Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned how to smile with my eyes. Even though we’re not wearing masks as often as we used to, there’s a few places where it’s still required. I’ve most recently had to wear one visiting someone at the hospital, checking into the local dolphin attraction, going to the eye doctor and a convenience store in South Carolina. Some places make sense, some are kind of random. But along the way I and others have discovered a skill. We can smile with our eyes.
I find this fascinating because smiles are generated by our mouths. What a joy it is to watch a new born slowly but surely respond to your smile with a little smile of their own! Lots of facial muscles work together to make that smile happen, which changes the shape of our eyes. I just never really noticed that until we all had our faces covered by masks.
Once I noticed this, I made sure my own eyes reflected the smile on my face. This meant smiling a little harder beneath my mask to ensure that my eyes were engaged. For many but not all in our family, this is not a tough skill. Squinty eyes accompany the grins on our faces. But those who don’t squint do have a certain sparkle that gives away their smile.
Our eyes convey other emotions, too. Furrowed eyebrows indicate concern. A little moistness is visible when someone is sad. Wide open eyes express surprise. A squint can communicate anger or concern. We all know what eye roll means. Crossed eyes? I’m going nuts. Pupils dilated? Something’s going on. See someone with a perfectly straight face? Check out their eyes.
Masks or not, I find myself looking at eyes a lot more. Colors, makeup, shape, motion. Overgrown bushy eyebrows, extra long lashes, and tired bags beneath the eyes.
And then when they catch me looking at them, I make sure they see me smiling with my eyes.