The Plastic Smile

Unknown I did not do it because I am an unhappy man. Like everyone else I have my good days and bad ones, but would never agree that I am a miserable man. I just have a difficult time smiling. Smiling has never come easily for me. It has always felt forced, like I am pushing something uncomfortable off my face. As a child my father would always mimic the stern frown that I wore on my face. I couldn’t help it. He would call me the James Dean kid. I would try to explain to him that I was not unhappy, it was just what my face seemed to do.

When I first saw the ad for the plastic smile I was immediately intrigued. A Smile For All Those Who Find Smiling Impossible To Do! The ad said that people would have no idea that the smile was fake when you wore the plastic smile on your face. “Ok,” I thought. In a world that judges you based upon the look that you have on your face, the plastic smile seemed like it would be a good thing to have. I had been thinking about how if I just smiled more, if people thought that I was a happier man, then maybe my business would improve. I could be more successful. I decided to give the plastic smile a try.

I was surprised that it arrived on my doorstep a few days after ordering it. When I ordered the plastic smile the company said that we will have you smiling in no time, but I never thought that it would arrive so fast. I picked up the small cardboard box, brought it inside and immediately opened it up. The plastic smile was in a plastic wrapper. There was also what was called a “pen stick,” so you could match the smile with the color of your skin. There was also a full-page of illustrated instructions. I brought all of this into my bathroom and within a half an hour I had the plastic smile on my face.

It looked so real! I was in awe. I could move the smile from side to side, up and down with my own facial muscles. I could open and close the smile but I was impressed by how even when I was not smiling the smile always returned back into its original smiling shape. My facial muscles could be in the shape of a frown but I still had a bright, perfectly shaped smile on my face! This was fantastic. Finally, I could be a smiling man.

I immediately wanted to take my new smile out into the world. I wanted to see if it really worked. I decided to walk around the downtown area, which was close to my house. I walked down the street. I went into various stores. I ordered coffee at a local cafe. I could not believe how many people were smiling back at me. It seemed as if I was lighting people up as I walked by. People in cars, people in shops, people on bikes- all noticed and smiled at me. A few seemed to take offense to my smile by looking the other way or giving me a “fuck you” look, but for the most part the plastic smile seemed to change everything. The vast majority of people seemed to become happier in my presence!

This was a revelation for me because up until this point I had never experienced this before. Normally, people respond to me in a standoffish matter. It is not that I upset others or depress them but I do not really seem able to change their mood. My interactions with others are relatively mundane and unanimated and this probably has something to do with the lack of a smile on my face. With this plastic smile on my face people seemed to immediately light up when they saw me. A smile took shape on their faces as well. That day I saw more teeth than I had ever seen in my life. I saw white teeth and brown teeth, broken teeth and perfectly shaped teeth, bent teeth and straight teeth. When people smile their teeth come out to say “hi.”

Having all of these people smile at me really lifted my mood. I was feeling great and could not wait to go back to work. I had no doubt that this plastic smile was going to improve my business. My wife was a bit disturbed by the plastic smile but it made her smile more so she was supportive of my wearing the plastic smile wherever I went. It was not until the third day of wearing the plastic smile that I became aware that not only was it a cheaply made product, but that something such as a permanent smile upon my face was too good to be true.

I work as a psychotherapist and I did notice that all of my clients were leaving my office with smiles on their faces. They seemed to feel much better and happier than their therapy sessions with me in the past. Some clients even pointed out that I seemed so much happier. “What do you mean, do I normally seem unhappy?” I asked. My clients would tell me that they were just not used to seeing me with such a big smile on my face. They felt happy for me that things were going well in my life and it was through being able to be happy for someone else’s good fortune that they themselves were able to feel better than they had in a long time. Who would have ever thought that the key to mental health was as simple as being able to stop thinking of just yourself and being able to be happy for someone else.

After the second day of wearing the plastic smile, my business started to pick up. Some of my clients were referring their friends to me. I received several phone calls from people wanting to get an appointment with me. The plastic smile was actually working! But then on the third day some thing really unfortunate began to happen. The plastic smile started falling off my face. I would be in the middle of a session with a client and the smile would fall into my lap. As you can imagine this was incredibly disturbing for my clients. They were all terrified and confused when it happened. “What the fuck!” they would yell out. Some even jumped up into the air and ran out of the room.

I tried to explain what was going on. I believe in that cliché saying that honesty is the best policy, so I told my clients that I ordered the plastic smile on-line in order to appear happier. I explained to all of them that I had always had a difficult time smiling. Smiling felt uncomfortable for me and I was concerned that it was having a negative effect on my ability as a therapist. Some of my clients understood and felt empathy but others were very disturbed and left my office without paying. I presume that I will never hear from these clients ever again. I just hope they do not give me a negative review on Yelp.

