Smile - a Fenland revolution!

PUBLISHED: 11:33 12 May 2006 | UPDATED: 21:52 28 May 2010

It s going to be a difficult four weeks in Fenland. Sunday sees the start of National Smile Month. It ll be quite a test for some of the gloomy faces you can spot around the streets and shops of our four main towns. Indeed, some days I m inclined to belie

It's going to be a difficult four weeks in Fenland. Sunday sees the start of National Smile Month.

It'll be quite a test for some of the gloomy faces you can spot around the streets and shops of our four main towns.

Indeed, some days I'm inclined to believe that true Fen folk are programmed at birth never to smile.

To be fair, smiling begins instinctively during the first few weeks of life. Very young babies start to smile, not at anything in particular. They just smile, apparently out of pure happiness. Then, by about its fifth week, a baby smiles in reaction to certain sights - especially as it learns to recognise its mother.

As we grow older, two things happen. First, we learn to choose whether we smile or not. The second is that we smile less often. We become wary, especially when we meet someone new. Then, our first natural reaction is often a look of fear.

Think about it. When we're nervous, we open our mouth very slightly and pull our lips back. Try it. Then try the simple act of curling up the corners of your mouth. It completely changes your expression into a smile, the sign we're not enemies.

Friendly people smile a lot. Those Fenlanders who don't smile much may simply be wary or frightened. Of course some adults don't smile because they're ashamed they have tobacco-stained or rotting teeth.

And surveys tell us that one in four adults has smelly breath. No wonder their lips are sealed.

Teenagers are different. They never smile because any expression of pleasure, happiness or friendship is uncool, sad and any other current slang word. I mean, have you ever seen a teenager smile as he or she answers your friendly question with that one sullen word, "Whatever"?

National Smile Month is actually being organised by the British Dental Health Foundation as a way of getting us to care about our dental health, especially by avoiding sugary between-meal snacks.

It's all very worthy. It's also worth remembering that two out of three people are more likely to speak to someone they don't know if they smile. A few more smiles could get us all chatting to strangers which, of course, really would be a Fenland revolution.

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