Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Learning to Smile

For some reason, while I was working out on the cross-trainer a couple of days ago, I decided that I needed to learn to smile. No, that's not it. I know how to smile. Everyone does. I needed to practice smiling, or get better at it, or do it more often, or do it on command, or make it a more regular part of my facial musculature. In any case, there I was on the cross-trainer, jogging and sweating away and at the same time working on my smile, pushing the corners of those lips and the cheek pillows on top of them upward.
     I found that I couldn't hold it for very long--probably less than a minute. It felt so unnatural, and the whole muscular apparatus began to twitch. I've had that feeling before, especially when posing for photographs, something I'm not very good at, and something I'd like to become better at, which I believe is at the bottom of the project I undertook there on the cross-trainer.
     Not everyone smiles for photos. A character in my novel, who is a photographer, does not ask people to smile for portraits, and she says, "I always wonder who they think they're smiling at." Philip Roth is notoriously glum in his photos. I once read an interview with him, and the caption under the photos was "Why is this man smiling?" which of course, he was not.
 Although, here, I think he was making an attempt.

That's the best some of us can do. But I want to do better, so I'm not only practicing, but I've done some research on the subject. You can find lots of articles on the internet (most of them saying the same thing, and most of them annoyingly not-insightful and yes-cliched while trying to sound so very wise).
     Anyway, there's the whole business of thinking of a very happy time in your life, or something that makes you laugh your head off. There's the whole thing about making sure to involve your eyes, get that crinkle going, to make it authentic. There's a whole thing about how much to show of your teeth (although some concede that you need not show any teeth at all). Most seem to agree that one need not involve the bottom teeth at all.
So now I have a new little project. The weirdest thing is that trembling I feel in the muscles of the cheeks, the way I feel when I'm lifting weights and my arms tremble from the strain. I'm thinking it's a matter then of finding the right groove, building up my strength and endurance, and practice, practice, practice.


Jim Poznak said...

I think you will be able to smile as you want to if you relax about it. I find that when I try too hard I do worse than when I am relaxed. (I know, I know, easier said than done.)

Susan Messer said...

Good point. Thank you, luv. So maybe I need to learn better relaxation methods . . .

Margaret P. said...

When I need to smile I don't think "smile," I think "laugh." That usually works for me.

Susan Messer said...

That's a good tip, Margaret P. I often think of you when I think of photogenic people. You do seem particularly authentic in front of the camera.