You tell me to smile and I twitch up the corners of my mouth. Not a lot, just enough. The dimple on my left cheek is barely dented. My lips are tightly pursed. Caught from the wrong angle it looks like a smirk. This is my smile.
It is a smile that folds inward onto itself and me. It is a smile that protects me from anyone watching. From engaging. And sometimes, from really feeling.
It is a reluctant smile. The one I give when I am asked or expected to smile. The one you will see when I am tired or when I reply I'm fine in answer to your question.
The smile is mine from the six years I spent hiding my braces as a teenager. When nothing seemed worth being happy about anyway. When a smile seemed like cheap currency to buy me freedom from further inspection. It served me well. I kept it.
I never thought about my smile. It just was. In moments of pure joy my smile would expand naturally until it stretched across my entire face. My lips would part slightly and a glimpse of my teeth would be visible. Then, just as suddenly, my mouth would close and my smile would return to normal. Back to a smile that didn't give away too much of me.
I am learning a new smile. I have to remember to use it. I practice it when I am told. For this smile I bare my teeth like a mare at market. All three of my dimples become concave. My mouth is wide. It feels completely unnatural to the unused muscles around my mouth, but I do it.
I like this new smile.