Some of us smile like goofy goobers over 70% of the time.
Some of us seem sober, somber or serious, but know peace like a river deep within.
All of us are more than meets the eye.
Joy is not always smeared all over our faces like jelly. As a jam-faced goober who has been dubbed “Smiley” in multiple contexts and decades, it does me good to remember this. Leave it to cats to remind me.
Without our elastic, outrageous facial muscles, cats can’t be quite as plastic and ridiculous as we are in their expressions. They can, however, be ridiculous in their own ways. They can, and they are.
Technical definitions aside, you will never convince me that cats can’t smile, in a sense. Some of our sweet sillies are perpetually grinning, the feline answer to Buddy the Elf, so jammed with visible joy, there are almost streamers flying out their ears.
They are loudly happy. They’re so excited, they just can’t hide it. They are not trying to look like towering doofuses (doofi?), although they do; and they are not trying to assault you with their assertive aggressive glee, although it can seem that way. They are simply Smilers, built to blaze forth bliss. They can’t help it; we wouldn’t want them to.
But some of our sages and sweethearts are more poker-faced. (Let’s call it Resting NonGoober Faced, to sweeten a nasty little term that’s arisen elsewhere.) This came to our attention recently when several of our staff attempted to get new photos of Faye.
Faye, as no one needs reminding, is beautiful. Nay, Faye transcends “beautiful.” Faye is fairy-tale wondrous. Faye is otherworldly. Faye is the cat that draws the most gasps, garners the most bouquets, sends the most humans swooning on sight.
But Faye does not, generally speaking, smile.
After seeing a stream of Faye photos, one fellow staff member was moved to ask, “Why does Faye always look so sad?”
And, now that you mention it, she kind of does.
Why is the girl with the most bouquets sad?
Why is the feline with the fairest face forlorn?
More accurately: why am I such an idiot?
Faye, of course, is not sad at all. Faye simply has a face that keeps its secrets.
On the other end of the spectrum is, of course, Gogi. The go-go-goofball whose giddiness is getting us through a global pandemic can’t help but grin. He has no secrets; he has no restraint. (Given his convoluted contortions, it appears he also has no bones in his body, but our vet team is investigating further.) Gogi is the physical embodiment of glee.
Why is Gogi glad all the live-long day?
Why is a cat who actually does have many secrets and murky memories always merry?
More accurately: why am I such a dunderhead?
Gogi, of course, is not a raging river of unstoppable happiness. OK, actually he is. But I am certain he has moments — nanomoments? — of sadness, or at least pensiveness. His face would never tell us, because he was uniquely crafted to grin.
They say that smiling is objectively, physiologically good for us. Supposedly, if you’re feeling low, forcing your face into a smile for a few sustained seconds can actually tell your body and spirit to feel a bit better. (Think of this as the facial-muscle equivalent of flinging open the curtains or listening to Three Little Birds.) I’m all for that.
But I’m also aware that I’m a Smiler, silly and sometimes borderline-simpleton like Gogi. I have much to learn from the Fayes of the world, sheltering secrets behind their Mona Lisa moues.
So today, I’ll make Lucinda my muse. The comparisons to elder sorority sis Faye are obvious: Lucinda is transcendently beautiful, enhaloed in marshmallow fluff, mysterious to all but herself. She has also been gifted a face that waxes Super Serious. To the untrained eye, she looks sad.
But where once I saw sad, now I see serene. Safe. Secure in her serious, stately nature.
There is much to be said for a face that shields a pensive, pondering heart.
And there’s much to be said for not saying too much based on a face. (The Lucinda behind the serious, stately face recently spent a good fifteen minutes chasing her own tail. Smiling inside? You bet she was.)
We are all deep and serene and serious, ridiculous and giddy and simpletonly. Our faces tell stories, but our souls live epic novels. So let’s love every face, and smile in the invisible ways that matter most. We’re more than our mugs.