

The smile is particular. You know the one I’m talking about. It happens when you take your first sip of coffee in the morning or on a Friday night when you throw your hands into the air in a crowded bar because the song is just that good. In the space of a moment, life doesn’t feel heavy anymore and instead, you’re filled with a swelling sweetness that travels all the way from your hairline to your toes. Your face can’t help but burst into the physical manifestation of what’s singing inside you and the smile that forms across your cheeks and curls along your lips is particular.

It doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes, your friend makes a joke that isn’t funny or you’re on a conference call and someone laughs about the frigid winter in Southern California and you smile. But this brand of smile isn’t a business meeting of soul and face. It’s just a sociological reaction to what your brain deems should elicit mild happiness, so you smile to acknowledge the emotion placed in front of you like a beer-bellied liar sitting on a crooked front porch in Montana with one brown tooth and a bad temper.

There’s a distinct difference between Smile A (wild-abandon, dance smile) and Smile B (“How’s that Newport Beach weather treating you? Will you survive if it falls below sixty degrees?”) One means you care about the situation and the other means you’re faking it.

The same holds true for people; they can be easily separated into the two smile classes and when one smile lands on a face versus the other, it’s a tell-tale sign someone simply doesn’t care.

And if you can’t see the person to know what kind of smile they’re wearing, certain symptomatic actions separate those who care from those who don’t, like smiling with starched, professional morality instead of your mouth. The rarest people are those who carry their morning-coffee smiles all day long. The worst kind are those who smile pretty as a snake, with a bite just as poisonous, and after the venom seeps in, they’re gone.

It’s just something to remember. When people smile, when people care, their face and actions map out differently than when they don’t. The trouble is, caring isn’t easy. Darwinistically speaking, it isn’t even the best way to survive. (Helping someone else doesn’t, in the game of natural selection, help yourself compete, thrive, and for the romantics out there, reproduce.) It’s why morning-coffee smilers are so rare. To anyone reading this who’s found one, I hope my post reminds you to hold on to him/her/your dog for everything you’ve got. And if you haven’t found one yet, be one yourself.

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