by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
Remember that faceoff game when we were seven,
mugging for passersby
and craning to see if they would smile or just grunt or stare back?
We would scrunch up our faces,
sometimes with missing teeth
then squint our eyes to give each effort the full affect.
If we were visiting downtown our sidewalk targets reacted with stoic stares
so cold they seemed to look right through us.
But every now and then a kind face would let slip a wry turn of the lips
and we would marvel at their smiles like a found penny.
When we were at church the congregants would react with placid smirks
followed by a finger to the mouth for the universal “shush.”
But every now and then, a loving face would recognize our endeavors
and give a warm grin which beamed brightly from deep, deep inside.
Little did we know that this game would become a building block
for connecting with others no matter who is behind those faces.
These days I’ve seen videos advising men to be expressionless
because, it is explained, that women find attractive this male version of an RBF.
Except that women I know confess most expressionless men
probably need a four-foot radius because of some digestive faux pas.
Women are harshest with themselves and were coerced as girls into this reflexive criticism.
For us, the more a girl frowned, the more we wanted to make her laugh. Or anyone, really.
If they did, we would elbow each other (this was the OG version
of the high five) and then we would listen carefully to their giggles.
These days ear buds and electronic screens prevent the most powerful human interaction,
the attempt at recognition. There is always one person who chirps down at their shoes in reply.
People are much more beautiful when willing to be seen, to share a glance.
A genuine smile might crinkle the face. If I see you smiling, I may try to make you laugh.
When you do, I will remember your giggle
and pretend I knew you all those years ago.
Copyright © 1960-2018 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved