Monday, April 26, 2010

Smile by popular demand

I was waiting to pick up my son at the day care. It was pouring rain (it’s still raining outside). I was checking my blackberry and my phone from time to time, not paying much attention to my surroundings. “Why don’t you smile?”, someone next to me said. I looked up. It was an elderly man, probably a grandfather, also waiting for one of the kids. I said, “Excuse me?” He repeated, “Why don’t you smile?” and added, “you look waaaaaay too serious”.

“I don’t know what you are talking about and there isn’t much to smile about anyway”, I blurted out, kicking myself for even acknowledging his remark with a response. He continued, “Well, that’s too bad. Such young lady with not much to smile about. You’ve got to wake up each morning and just put a smile on”. I was speechless. I just stared and to my horror realized that it is quite possible that I might cry! Why such reaction to a potentially well-meaning comment?

But then I began thinking. This isn’t the first time someone said it to me… If I had a penny every time I heard “Why don’t you just smile”… When I used to work as a waitress, I heard over and over again, “Smile, you’ll make more tips”. Whenever, someone takes my picture, ever since I remember myself, there is the inevitable re-take “Oh common, say cheese!”. When I deliver presentations, I often get “you are a good presenter, but you should really smile more”. So, I want to set the record straight.

I smile, but at appropriate times and under the right circumstances. For instance, on the subway, I smiled at a total stranger today, because this young man, totally voluntarily, gave up his seat for a pregnant woman. Our eyes met. I nodded, smiled, as if to say “Nice! Very proud of you” and he smiled back, as if to say, “Thank you. I am feeling kind of good about myself”. I also smiled today when I heard my mom’s voice. She said she felt okay today. And it was great to hear. The comforting warmth of knowing that she is okay ran through me like chamomile tea. I smiled through the phone, savoring, hanging on her every word.

At the risk of sounding cranky, I’d like to say here and now that I won’t smile just due to the popular demand. I wear my heart to my face (why bother with the sleeves, right?). The fake kind of smiling, through tears and pain, along with baseball and small talk, hasn’t rubbed off on me in all the years I’ve lived in America. Instead, what I offer the world is a reflection of my soul, in all its volatile, moody, complicated glory. And while, I assure you, there is deep appreciation and pure joy at the core of my being, there is also great thoughtfulness and even sadness. And it apparently shows.

And you know what, that’s okay. I’ve spent so much of my life being unpopular, why start now? That’s not what it’s all about. In this blog I attempt to explore MY life as know it (did you notice, that’s what this blog is called “Rina’s Blog – My life as I know it”?) I am a work in progress. I am, still, to a large extent, an undiscovered or at least unexplored continent even to myself. And perhaps, as I learn how to live my best life, I’ll stumble upon a large supply of smiles that I will never run out of. And until then, I’d be honored and blessed, at least from time to time, to be a source of smiles around me.


Don Khouri said...

Rina, very nice article. I read it this morning during breakfast on my blackberry, and I couldn't put it down long enough to take a bite.

What's most interesting to me is that the Rina I know is always smiling.

D said...

How nice! Yu reminds me to cheer up almost every day but I also had the same thought -- "there isn't much to smile at". After reading your article, I think the problem was that the heart was too occupied by things we didn't have.

Fanny Lawren said...

I try to smile often, just to be polite. But when I don't have to, I am the same as you. My kids thought I didn't know how to laugh. That tells you how "bad" it is. I guess it is ok to just be ourselves.

Anonymous said...

thank you all for your comments!!