I do a lot of smiling every day, especially at work. It’s always been an easy way to connect with others and set the tone.
Wearing a mask has severely gotten in the way.
Working with young people, who often rely on body language and facial expressions to make sense of the world around them and determine their level of trust and safety, can be difficult with masks. And I think it is starting to wear on us all.
I’m not arguing the health and safety protocol. What I’m saying is that masks have exacerbated the social separation. Nearly two years apart, and now we must keep social distance and we can’t learn to read subtle social cues? No wonder school kids are a mess behaviorally and socially. No wonder anxiety is on the rise at alarming rates.
We humans are social creatures (even those of us who call ourselves introverts or ambiverts). We need to be around one another. We need touch. We need to be able to read social cues, many of which are subtle. And our faces are an expressive part of what we think, feel, and say. They add to our meaning. Sometimes they betray us and give away our truth. Sometimes they cover it up.
My face is an open book and very easy to read. And I use “the teacher stare,” smiles, and other expressions as a form of silent classroom management. Without that tool, I’m left digging for other less personal ways to engage.
And I’ll tell you, they aren’t always as effective as a simple smile.
(I’ve had to learn how to smile with my eyes and use the upper half of my face more to get my unspoken messages across.)
It’s not just about my facial expressions, either. Their faces voice happiness, frustration, confusion, mischievousness. Often, noticing a facial expression and addressing it can head off future behaviors. It can help me fish out sadness, worry, and doubt. Sure, I can see some of that from their eyes, but I don’t get the whole picture, which means I don’t clue in as quickly.
Smiles and facial expressions also help us connect intimately. You know “that look” your lover gives that tells you, “hey, wanna get down?” Or those playful, flirtations smiles? Thankfully, no mask gets in the way at home, but how do people flirt with their facial expressions in public anymore?
I’m terribly horny tonight (and…He is at work). I’m also tired, and I have to get up before 5 am to get my kid to a “sportsing” event. So I’m gonna double up my #loveletter efforts and get my Flash Fiction Friday done tomorrow. I’m trying to do Transgressive Thursday, too. But this week was rough, and next week promises to be similar. So, I’m making no promises on anything. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I got my last big paper for the session written last night, so I just have a few school requirements left. Session ends this weekend.
Grey is my favorite color. That probably says a lot about me. I also dig fancy pockets on jeans. These are my ‘Merica jeans.