A confident smile is one of TBB’s most endearing qualities. Wherever she is and whoever she meets, she greets them with a huge smile.
It’s just that big smile that draws people in, engages you, and makes you part of her world. Lots of people at Southern Comfort Conference found out that all you had to do was smile at her and soon you too would be helping make the conference a success.
That smile has charmed politicians and nuns, and has stirred the party on many occasions. She comes by it naturally, with her rich Italian heritage and the traditions of hospitality that came by way of her sommelier father.
While I love TBB’s confident smile, the grin that smooths her way through a magical life, I know that my smile isn’t quite as solid. In fact, I’m much more likely to look down at the floor or right past a person instead of giving them a big, warm confident smile.
Like so many things in my life, I am absolutely sure about the social benefits and reasons for the effectiveness of greeting people with a big smile. The practicality of smiling, though, the actual doing it, often escapes my shaky emotional power.
My experience is about scanning the world. Yes, part of that is scanning for threats, but a bigger part of that is just scanning for context, working to see and understand the situation rather than working to focus on connecting with the humans in front of me. It feels easier and simpler to just duck them, avoiding both scrutiny and small talk.
I do know, of course, that avoiding giving people a shiny, confident smile also means avoiding giving them the chance to greet me, to connect with me on a simple, basic and very human level. Not smiling means not flirting, which does keep you out of trouble but also keeps you out of fun.
A smile is a very vulnerable gesture, giving people the opportunity to decide how they want to see you. To remain invisible it is usually best to remain unnoticed, just focused on your own work, while a smile is always a clear gesture of visibility. See me, the smile says, and smile back at me, doing the dance of gracious human interaction. I will freely give you my smile to brighten your day, and you may just decide to grant me your smile as a returned gift.
There isn’t much sophistication or nuance in a smile, which is why humans from two to ninety-two can easily share one. That simplicity makes a smile both wonderfully universal and somewhat baffling & disquieting, especially to someone who is always looking for deeper information. Exactly what is going on under that smile, we wonder. Is a smile a disguise, an invitation for trouble or a promise that will be broken?
A smile is just a smile, I suspect that TBB would tell me, and you can rarely go amiss when sharing one. Smile at the people and let them smile at you.
Every girl needs a good simile, I believe, but that’s just the writer in me speaking. I never had a mother who could coach me on the power of a good smile, a much more fundamental tool for a woman than a simile.
I know that I need a more confident smile. That would seem to require more confidence in a number of areas.
As I work on it, though, I can always remember what TBB would do when uncomfortable and faced with new people.