When I was really young, I didn't know how to smile. At least, not on demand. I hated having my pictures taken where adults, all smiles and high pitched voices (as if by doing so, it will be easier for kids like me to understand them) would tell me to say "cheese" when I knew perfectly well they wanted more than just me baring my teeth. But I learned to deal with it, like most other kids do, and my childhood was saturated with me smiling (and I use the term loosely here) awkwardly at the camera.
Ironically, when I was in my adolescence and teenage years, I learned how to smile. In fact, it was one of my biggest assets, being able to conjure up a cheerful/flirtatious grin with hardly any effort. Three of my boyfriends wrote poetry about my smile, another wrote almost nothing but my smile in his love letters, while the other - well, the other didn't actually notice, but that's another story. Needless to say, somewhere during the time I felt most awkward about myself, I had the consolation of knowing that I had great smile that could turn my otherwise plain face to something a little less average.
And then I began working. I don't even remember when exactly I started to forget how to smile, just that one day, someone asked me to smile in front of the camera (one of those group shots people are fond of) and I didn't know how. And so I froze. And bared my teeth.
Flash forward to the pre-nuptial pictures in the months before my wedding. My photographer, a really nice guy, was getting frustrated with the pictures he was getting from me. I was almost always tense in front of the camera. A vein appeared in my forehead, as if I was solving a math problem rather than simply showing my happiness. My eyes were almost never happy. It was a trial for him and a big ego setback to me, especially when I saw the prints. I looked horrible - old, tense, unhappy. And to be honest, bar those times I was in front of the camera (and the instances where I was fighting with my coordinator), I really was deliriously happy. I had a good job, I had wonderful friends, I had a great fiancee, and I was about to get married. What more could I have asked for?
Now, several years after I realized I had forgotten to smile, I wonder, if perhaps when I'm happy, I just can't smile. I know that this epiphany is a little late in coming, but it just struck me last weekend, that perhaps, the skill of smiling is most needed when you have nothing to smile about. And now that I'm actually happy, I don't get to exercise the skill and that's why I've forgotten it.
If my late epiphany is true, then I hope I never have to remember how to smile on demand.
For now, I'll just have to rely that my friends will feel my happiness, even if it doesn't translate well on the camera. :)