I learned what smirking was in the 3rd or 4th grade. I found myself sitting in the principal's office during one of my myriad punishments, passing the time as I often did by shooting rubber bands into the faculty mail slots. Scoring was based on rank, so the principal's cubby was worth more than the vice-principals, and so on down the line. While I was sitting there, a somewhat androgynous looking girl, dubbed “Neuter” by those who come up with such things, began yelling at me. “Stop smirking!” she snarled. Quite literally, I didn't know the meaning of the word, but whatever it was, I assured her I wasn't doing it. This exchange went back and forth for a few minutes before she punched me and stormed out of the office. It didn't matter where they were in the social food chain; everyone hit me in those days.

I asked my mom and she explained that a smirk was a sort of smile, but sarcastic and with a lot less teeth than I used to show in class photos or when goofing around. I still wasn't convinced the accusation was accurate, and wondered if my scar had anything to do with it. Mind you, my deformity isn't quite as severe as The Joker's, but I theorized that my lip might pull up ever so slightly on the right due to my childhood injury. I was about 10 when I formulated this theory, and time would prove that it had nothing to do with scarring or muscle control and everything to do with self-control.

I'm honest because I have to be, because I can't keep a straight face when I know something funny or contrary to what I'm saying. I'm terrible at practical jokes in person, and could never pull one off unless I had a legitimate reason to be smiling or laughing through my delivery. My propensity for turning red when embarrassed, amused, uncomfortable, or, quite frankly, awake, doesn't help. The worst is when I think of something funny hours, days, or even years later. Sometimes my mind wanders in church, and I might think about a funny movie or something my friends said back in college. I feel the familiar tugging at the corners of my mouth, feel my face going warm. I can usually hold back the laughter, though occasionally an inarticulate syllable might slip out before I regain control. A lot of times it's like trying to restrain a sneeze.

It always happens at the worst times. Church. The dentist. Meetings. Funerals. This week, the gym was my downfall. As I made my way through the weight room to the locker room, I thought I saw my friend “Bob” with his unmistakable ponytail. Then he turned around, and while the “Bob” I know is quite caucasian, this guy had a face like Luis Guzmán. ”Hispanic Bob” I thought to myself, stifling a snicker but smirking. Then I realized I was walking through a room full of grunting weightlifters and mirrored walls. I could feel the eyes upon me, imagine someone shoving me and asking what was so funny. I let my eyes blur and tried to think of serious thoughts. As bad as it was to smirk across a gym, it would be worse to be smiling like that in the locker room. Whether someone in there was offended or flattered, I'd be in serious trouble either way.

Eventually, my thoughts moved on and the feeling passed, as a television on the wall broadcast some story about negligence in nuclear facilities. After changing and making my way back out through the weight room, I got another glimpse of “hispanic Bob” and nearly lost it again. I find way too many things funny sometimes. Once I was in the other room and on a treadmill watching an episode of Seinfeld, I had an excuse if anyone saw the corners of my mouth twitching. Sometimes, suppressing the laughter only makes it stronger. I wish I had better smirk control. Maybe it does have a little something to do with splitting my lip open when I was five after all. Maybe I need a t-shirt that says, “I'm not laughing at you,” but then again, sometimes I am.

I’m smirking right now.


Blogger b13 said...

HAHAHA! Hispanic Bob! LOL! I actually laughed out loud for this one. :D

7/25/2008 12:11 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I'm not any good at keeping a straight face during a practical joke, either. Wendy has learned all my mannerisms, so there's no fooling her anymore. She says I give myself away with my nostrils. I have NO idea what I apparently DO with my nostrils, but they somehow manage to betray me every time.

7/25/2008 12:50 AM  
Blogger b13 said...

Darrel... is it anything like this:


7/25/2008 10:31 AM  
Anonymous MCF said...

So I tell the real "Bob" today that I saw his twin, and he's like "Black shirt and camoflage pants?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

"I was on the machine right next to him. I saw you walk by twice but you were like looking straight ahead, then you disappeared like Nightcrawler."

True story.

7/25/2008 1:14 PM  

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