Friday, May 27, 2011

The mouth is a webcam into the psyche

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Really? This is one of those meaningless phrases that sounds good but does not advance anyone’s knowledge one iota. Few of us actually look into anyone’s eyes for any length of time. There are people who can’t stand being looked at. They will immediately say, “What? Is something wrong?” I knew the son of a famous sculptor who only talked to anyone sideways so you saw his ear. I was so distracted by this behavior I never heard anything he said.

More usable as a webcam into anyone’s psyche is the mouth. The mouth is a dead giveaway to all kinds of masked intentions. The mouth has it’s own wayward agenda and often engages in contrarian gymnastics. A lot of people smile while they tell you serious, even awful news. Remember Nixon who would be saying something very serious but his mouth was grinning. Besides “Freudian slips” saying one thing while meaning the opposite, the mouth purses (in disapproval) widens and turns down as in “good god is this person for real?”

Half of my dental problems were precipitated by the way I clenched my mouth during the night. The poor breathing, the nerve pain near my nose, the teeth misaligned. – all generated by years of clenching my mouth and forcing the teeth to grind. I should have found out why I did this night after night– was life one continuous attempt to unscrew a tight lid? The most difficult part of the body to relax is the mouth. If you totally relax your mouth it hangs open like a baby’s. Maybe we’re afraid to relax our mouths lest something escape unintentionally.

And then we come to the smile. Ah, the ubiquitous smile. I have a friend who discounts almost everything we swallow as true. She resents the constant exhortation to "smile." Smiling is something society has rammed down our throats as beneficial. She doesn't want to let a smile be her umbrella on a rainy day. Dogs don’t smile. Horses don’t smile. Smiling is a rote response necessitated by a phony social catechism, she says. True joy is met with silence, open-mouthed wonder not, repeat not a big grin. Sometimes I think she might be on to something. Sometimes smiling masks boredom or disinterest. When someone is telling you what he/she had for breakfast, you smile just to get it over with. When someone tells you a joke, you smile just to get it over with. When your best friend sells her book while yours is still unsold, you smile just to get it over with. Most smiles are just “get out of social jail cards.”

Laughing out loud is another arena. Hard laughter is an event to savor. I can remember most of the times I’ve laughed uncontrollably: the first was when I was ten years old watching a Danny Kaye movie. It might have been the Inspector General. I laughed so hard I literally fell out of my seat. Another instance was listening to a dog that said “I love you.” Yes, the dog said “I love you.”

Raucous laughter is often enjoyed by a group of people who are drinking. Group drinking seems to lower the threshold for what is funny. Once at my house, a group of drinking co-workers laughed hard because the UPS man had driven me home in his UPS truck to deliver a heavy package and everything he said they interpreted as kind of sexual and when I mentioned that the UPS man had opined that my driveway was too narrow for his truck to drive into, one young man laughed so hard he lost his breath and we had to resuscitate him.

Since having grandchildren I have found that babies can laugh uncontrollably at the oddest things. One of these babies engaged in hysterical laughing when he heard paper ripping or sneezing. Another would give out a deep gutteral laugh that threatened to make her throw up her lunch when she heard me end a sentence in a hard loud style like Regis Philbin. For some reason we all love to see babies laughing hard. It makes us laugh right along with them. If you ever need a good laugh, just go to U-Tube and look for “babies laughing.”

No comments:

Post a Comment