On the concept of smiley faces.

I’ve no idea why but for some reason I find myself thinking of a project my sister did for one of her classes in high school. It was a pseudo-psychological experiment, the goal of which was to measure the reactions of other people to something unexpected.

The execution was thus: each student was to determine a defining characteristic about him- or herself and spend a day negating or counteracting that characteristic and taking note of how people reacted. For my sister, a girl of unyielding cheer and downright how can you be so obscenely chipper at seven in the morning,  this meant making herself a button.


It looked a little something like this.

I spent the next two years dreading the day when I would have to take that class. Not because that wouldn’t have been an absolutely stellar social experiment, not because I didn’t want to see the kinds of expressions people would make when I became anathema of myself, but because I could not come up with a symbol other than a smiley face that I could possibly use for that experiment.

Allow me to share something with you. This is what I see when I sit on my bed and look toward the door. [I have added obnoxious pink circles to important areas.]

take note!

Oh bookshelf, my bookshelf!

I will now give you some closeups.


Notes to self....

atop the booshelf!



Don't ask me why there's a metal strip on my door. It was there when I got here.

Oh, but what’s that fourth circle in the middle there?

Jaws themesong!

What's that? A little closer, please?


Another happy squishy thing!!!!

[As a brief aside, I would like to make it known that you can learn just about everything there is to know about me by examining the contents of that bookshelf. There are no fewer than five stress balls (two of which are smiley and one of which is a Sumo wrestler), six Japanese magazines, Apple software, my grandmother’s eyeglasses and watch and bracelet, roach foggers, two years’ worth of Games Magazine issues, a pound of coffee, two pirate-themed songbooks and roughly 874 cds, among others.]


Who doesn’t love a smiley face?! They’re simple, easy to draw. They’re straightforward and cannot be misunderstood. They’re cute! They usually come in yellow, which is one of my two favorite colors!

I am not, nor have I ever been, what anyone would call “perky,” although I am occasionally cheerful. Words used to described me have ranged from “quirky” to “feisty” to “manic” and back again. Somewhere, though, deep in some (probably traumatic) memory from childhood, is rooted an undying and completely unfathomable adoration of smiley faces. I don’t know that I ever started going ga-ga for smiley things, it seems like it’s something that was simply coded into my DNA from birth.

Over the years, I have obtained smiley socks, ironing board covers, push pins, erasers, wrapping paper, et cetera. One birthday, I staggered out of my bedroom to find that the living room had been taken over by smiley face balloons, one of which I kept on the corner of my desk for more than a year after it deflated. I remember coveting that little piece of paper my sister pinned onto her shirt, then being conflicted and angst-stricken because it was a NO HAPPY pin instead of a HAPPY pin.

The basic smiley face is something that I can’t see ever going out of style. There are two simple features of a human face that are absolutely universal around the world: tears and smiles. Personally, I prefer seeing smiles to seeing tears. I can’t go up and offer a hug to every person in the world with moisture on their cheeks but I can smile back at everyone who smiles in my field of vision. I can even offer smiles, at no cost or risk to myself, to complete strangers across the street who look a little down.

My sister made herself a NO HAPPY pin because she was always cheerful. I would have made myself a NO HAPPY pin because I always want to be. Sometimes I even succeed! It never hurts to have a little smiley face nearby to encourage a real smile.

As it turned out, I had a different teacher for that class than my sister did and I never had to face the moral dilemma of wearing the same pin as she. My class never did that experiment at all. If I received that assignment today, I’d probably walk around with a sign around my neck that said “YAY STUDENT LOANS!!1!” or “HOORAY FOR HIGH COPAYS” or “UFOS SUCK” or something. I’d totally have a real smiley face button pinned to my shirt, though.


One thought on “On the concept of smiley faces.

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