A couple weeks ago my column debuted, my stupid mug was on the cover, and I got hate mail. It was pretty exciting. A friend was asking me about it because he saw my picture with the caption “Why are you smiling?” underneath and he said, “What the shit does that mean?” I told him there were two main reasons I picked that as my title. First, I’m bad with titles. Second, it’s a question people ask me almost every day.
It’s understandable. I’m admittedly kind of a weird dude, and I smile, for seemingly no reason, quite often. I spend a lot of my mental energy simply thinking of things to amuse myself. I don’t say these things out loud either because I wasn’t listening to the conversation, the joke I thought of is likely to cross some sort of line, or because I just can’t remember how my tangential brain got from a discussion on how hair can be political to the phrase “Joseph Pepper MD’s Cure-All Tonic: Made from prunes dried by 1,000 suns!” So when people ask me, “Why are you smiling?” I usually say, “No reason.”
It only partially annoys me when people ask me the question. Can’t a guy just smile? I understand it when people ask, “Why the long face?” It’s usually asked out of concern for the person who has inexplicably been thrust into ennui, whether that concern is genuine or not. However, when people ask why someone is smiling for no apparent reason, it’s probably not asked in hopes that the person experiencing some shred of joy may share that feeling. It’s asked with the undertone of “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you crazy?”
How did this happen? Why is it considered crazy for people to smile when nobody else is talking to them? Is it weird to just enjoy being inside your own mind?
I have a better question: “Why AREN’T you smiling?” Why is your default disposition one of neutrality? Seriously, if you’re not stoked to be alive in a universe where less than 1% of planets sustain life and have the cognitive abilities to be reading this and think to yourself, “This guy’s an idiot,” you’re doing it wrong. Why are you wasting your time being neutral or bored?
That isn’t to say there isn’t a time to be angry or sad. By all means, don’t smile at those times. But there isn’t a time to be bored. Why live in the middle? Why let the mundane control your life?
I don’t mean to get all Tony Robbins on you, but I just want it to be okay for people to smile and for others to not think they have imaginary friends, or that it’s somehow an affront to their own unhappiness. There’s nothing wrong with the people who smile for “no reason.” There’s something wrong with the people who don’t.