The Human Smile Can be Enigmatic Indeed.
The Dalmatian Ain't Foolin' Me!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Animals don't appreciate smiling.
It is almost universally accepted, at least in our little corner of it, that a smile signals a positive and happy emotion. In fact, so much so, that kids, especially girls, are encouraged to smile more and they will be socially accepted.
Scientific evidence supports this finding that females who smile are viewed as more sexy by males and are likely to have more dates and to marry well.
Curiously, the same studies also conclude that the male smile is also usually attractive to the opposite sex - but not always; a serious mien often wins the fair lady. Too much and too ready a smile by the male may detract from his appeal as a leader and able to give best support to any future union and its offspring. The strong, silent man may be the most attractive to the female of our species: probably a man who can muster a wry grin as he pulls his wallet out again.
What really is a smile? Physically, it involves the employment of the zygomatic major muscles at the corners of the mouth, and, for those really warm smiles that spread to the eyes; muscles around the eyes and cheeks - a full laugh, on the other hand, uses no less than 15 muscle groups and may or may not be associated with smiling.
Smiling signals the same - or similar - emotions in much of the world. In several countries, however, principally Japan, smiling more often signals anxiety and smiles exhibiting positive emotions may be reserved for close friends and family.
On the other extreme perhaps are found the North Americans, some of whom attach a smile to their faces from dawn to dusk - especially if they are in the service industry. We have all experienced the “Pan-Am smile” (those whom can recall that great airline, defunct for 40 years). Also sometimes called the “Botox Smile,” it is an artificial smile used, commonly, by harried airline personnel who would probably rather attach their $20,000 crowns to your jugular than grin at you!
There are many different smiles all used and interpreted by the cultures using them to donate a large range of human emotions, from the “I love you smile,” (or the “I want to bed you” lascivious smirk), to smiles denoting incredulity, cynicism and even anger. (I note that politicians rarely smile because the phoniness would immediately be detected by the electorate. (A facial expression, more common by the rest of us in the case of constipation, is the norm).
A scientist many years ago identified the various muscle groups involved in positive smiling: he was Dr Duchenne, and the Duchenne Smile has been the standard for this type of emotion, involving both the zygomatic and obicularis oculi muscles (which affect the cheeks and cause the wrinkling around the eyes).
Unfortunately, we tend to use our smiles in the natural world as well: smiling at our pets, animals in zoos and even those minding their own business in the wild. To nearly all wild creatures, a smile is seen as a snarl. Showing one’s teeth to animals is a warning and indicates aggression; it can also be a fear signal from a submissive animal, (as it can in humans). (Chimps. are a case apart).
Your pet dog may indeed appear to smile sometimes, but it is more likely an anxiety twitch, or even him copying you beaming at him and not really knowing what is expected of him, (“Jeez, what’s a poor Lhasa to do, first she gives me a cuddle and now she looks like she wants me for dinner!”).
In the last 10 years or so, modern dentistry has improved to be able to give millions of people better and whiter artificial caps than their original teeth. This has given rise to what I call “The Celebrity Smile.” Putting on the television we find a whole slew of presenters, actors, models and even cauliflower-eared footballers whose brilliant, mega-watt beams make a Great White’s predatory gape seem like the opening to a bat cave!
Of course, work like this doesn’t come cheap, in fact, dentists are the real sharks of the medical world, along with the governments who add their 60% in taxes (luxury goods tha knows!), along with another 20% in VAT.
But it has to be done. The expression, “Poor man’s teeth,” invented by one of our heartless crime writers, has labeled many of us with the “Mark of Cain,” scurrying about our little nether-worlds, hardly able to speak and never to smile, until we can afford to fork over the price of a luxury car and buy some pretty teeth.
Quixotically, we even see pet dogs on TV ads., which have let their teeth go and have to be fitted with artificial dentures (the curse of mankind). The bulbous and shining picture of a bulldog so equipped almost made me fall off the chair the other night. Luckily, we were rescued by a German Shepherd with its own choppers, industriously munching on a “Chew Bone,” or whatever other piece of overpriced rubbish they were promoting. An effective ad., though. Buy your doggie an appropriately sized REAL bone, is my advice - they hate this other crappola!
Back to dentures. The UK is the only country left in the First World to still inflict its poorer victims with plastic, unsupported, artificial dentures. In the rest of Europe, it’s all implants now, or, at the very least, dentures with anchor points. If you want decent dentistry in the UK, forget the NHS!
But I am getting away from the subject of this hub: smiles and smiling…no wonder a score of editors hated me! And in those days, you could have what teeth you wanted, any or none. Nuf said.
Most of us don’t have to think about how and when we smile. It comes to us as naturally as the rising of the sun each day (UK excepted, it is only seen a few times each year).
…or how we laugh. But laughter is a thing we do as a group activity, whereas we can smile, joyfully or sadly, when alone.
Perhaps as we remember the joys of our long and marvelous life with its ups and downs, we do allow ourselves a small :)…
Note: Hubber, Quester.ltd reminded me in the comment below that a frown takes more muscles than a smile! Worth remembering that...