The big grin hasn’t always been America’s default facial expression. But cameras, casting directors, and cosmetic dentistry have changed how we want to see ourselves. The irony is that all the smiling going on may be wrecking our emotional health.
On a recent visit to the Henry Ford Museum, a friend volunteered to take a picture of me standing next to the very limo in which President Kennedy was assassinated. For a second, I wasn’t sure how I should look. Sad? Angry? Reverent?
Dear Reader, I smiled.
It’s almost impossible not to smile when a camera points in your direction (unless you’re Linsday Lohan and there’s someone else’s necklace in your purse). In fact, when President Obama visited Newtown right after the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school, he met with mourning parents and grieved with them about their children. But then, according to The New York Times, “Moments later, he was smiling, on cue. One of his photographers was on hand, as always, and despite everything, the bereaved wanted pictures with the president.”