How to fake smile

I thought you’d all be pleased to know that I’ve been working on my fake smile.

My journey all began when I realized that in every picture of me smiling for the past 27 years (my whole life), my eyes are both squinty and asymmetrical. My cheeks are stretched out, wrinkles are forming every which where, and it can be quite . . . funny lookin’. This started when I was young, and thought that smiling was supposed to be a grotesque face contortion:

I blame the untimely appearance of my sister Erica. I had everything under control, and she just had to come along and pull the rug out from under me. I was queen! Me, me, me! And then suddenly it was all about this squalling tiny thing with no hair. No wonder I favored a bleak grimace.

I recently decided it was high time in my life to create a fake smile–one that all happened on the lips, leaving the eyes relaxed and as open as possible. I wanted people to realize that there are actually eyes in there, not just slivers of shadow. I wanted to improve my photographic track-record.

After her untimely disruption of my world 25 years ago, Erica recently redeemed herself by helping me practice my smiling skills at a little cafe in Boulder Junction during Family Vacay 2010. When she understood the great wisdom of what I was endeavoring to achieve, she whipped out her camera and photographed my first attempts.

If you are seeking to work on your own fake smile, here is a set of instructions to help you on your way.


Observe your real smile. Identify the points of change.

My points of change: less wrinkles all around. More eyes. Less like the Grinch and more like Halle Berry.

Now that you’ve identified the areas of opportunity, stretch the face. It’s important to limber up your skin before you try anything at all. This will help avoid training injuries.

This part can get pretty frightening for onlookers, so most of you may want to do this with only a few trusted loved ones present. And most of you may choose not to photograph the occasion, since this is blackmail in the workings.

Once your facial muscles are feeling warm and relaxed, make your first attempt.

Get some feedback immediately. My sister quickly pointed out that it was a disaster and it was even worse than my real smile.  “We’re going for symmetrical eyes! Symmetrical!” she coached, wondering if I would ever get it. Time for take #2. It may help to look at something truly amusing to put the right vibe into your attempt. Thankfully, we had this nearby poster to help matters out.

Quick, while you’re mildly amused, plaster the “fakey” on your lips.


Great, isn’t it? I think I more than doubled the exposed surface area of my eyeballs! I think I reduced the Grinch wrinkles by at least 50%, what do you think?

A little blank and expressionless for a smile, you say? A little lifeless?? Well no one asked your opinion anyway!

You know . . . maybe it is a little flat. A little stiff. Where’s the sincerity? Where’s the joy? I may need a follow-up lesson to work out the kinks, Erica. Maybe you could drive on up here, eh? Because folks, Erica has completely mastered the relaxed smile that also radiates energy. Just look at her wedding pictures here, or the shots of her on the dock here for proof. My issues may be rooted in my all-or-nothing personality; I can’t smile partially. It’s either the full wrinkly smile experience, or it’s a flat lifeless mask. Why can’t I learn to do an awesome halvsies smile? And why can’t I look exactly like Halle Berry? Why??

And on that cliffhanger, I am signing out. I may choose to do a follow-up post charting my progress up the learning curve–but I may not. This blog is all about the suspense.

Thanks all for joining me today. Erica is available and on-call for fake smile training sessions. It’s a deal, she only charges $50,000 plus hidden fees and extra charges.

Since I was her first client, I got away with purchasing our coffees. Or did she purchase them? It’s hard to recall.

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14 Responses to How to fake smile

  1. Love it! You are just too adorable! I am adopting you as my younger sister. Oh, wait, I am too old for that. How about my favorite niece?

  2. Alexandra says:

    Oh, I don’t know how I found your blog, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a place this adorable.

    You two are wonderful. And thanks for the sweetness, I am so missing something like this.

    This was lovely. I had to tweet it out.

  3. Sherri says:

    I will be needing to practice my fake smile for some interactions this weekend. Limbering up now ;-).

  4. Wendy says:

    Just FYI – the smile issue gets worse with age — more wrinkles! By the way, I think your smile is wonderful. I like the “all the way” look. It makes me smile back.

  5. joely says:

    This made me smile and laugh because I have been practicing the same ridiculous thing. I have a friend, who really is not a gorgeaous person(she is cute and adorable), but seriously in every picture she is in, she looks amazing and beautiful and gorgeous. The cute is gone and beauty queen takes over. Even when I am with her and she is having an ugly day(as she would say), she could take a pic and she magically transforms into a piece of artwork. I said WTF? How do you that!? Needless to say , I asked for lessons and have practiced a bit. So reading your story cracked me up.
    FYI I liked the first “grinchy grinch face”

  6. You both are beautiful! I had to laugh at the first photo though–displacement rage! I think your new fake smile is rather fetching. Save the real ones for big events though, because nothing beats a toothy grin!

  7. surlykitchen says:

    hahah, love this. my grandma used to tell me my eyes were too squinty in my school photos. she suggested i try to open my eyes wide next time school pics came around. well, i did, and i had a freaky deer-caught-in-headlights look. it was really quite frightening, much worse than squinty eyes. from then on i made peace with my scrunched-up smile face.

  8. BEAUTIFUL sisters, you two! I gotta say the squinty smile is all I know…plus, I have smallish eyes :) I definitely saw the difference…although the joy in the expression of your regular smile is as (if not more) lovely!

  9. Sarah says:

    in college, my friend & i practiced our american girl doll smiles. you know, the smiles that show 2 teeth… uh huh… we were easily amused….

  10. Heidi says:

    Jenna, I really hope all our children get the good smiling genes… Erica got em’ so we know we have them lurking in us somewhere. After practicing my faux smile for so long I’ve started to loose hope in my own abilities. I really do like that first picture of your real smile though… you are a beauty!

  11. Erica says:

    Hee hee!!! That was such fun. I’m now back from our honeymoon and having a lovely coffee date with your blog, catching up on all your posts since we vetoed technology during our wonderful trip.

    P.S. Maine is GORGEOUS and you MUST visit Waldo Emerson Inn. It is the best place we stayed. OOo! Maybe I should do a review of it here!

    • Jenna says:

      YES! You must do a review! Write it up and send it to me and I’ll put it in the line-up for next week . . . pleeeease!!! I’ve been wanting to have you do guest posts since I started this shebang! =) Can’t wait to talk to you and hear all about your marvelous time.

  12. Twinky says:

    You think your 2 year old squinchy smile is bad??? you should revisit your first passport picture!! Do you still have it??-maybe you could post it as an addendum to this post. As for now, your smile is wonderful no matter what it looks like! And since you WILL wrinkle with age, much better that they be smile-happy wrinkles than dead-pan or grumpy wrinkles!!

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