Letters to the Community #5

Andrew Torris, Ed. D.

Dear Community:

As I write this letter today, I am smiling.  My whole face is smiling, even though you may not be able to see it.  You see, over 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer on the left side of my nose.  The lesion was just off the bridge of my nose, more on my cheek that the nose itself.  It was a pretty obvious spot on my face, and the doctors recommended immediate surgery to have it removed. Within a few days of the diagnosis, I was in surgery to have the cancer removed and some very intensive reconstruction done on my face.  The surgery excised a piece of skin about the size of a medium-sized coin (e.g., quarter or nickel).  I returned to work the following day, and people would stroll up to me and ask me where I had been the day prior!  I’d point to the huge bandage on my face and say, “ahhh… duh!  Notice the bandage?!” 

I was reminded of this surgery and the follow-up experiences this week when somebody had commented that I had shaved the beard I had grown in November, even though I had shaved the beard off more than ten days prior!  My lesson from both experiences was that people tend not to examine one’s face that carefully.  Whether it be a wound or a beard, or a wart, or a pimple, people tend just to notice things like your clothing, or in men’s case, your shoes!

These days of COVID-19 have put a new twist on this challenge.  We are all wearing masks, and our facial expressions are hidden from view.  Mr. Kitch today told me it was all about the eyebrows!  Our facial expressions are now found in the eyes, the brows, and the forehead.  Our acknowledgments are head nods, verbal affirmations, and the occasional grunt! Our non-verbal communications with each other have been compromised. Since COVID, I have tried to be more demonstrative in my affirmations and head nods. I have wanted to be more purposeful in smiling with my eyes. Smiling with your eyes, also called the “Duchenne smile” or “smizing.”  This action shows you’re genuinely happy and smiling with your eyes is very hard to fake.  Go here for instructions on how to smile with your eyes!

Since mask-wearing has become so prevalent, I have been more careful to ensure that the individuals I connect with can express themselves and hopefully feel understood. 

I hope this is a habit that I can carry over to the soon-to-be post-COVID-19 era!  Also, smiling with my eyes!