Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Smiles and nods

I've read that scientists and naturalists can find no other animal that can read so much from faces as can humans.  I have also read that among the humans, a smile is that rare gesture among animals that bares the teeth but is a positive sign, not a warning.  We usually say "bare the teeth" describing a dog or wolf showing its fangs and growling or snarling.  

I am impressed by the power of a smile.  Often, when I pass a woman on a sidewalk or store aisle, she will smile.  This seems to happen much more often than when I pass a man.  I am pretty sure that openness and friendliness are much more basic tools with women than will men.  I read the biologist Loren Eiseley decades ago that all the primate males have a tendency toward grumpiness or more negative states than females, especially as they age.  I note that females of all ages smile more and males tend not to smile.  I experiment sometimes.  Smile at a woman and most of the time, she smiles back.  Smile at a man and most of the time, he doesn't.  

I know it is my human reaction but I am often impressed at how a smile can transform a face.  A couple of weeks ago, a young woman passed by me on the parking lot and smiled.  Wow!  Very impressive.  True, she had skin a little dark and her revealed bright teeth had extra contrast with her skin, looked extra-dazzling.  She worked the hotel desk and as we checked out, I said, "Could I have just one more smile?"  Again, dazzling!  Say that to a man with a bright smile and an old, stern white-haired guy like me expects a frown that says, "What are you trying to pull?"

I've found what seems to be more acceptance with men with a conservative nod.  I practice my nod.  A brotherly, manly, sharp ducking of the face, with no smile or a very slight one.  I more often get a vocal greeting or a nod back or even a bit of a wave with a nod.  When I am on foot and a car drives by, glare on the windshield often prevents me for seeing whether there is a nod or a smile.  However, men will give a small greeting by raising a couple of fingers from the hand gripping the steering wheel and those fingers are too close to the glass to be hidden by glare.  Between men who are friends, genuine smiles are ok.  Not too weak or too inviting or too open.  

As I age, I have more trouble showing a smile. My face settles in wrinkles and my mouth droops more and more.  It is just about to the point where even strong effort will not lift the corners of my mouth high enough to make a genuine smile.  But I am too manly and gruff to care, really.  I'll just nod.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby