by cheri block
I once had a student accuse me of smiling too much. I told her I was advertising my father and brother’s dental practice. And smiled.
This morning, I am vindicated.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the intensity of a person’s smile “can help predict life satisfaction over time and even longevity.” The article also makes the point that the smile must be a genuine full smile, not one of those polite social smiles that you experience in an interview or a deposition or a medical appointment.
This article validated some of my core beliefs about smiling, especially ones I hold about the French and about students, professors, and employees who attend and work at Stanford University.
All of my life, I have smiled a big smile, naturally. When people look at me, I smile. Why yesterday, even sitting in Dr. Chen’s dental chair, readying myself for my first root canal and in some considerable pain, I smiled when she introduced herself. A big grand white smile, a dazzling smile.
While traveling in Paris (and France in general), I observed that the French usually do not smile back. They respond to an American smile in a very superior type of All-Knowing, as if God himself were French. My big friendly happy-go-lucky full-lipped and toothy smile translated to those willowy neurotic women and very cool Playboy men that hey!! What an American, look at that silly grin. Her IQ and sensibility, her culture and pedigree, must be like, well, those Eastern Europeans in Prague. Or worse, like a farmer in Nebraska. Or worse, like a Republican. OMG (a God named Henri).
I’ve been attending Stanford now for over three years. I’ve observed that most students do not smile back at me, especially those who frequent Coupa, an outdoor coffee house. Green Library is even worse. I round the corner, heading to the information desk and pass professors and students. I smile. They stare back at me either blankly or curiously, as if thinking who is she? Does she belong here among those of us engaged in such serious intellectual activity and thought that we need to be knee-deep in it (the thought) all the time? Is she from Fremont, that East Bay cultural wasteland that isn’t Palo Alto? or worse yet, Livermore, that cowboy hick town?
This results of the data crunched and presented in this article would indicate the following about the French and about the majority of students, staff, and professors at Stanford:
1. Smiling would improve their mental health.
2.Smiling improves heart rate and faster “physiological stress recovery.”
3.Smiling would help them feel less threatened.
There are some people, however, who thrive on sadness and stress.
My advice: smile and the whole world smiles with you! (except the French and the Cardinal).