Smile!

I have a scar on top of my left eyebrow, and although that makes me sound like the fallen member of TLC (RIP Lisa Lopes) it’s actually the least hip-hop story possible: When I was a toddler, I once got too excited while playing and bashed my face into the arm of a chair. My frantic family rushed me to the emergency room where I was patched up and deemed fine. 27 years later all that remains of the event is a faint but noticeable little scar, cutting into the outer left corner of my eyebrow.

In summary: I ran into a chair, got strapped to a table, and now my face forever resembles a stool with one too-short leg.

For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent now that I’m an adult my parents used to love to tell that story because, in order to keep me still enough to be stapled back together, the doctors strapped me into the “bunny hugger.”

The “bunny hugger” was a straight jacket with a forehead strap, rigged up to a table. Its job was to paralyze wimpy little kids who couldn’t  calm the fuck down and act like adults when getting parts of their body sewn, stapled, or plastered back together.

It was a compassionate piece of hospital equipment that I don’t believe lived much passed the 1980s. No one wonders why.

That terrifying endeavor nevertheless changed my fave forever. Now, my face isn’t a bad face. In fact, I’ve received almost exclusively neutral or positive reviews throughout my life.

But it is a crooked face.

I don’t notice the crookedness unless I look at myself for too long, which is something I avoid doing at length but sometimes can’t avoid, like when hedge-clipping my eyebrow to be a little less Kahlo and a little more Kardashian. Sure, the former is a Canonized artist and the latter should be shot from a canon, but eyebrows are eyebrows and I prefer to have more than one.

Anyhow, whenever I spend time nose-to-nose with myself while shaping my brows I’m always a little shocked by how crooked my resting face is. It’s as if I’m always a little bit angry or confused, or angry because I’m confused.

This has caused more than one person, typically an older person and typically a male person, to advise me to smile.

Before I begin to truly seethe about that it is necessary for me to  explain that, in addition to my crooked eyebrows, I also have a crooked jaw. Or, rather, a curved jaw. The technical term for it is “shallow upper palate” and what it means is that my front teeth don’t touch when I close my jaw.

Because of this, I do not smile with my mouth open. Nor do I smile frequently. This doesn’t mean I’m not happy; I’m an incredibly joyful person, I’m just not physically designed to consistently reflect it.

And also: why does my happiness need to be recognizable to anyone but me?

If I’m happy it’s either because I did something for myself to make myself happy, like brewed fresh coffee or bought a nice dress, and it’s no ones business but mine how I feel about it; or it’s because someone did something nice to make me happy, like treated me to sushi or complimented my intelligence. In those cases I am always sure to express gratitude, affection, and contentment to those on the giving end. Everyone else needs to leave me alone.

My emotions are mine. They are fucking private and there are no rules as to when I should feel or express them.

I know oodles of ladies can unfortunately relate, and I think it’s important for the people who frequently advise us “resting bitch faced” women to “Smile!” or “Try not to look so mad!” to realize that if I’m happy and you need to know about it I will let you know, just like if I’m angry and you need to know about it, or I’m sad or anxious.

I remember feeling helpless and trapped when, as a baby, I was strapped into that aforementioned “bunny hugger,” but since at that age I was unable to navigate challenges like not breaking my face open on a chair I was also unable to fully understand why that frustration arose.

As an adult, I understand it much better than I wish I did.

Too many times have I been told that an emotion I was expressing was inappropriate, or that my expression didn’t reflect the appropriate emotion for the situation. Essentially, I’ve been bunny-hugged my entire life, but not in a way that makes a cute drunken Thanksgiving story.

“Hey, remember when gender inequality and sexism were still rampant in 2016 and Hannah figured out that her crooked face makes her an especially vulnerable target of ‘expression policing’?

Heh, yep! More potatoes?”

One thought on “Smile!

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