Today I'd like to talk about my personal disability, something I've suffered from my whole life. I call it The Neutral Face. I consider myself a pretty cheerful person. I like ice cream, and butterflies, and penguins. I wear bright colors, read romance novels, and drink lots of coffee. I'm an optimist. I can always find the silver lining. But none of that matters because I'm plagued by The Neutral Face.
Have you ever seen a basset hound? Know how they look sad all of the time? This is me:
The face I make when I'm lost in thought or just not feeling any particular emotion at all, looks like a basset hound. It looks like the face of someone suffering from severe, unmedicated depression. The reason I know this is because of the multitude of "Are you alright?"s I get from people who see me making The Neutral Face.
Once not long ago I was on my way into the local craft store, and I was thinking about what sort of vases I wanted for centerpieces and whether to buy fake flowers or real ones, and so forth, when the greeter physically stopped me.
"Oh honey, are you okay? You look so sad!"
She actually thought I looked bad enough that I needed to be consoled by her, a complete stranger. The problem with getting this reaction from people (all the time) is that it's incredibly frustrating, and honestly kind of hurtful, and it makes you sad and angry when you weren't sad or angry to begin with. So you react badly.
"Nope, I'm fine. This is just my face!" I snapped, and then hurried passed her into the store. She later apologized to me when I was checking out, which was nice, except I think she was just worried that I was suicidal and she didn't want to be the last thing that pushed me over the edge.
I'm a cheerful person. Seriously.
Everyone is always saying I should make an effort to smile more, and maybe they're right. Maybe it would be worth avoiding little incidents like this. But honestly, that's a lot of effort, and it's so futile. I can find myself sitting in a park on a sunny day and making every effort to smile, but eventually I'm going to start thinking about the monarch butterflies and viceroys, and is that co-evolution or is there some other term....
...and I'll be thinking of this, but my face will imply that I'm thinking of this:
I have one particular acquaintance that simply can't get past The Neutral Face and has convinced herself that I'm a sad charity case in need of more friendship. This got worse when my roommate moved out, which in her mind is terrible, and I started spending more free time reading in my room. So she's taken to talking to me as you would a recently released psych ward patient with a history of hallucinations and violent episodes. At one point she texted my fiance to ask him if I'm okay, if he thinks I need anything, if she should check up on me...
This makes me really want to mess with her head.
I got a hamster recently, because I miss having a pet and I'm not allowed a cat in my apartment (I'm not allowed a hamster either, but whatever). I've taken to talking about her to The Patronizing Acquaintance as though I were talking about my best friend instead of a pet.
"Meet Dwarthy, she's a hamster! Dwarthy and I are so alike! We both like carrots, and we both like almonds! Her favorite color is orange and my favorite color is orange!"
"Dwarthy is an excellent runner, she's in such good shape! I wish I were like that! Maybe I'll start working out!"
"Dwarthy was saying last night how I have such a pretty smile, and I should smile more. Do you think she's right?"
Because if someone already believes your crazy, you might as well have the fun of acting crazy.
Here's what she looks like, by the way. The hamster, not the acquaintance.
The moral of this story? Two things: 1) Hamsters are freaking adorable. 2) Some people have a default face that looks upset. Be sensitive to The Neutral Face. Don't assume every sad looking person you see really is sad. They might just be trying to figure out if they can build a hamster maze out of toilet paper rolls. Unless they're crying or standing on a roof ledge, leave them the hell alone. Happy Monday, everyone!