Can You See Me Smiling Under This Mask?

Face mask smileThe enduring image of 2020 will most certainly be a face mask. But when we look back at pictures of ourselves, will we glimpse a smile behind the mask?

Walking into my neighborhood Publix, I pull a white fabric face mask out of my purse and loop it over my ears into place. This is the new public ritual, a requirement for moving through society. While most people seem to don their masks before even getting out of the car, I wait as long as I can. But rest assured, I’ll be masked up by the time that automatic door swooshes in front of me.

Inside, an employee offers me a freshly wiped-down cart. I thank her and smile. She nods. I think she smiles back because her mask shifts slightly on her face. Then again, who knows? Maybe she’s cursing at me under that Publix-green mask. (Though I doubt it. Publix people are awesome!)

The Masked Smiler

I’ve written about the anxiety a trip to the grocery can cause in “these uncertain times.” While things are certainly better, the ubiquitous face masks added a new twist.

As I traverse the aisles, I cross paths with lots of people. Socially distanced, naturally. Sometimes I’m engrossed in a quest like searching for the darn chocolate chip mini muffins my son likes that seem to relocate themselves every week. But many times, I smile and offer a greeting. Because that’s kind of my thing. I like smiling at people and saying hello. The way I figure it, if you put positivity out into the world, maybe it will keep on going.

But tell me, dear fellow Publix shopper. Can you see me smiling under this mask? Or do you think I’m just looking at you funny?

Do You Even Smize?

In this age of hiding behind a mask, our eyes do a lot of the talking. Now, I’m a brown-eyed girl (a little Van Morrison at the link there. You’re welcome.) My eyes don’t particularly pop or sparkle. I may manage a twinkle, but you have to look closely. And honestly, looking deep into someone’s eyes in a Publix is rightly frowned upon.

Thus, the art of the “smize.”

Mom and son with face coverings
This boy doesn’t smize. It’s hard enough to get him to smile without a mask on.

Near as I can tell, supermodel Tyra Banks coined the term “smizing” to describe smiling with your eyes. Narrow your eyelids a bit, soften your expression, maybe flash a laugh line or two. Not that Tyra Banks has any of those, of course, but we have to work with what we’ve got. Just appear friendly. Approachable. And not at all like you’re squinting at someone as if trying to determine whether they’ve got mustard on their shirt.

Dang this mask, anyway.

Why Am I Smiling for This Picture Again?

At least when addressing another human while wearing a mask, you can use body language to get your smile across. For instance, you can nod, give a little wave, or even belt out a hearty “Hi there!”

But I admit, smiling for the camera these days feels downright weird.

Wearing a mask at Walt Disney World
Add sunglasses and a hat to the mix, and you might as well not even bother. I promise there’s a face in there somewhere.

Think about it, what does the person taking your picture usually say before snapping it?

“Smile!”

Then when you look at the picture, your mask covers half of your face. And it just happens to be the half that was smiling. Theoretically, if you can get the smizing thing down cold, your photos will be all the better for it. I guess that’s why Tyra Banks does what she does, and I wander around Publix trying not to squint at people.

Seriously, I hope the need for wearing a mask goes away soon. I just want my smile back.

Marilyn Monroe quote
Yeah, I don’t wear makeup much these days, either. I feel like I’m letting Marilyn down.
Kathy K
Kathy’s family moved to Tampa when she was 5, and aside from a few years at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she’s never lived anywhere else. She’s Irish by heritage, Greek by marriage, and mom to one brilliant little boy. She’s an avid sports fan and lived her Disney-geek dream as a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. A former TV producer and PR pro, Kathy now proudly sports the title of stay-at-home mom. Follow her sports-loving, Disneyfied, Tampa-centric antics on Twitter @kathyk671.