I may be a little slow here, but I just learned a new word that we really need right now. When we talk during this time of masked communication, we sound like we’ve shoved 10 Jet-Puffed marshmallows in our mouths all at once. This does not make for good conversation. We need an alternate way to express ourselves while remaining masked —the key to protecting our own health and the health of others. That’s why this new word is so important. The word is smize and it means to smile with your eyes.
(Model Tyra Banks coined the word smize in 2009 on the television show American’s Next Top Model. Since then the word has made it into many current dictionaries.)
Have you ever headed to the checkout lane at the grocery store and gotten there at the same time as someone else? You probably smiled as if to signal, “go ahead, you can get in line ahead of me. ” But from six feet away, the other person couldn’t tell that you were smiling behind your mask. They thought you were sneering and assumed you were thinking, “Hey you! I was here first! Get in the back of the line! ” Ergo, they stormed off to a different line and left you feeling like you just broke off your first romantic relationship. (This scene is a serious breech of grocery store protocol. When someone offers cuts in the check-out line, it’s nice to honor their good deed. Besides, then your ice cream won’t melt before you get home. That’s something to smize about.)
How does one smize?
First, practice crinkling your eyes without moving your mouth. No squinting, no furrowing your brow, just lifting the corners of your eyes, and your lower lids, if you can. (I can’t do the lower lid thing.) When I crinkle, I use the same facial muscles as when I wiggle my ears hands-free.
Don’t confuse crinkles for wrinkles. They are two different inkles. Wrinkles form over time and are permanent. Crinkles are temporary and show up—in a friendly way—when you smile or laugh. So you need to work at drawing out the crinkles around your eyes without the assistance of a smile. Practice this in front of a mirror; just don’t hurt yourself.
The second part of a smize is to use cheek fat to push up your eyes into the smile zone. This is harder to do the older we get because as we age, our facial bones actually change shape. The angle of our lower jaw bone drops, the angle of our brow shifts so that our forehead forms frown lines and we get droopy eyelids. (Zoom only magnifies these facial mutations.) Lastly, our eye sockets get bigger—broader and taller—so our cheek fat has two caverns to fall into, making it harder to push that plumpness up. (In addition, we develop thinner lips and longer noses and ears. It’s a fact that our noses and ears never stop growing. Ever.)
What this means is the older we are, the harder we have to work to get our cheek fat to push up our eyes into a friendly crinkle. But we can do it, with practice. (Eating 10 Jet-Puffed marshmallows at once is an alternate method but I wouldn’t recommend it. Ten is too many. Five works just fine.)
Lastly, think happy thoughts. This is the best part of all. Remember life before masks. Imagine hugs and celebrations and travel; singing and playing and belly laughs and kindness. Practice this step the most and and you will smize naturally.
You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, email@example.com.
© 2020 Sarah Donohoe