You look in the mirror and you realize that the edges of your mouth point down a bit, just a bit, into a permanent frown, through absolutely no fault of your own. You force a smile. It looks forced. You bare your teeth. Now you look mad instead of merely unhappy.
You realize all those clichés your mother used to say are true: Your face is going to freeze like that. When you’re young you have the face you were born with; when you’re old you have the face you deserve.
You now understand why complete strangers often tell you to Smile, it can’t be that bad! And now you tell yourself that yes, from now on, you will smile.
All the time.
Against your will.
This is in an effort to not exacerbate the frowny lines that are currently conspiring with a few choice lines in between your eyebrows to take over your face, a face that up until 10 minutes ago you were (naively) under the assumption seemed happy to the world, or if not completely joyful then at least neutral.
But neutral has moved to Switzerland, and THIS has happened to you.
You examine your newly forced happy self in the mirror. Then you panic, thinking that the happy lines may become etched and then you will look like a marionette with chiseled marks next to your lips and cheeks. Deep enthusiastic lines of a fake happy that you do not feel, a happy meant only to replace or at least temporarily distract from the scowl that has taken up residence on your head.
You say to yourself, I am not mad! I am not unhappy! But the proof is still there, laughing at you (figuratively laughing, because if a laugh were there then there would be no problem).
But there is a problem, a big problem: the grin looks worse than the frown. You look like a lunatic escaped from the asylum. Now your forehead is participating in the bliss experiment, and it is not an attractive option.
So you go the Mona Lisa route: subtle, soft, Zen. Just a hint of a smile, but enough to erase the frown without a plastic surgeon being involved. Maybe Mona Lisa was actually frowning in Leonardo’s original sketches and he said, “Hey, M.L.! Smile, it can’t be that bad!” And she complied, because somewhere deep inside her soul she KNEW that this portrait would hang in a museum immortalizing her for all time. She decided the fake happy was worth it.
You wonder if she exercised her mouth muscles in the mirror first, practicing a teeth vs. no teeth look.
The teeth look, you conclude, is the best for you. No one in the 40 plus years you have roamed the earth ever tells you that you have nice eyes or a perfect nose or that they love your hair; however, they do compliment you on your smile a lot.
When you bother to smile that is.
You step back from the mirror, trying to guage if another five feet makes a difference. It does not.
You are unfortunately realizing that this new Mona Lisa thing is not becoming for you either: in fact, the gentle expression that worked so well for Da Vinci’s muse appears on you more like… a smirk.
You go from looking unhappy or irritated to the much, much better condescending.
Great. If only Da Vinci were alive to paint it.