Making Faces

May 31, 2023

I was in a doctor’s office last week and I saw it: the “Face Masks Mandatory” sign at the reception desk had been replaced by “Face Masks Encouraged But Not Required.” Medical facilities were, if I’m not mistaken, the final frontier of mandated masking. At this point I no longer keep extra KN-95s in my purse and car. The pandemic is ending, as T.S. Eliot would say, “not with a bang, but a whimper.” Gradually, over time, the forbidden places were once again permitted: grocery stores, restaurants, airplanes. Due to the high numbers of the vaccinated, plus the people who have been infected, immunity levels are rising. It feels…kinda good; it may be rear-view mirror for COVID very soon. But I also fret about this: what if the virus comes roaring back with a powerful, booster-proof variant? Will we ever truly be able to relax about the specter of mass contagion? Is mankind’s future to be forever marked by waves and waves of dreadful diseases?

Oh, let’s think about something more cheery!

They say it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, which means our faces are definitely more muscular since March of 2020. With all the glum news, noticeable smiles are in short supply these days. As we remove our face coverings, some of us are realizing (to our horror) that our ability to put on happy expressions has deteriorated. It’s use-it-or-lose it time for the toothy grin, and many of us are losing it.

Japan to the rescue! In Asia generally, the use of face masks during, for instance, the annual flu season, is the norm. But even those countries never had such a prolonged stretch of hidden mouths, as have been experienced worldwide these past three years. So some enterprising Japanese folks are offering what they’re calling Smile Therapy, and retraining people to turn their frowns upside down. Not sure what all is involved, but if such therapy was designed especially for me, I have a few suggestions:


*Comedy videos (the "Philomena Cunk” mockumentaries are hysterical)

*Convos with funny friends (I have a number of them, lucky me!)

*Babies in general (and any related to me in particular)

*Certain songs (Aiden and Peter belting out “Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious” is a winner. Ironically, the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile” makes me very sad.)

*Acceptance emails from magazine editors (the bigger the pay rate per word, the bigger my smile)

*Watching the sunset from our back deck (extra smiles for fireflies, points off for mosquitoes)

*When I’m baking bread and I’m not sure the yeast is still OK, but the bread rises so I guess it is OK.

*Sitting on the beach, reading a funny book by David Sedaris, or Dave Barry. (Send other books by humor writers named David my way.) Actually going in the water does NOT make me smile)

If you, too, are struggling to flash those pearly whites, don’t worry. Your smile will come back! Someday! Just in time for the next pandemic!


    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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