I wrote to the plastic smile company and told them about what was happening. They wrote back and told me that they were sorry that this was occurring but that in their disclaimer it was written that they could take no responsibility for how long the plastic smile would stick on to a persons face. When I read some reviews of the plastic smile I was surprised to see that a lot of people had the same problem that I did. One person even wrote that he lost a woman that he was in love with because of the plastic smile. He wrote:

When I first met her she loved my smile. My smile was what attracted her to me. I had never been loved by a woman like this in my life. That first week with her was pure bliss. I felt so happy and we were making plans to spend the rest of our lives together. But when the plastic smile fell off my face in the middle of lunch one day she was terrified. She screamed and almost had a full on seizure. I could not calm her down and everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. She ran out and I will never hear from her again. My life is over. Thanks plastic smile.

I do not know why I neglected to read these reviews before ordering the product. I suppose that I was so excited by the idea of being able to smile all the time that I did not want to have my hope diminished by any negative reviews. I am just sorry that I did not take a moment to make a more sober decision, because it is even harder for me to smile now than it was before. My business is in a rut again and I just want to stay home all day. Now I know that a smile is the answer to so many of my problems but I just can not do it. If only I could. If only it was as easy as that plastic smile was.

The Nobody Artist

imagesThe Nobody Artist sits alone in a room. There is a drawing pad upon their lap or a blank canvas in front of them. It is raining or sunny outside. All they want to do is get up and go someplace else. They do not want to make work even though they try. Every time The Nobody Artist lifts the pen or paintbrush it hurts. Sometimes it does not hurt as bad. Sometimes it does not hurt at all.

As The Nobody Artist paints or draws they can not stop the thoughts. Why can’t I seem to make a living as an artist? Why can’t I get my work out there? Why have I been unable to get any acknowledgment for my work? What is the point? These thoughts create a resistance, a negative feeling that causes The Nobody Artist to want to do something else. They walk around. They read a book. They listen to music. They watch a film. They eat. They drink. They go places. They work a job. But everything they do is filled with a sense of loss and frustration. The Nobody Artist seems unable to do the thing they know they were born to do. There is a block, something unmovable in the way. The Nobody Artist, no matter how hard they push, can not break through.

The Nobody Artist knows that the busier they become with other things, the less time they will have for their art. But when they find themselves with a lot of time to do their art they can not. They find anything else to do. They avoid doing their creative work in the same way that a student avoids studying for an exam. The pain of knowing that they do not know how to make their art into a way of life, keeps them from making their art. The avoidance of pain is often what puts an end to The Nobody Artists chance at a life in art.

The Nobody Artist often sees other artists who seem to make a life of their art. These artists are not wealthy or wildly successful but they live a life from art. There homes are filled with art and their studios look like an active and creative space. Their work is shown in gallery shows and in magazines. They get commissions and have their work on websites or on album covers. They create books filled with their art. The Nobody Artist is in awe of these Somebody Artists. They are also terribly envious of these artists. Somebody Artists causes Nobody Artists to feel bad about themselves. Why have I not been able to make a life out of art? What has held me back? Why Can’t I seem to do it? This often causes The Nobody Artist to want to quit making art. It’s too painful for them to keep going on. But they do anyways.

The Nobody Artist has a large body of work that collects dust in closets and in drawers. Piles of drawings in folders, sketchbooks and in-between the pages of books. Everything The Nobody Artist creates is destined for the dark closet or drawer. Maybe someday my art will be known, they think and this thought keeps them making work here and there. But deep down they carry a terrible sense that most of their work is destined to move from the closet or drawer and eventually into the trash. Their life’s work meaning very little to the outside world.

The Nobody Artist works hard to let go of the need to make art. Maybe if they could just stop needing to be an artist, then they can find happiness. They could spend their time making money, socializing, reading, hanging out, exploring and living without this nagging feeling that they should be making art. If The Nobody Artist could just rid themselves of this need to make art, then they could be free to live a relatively normal life. But overtime The Nobody Artist gets close to the normal life and then they get freaked out by the thought of letting go of the only thing that really means something to them and then they rush back into making and avoiding their art.

But The Nobody Artist always returns to the fatal question, What is the point? There is so much art out there, the world does not need more, The Nobody Artist thinks. The Nobody Artist is well aware that they should just learn how to make art for the pleasure of being creative. Making art should have nothing to do with anything else other than the creative process, they read. To just take pleasure in the act of creation without needing to be an artist in the world. To just make art in one’s own privacy and then be ok with sticking it in the closet or drawer. Art as a way of passing the time, pleasurably. The Nobody Artist strives to embrace this creative state. To be an artist only when they are drawing or painting and exploring the solitude of their creative inner worlds. The rest of the time The Nobody Artist works hard at becoming relativly content with being Someone Else.