Say Cheese!

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, there will be a lot of picture taking. Be it at your work functions, cocktail parties or family gatherings, your mouth is going to be exercising!

Over the weekend, my grandmother showed us a picture of her class; she was about six years old. It’s amazing that this picture is intact. It was taken in Poland before WWII. No one remembers the book’s name, but a classmate, who also survived the war wrote a book about life during the early years of the war and the fact that Poland was surrounded by enemies. Oh I could go on about all this, as the stories are truly fascinating, but I’ll stop here. Looking at this picture, I started to think about why people didn’t smile (back in the day) and wondered when the change was made and grinning cheeeese became normal. A Google search turns up several theories, none completely satisfying to me.

Why they didn’t smile:

Picture taking took a long time, so staying stiff and striking a blank face was easier to hold.

There wasn’t much to smile about.

Having a photo taken was a formal thing and expensive, therefore people wanted it to be dignified.

Why they started to smile:

A cultural shift came about and…life started to ‘get happier’?

Cameras became quicker and people started using them to capture everyday life.

Modern dentistry got better. (Which leads me to ask, how did they know it was bad before?)

I asked my dad if he knew of any reasons as well. He is a dentist and clinical professor (Also, my mom is a hygienist, so someone in my family should have an answer!). My dad showed me some information from one of his lectures. While it wasn’t a direct answer, I did learn a few things that I’ll share:

Smiling is a learned phenomenon. Babies don’t smile naturally–they mimic those looking at them.

When you meet someone for the first time, it takes that person 3-7 seconds to make his/her judgement about you.

Genuine smiles involve the whole face. The most visible sign is the tightening around the eyes. This action is extremely difficult to fake and is the main signal to look at if you think someone is not telling you his/her real feelings.

Your natural reaction when someone smiles at you is to smile back (remember you learned this as a baby), this is partially unconscious. So remember, don’t fake a smile, because you won’t fool anyone!

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