Why the Big Smile?

When you walk around a city with a baby, everybody smiles at you. Particularly women. They smile at you with helpless approval. They are not coming on to you; they are congratulating you. And all old people smile at a guy with a baby too. They are not just congratulating you but they are also feeling reassured that young people share their values.

This almost-universal congratulation and acceptance – it’s pleasant and yet troubling. I see it as seductive but dangerous. I always have. It’s easy to make people happy this way. Everybody wants you to reproduce – they always have – because most people have reproduced themselves and they want reassurance that they did the right thing, that everyone does this in the end, that we are all the same really despite some people’s artistic or bohemian pretensions, that we all of course cave in and grow up and become mature responsible adults at some point and leave behind our silly childish ambitions to live lives of constant questioning.

I have a strange punk-rock mistrust – and maybe it is just adolescent – of being accepted into the family fold. I suppose I fear that it means I will have to talk about kitchen counter surfaces and window treatments along with everybody else now.
This new pleasure I seem to give people reminds me of what happened when I cut off my hair. I had very long hair from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. I only cut it off because it was starting to recede and I didn’t want to look like a rock music critic. And as soon as I started walking around with short hair I realized that people trusted me more. Particularly in masculine environments like hardware stores and garages, I was simply treated better. I realized people had been being cold to me for ten years: They had not been greeting me with the hey-how-are-ya I now get. I had been threatening to them before, and now I put them at ease. I must be a profoundly anti-social fellow, because I’m not sure which I’d rather do.

I do smile back, though, so I’m not so bad.

Image courtesy of Viveee on Flickr.

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