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Duchenne Smile

“Oh, is this your bench?” she apologizes, and I poo-poo her.

“It’s not MY bench, perse, I just like to sit here. Please don’t leave on my account.” I thumb back to my right. “There’s also an Adirondack chair around the corner in the weeds where I can sit for a spell.”

She has dramatic eyes: orange and plumbago above a plain surgical mask. She is pretty, I can tell.

I pet her dog, which has the broad and intimidating head of a pittie, but is puppy-breathed sweet. Brindle with tail wagging.

“I’ve seen you,” she says.

“Oh yeah?”

“31st and Thorn, I think.”

“I’m all over this joint” I say, waving vaguely to the city, which I have fastly considered my home.

This is becoming more and more a thing: I get recognized for simply being the perambulist of Altadena, the outskirts of North Park. I have made so many instant friends, it’s crazy.

“What’s your name?”

“Pam.”

“Nice to meet you, Pam,” and we don’t shake hands because we’re mummified in masks and decorum., but she smiles.

A Duchenne smile has two components: a contraction of the zygomatic major muscle, which raises the corner of the mouth; and an elsewhere contraction of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which results in crow’s feet.

Pam’s smile meets the Duchenne requisite: the orange and plumbago make a sunset out of her eyes. Though I can’t see her mouth, I know she’s grinning.

There’s an opposite, you know: the Pan Am smile, which involves the zygomatic muscles only. You know who showcases this grin? Beleagured flight attendants, threatened chimpanzees, and Botoxed out injectees.

A chalk drawing outside the Art Studio says: ‘What if six feet and a mask made us all closer?” I love this sentiment. There’s a certain kindness these days, more ‘hellos’ and waves. Duchennes smiles for days, which you can see above masks, smiles reaching the eyes.

We’re all in this together. May your smile crest the edge of your nosepiece, may it show in a twinkle of the eye. Blessings.

Nice to meet you, Pam.

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