Sunday, December 9, 2007


Being an election year -- and the holiday season -- you'll be seeing plenty of fake smiles. With any luck, you'll also see some warm genuine smiles as well, and I hope you do. Genuine smiles come from the heart, express feelings of joy and delight, and are much rarer and special.

Many people don't seem to know the difference. To them, any baring of the teeth qualifies. Technically, they are correct. Physiologically, a smile is just a facial expression created by flexing the muscles at both ends of the mouth, which may remain open or closed. Yet, without the honest emotion to back it up, a smile is an empty pose at best, and at worst a grimace, a contortion, a hideous rictus.

Look at Ann Coulter. She exhibits what is often referred to as "dead fish eyes." Zero warmth here. This is typical of the fake smile. Strolling through the Pike Place Market, past an arrangement of pollack on shaved ice, I was reminded of nothing so much as a formal group photograph. All they needed were sweaters, and you'd have your standard holiday shot.

Fake or real, some people can't smile whatever they do. Dick Cheney, for example. He has a great sneer, but can't seem to work out the technical aspects of a smile. He moves his mouth this way and that, and only manages to scare the children.

Donald Rumseld also has difficulty smiling. For him, a smile is extremely hard work. Rumsfeld has that pinched, constipated look common among powerful Republicans. He could use an emotional laxative. In all fairness, I've seen him give a warm, genuine smile one time. He was discussing waterboarding. His eyes even twinkled.

No comments: