food

“Today I smiled at everyone in my path and this is what happened.”

Allen's
Thanks to our brand partner, Allen's

The experiment began, oddly enough, with a ramen burger.

It was a Sunday afternoon and in my defence, having not yet eaten a single thing, I was starving.

Even still, I must have been staring at the rather on-trend delicacy for quite some time before my friend whispered, “Can you stop smiling at that burger? That burger needs to earn your smile.”

I dropped the subject (and the corners of my mouth along with it). I could see my burger was on its way.

But on the way home I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend meant by “earning” a smile. All this time, had I been giving away my smiles too easily? After all, I’ll happily shoot a smile at a really excellent pair of shoes or a baby with ruby-red flushed cheeks.

When we see food coming. Image: Walt Disney Pictures.

With all of this in mind, I set out on an experiment: to see if we really have done away with the smile. I decided that for one full day, I would consciously smile at each person with whom I made eye contact. Not a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it display of happiness, a real toothy grin, the type of grin a six-year-old beams with when handed a red frog.

I’d like to tell you that upon smiling at a rather sullen-looking passerby, he simply transformed into a glittering unicorn with rainbow-coloured fairy floss for a mane, but that would be a really elaborate lie. Fantasies aside, my first encounter brings us to the elevator of my apartment building. As I entered, I plastered on the widest smile I could manage without actually inserting my fingers into the corners of my mouth and dragging upwards.

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And in return I received: the cowboys equivalent of a smile. A nod!

It was a start, but I wanted more. And while it may sound absurd, there’s something about the act of stringing a collection of words together for a complete stranger (who would surely have a positive response) that generally leaves me with the distinct feeling of nausea. But without the usual warning signals from my brain, something completely unrehearsed emerged from my lips: “Why do you think people don’t smile anymore?”

Once my prey realised that I was in fact talking to him, he countered with: “It’s the Yeezy Effect.”

The what?

kanye

The Yeezy Effect. Image: Giphy.com

After a little research I discovered that Yeezy - aka Kanye West - has quite the opinion on smiling. As a matter of fact, the Poker Face Prince once said, “When you see paintings in an old castle, people are not smiling ‘cause it just wouldn't look as cool.”

But surely Yeezy isn’t our day’s cultural barometer?

(Spoiler alert: he isn’t).

On the contrary, what I was gladdened to discover was that almost all the day’s encounters grew legs. They didn’t start and end with my smile, usually alien to Metropolitan cities. Instead, my greedy gnashers pocketed a few returned smiles, a thumbs up, a venti coffee instead of a grande (a result which, I refuse to believe was a mistake) and even a high-five from a rather princely looking dog that I soon learnt was a Shiba Inu. Google it, it’ll make you smile.

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After smiling the day’s encounters grew legs. Image: Pexels.

Who knew swapping an Instagram like for an authentic smile - in the flesh - could pack such a punch for all involved? At the risk of sounding hackneyed, smiling really could be contagious and that should be reason enough to send a few extra smiles out into the ether. You know they’re free, right?

But if you’re still in need of convincing, hear this. Ironically, I began my experiment thinking I was providing some sort of public service to others. Gracing those who veered into my path with my happiness-inducing smile. Fast forward roughly ten hours and I’ve realised that the experiment was mostly beneficial to well, me - the smiling narcissist. You see, there’s something very calming and satisfying in simply smiling and finding self-acceptance when you’re so exposed and open to others, like a hedgehog without its prickles. If you receive a smile in return, all the better.

I should have known this all along. Because just like my ramen burger, the best bit of the experience was the smile that preceded it. It turns out, when used correctly a smile can be powerful, it can be vehement and it can even be deafening. It’s a bit like a sneeze you’ve been holding in since childhood and it feels incredible to finally let it escape.

You should try it sometime.

How do you bring a little happy to your day?