A current television ad for an antidepressant (Rexulti) features people holding a hand drawn smiling mask in front of their faces to cover their true feelings.
The obvious implication is the medication these people are on is not completely effective. Hence, they still have to “put on a (fake) happy face.”
Well, I always thought that was just good manners, because it’s how I was raised. That is a lesson I learned at an early age. While shopping with my mother, we encountered someone she knew. The adult kindly leaned down to ask me how I was. After a shy hesitation, I blandly responded, “Pretty good.”
As soon as we got home, my mom made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that when someone asks how I am, this is the only procedure for responding:
“No matter how you feel, you are to make eye contact, smile, and say, ‘I’m just fine.’ Then, you thank them for asking, and mmediately need to show genuine concern, and ask, ‘How are you?'”
My mother never said or even implied that asking about one’s welfare was a rhetorical question. Often, people really are concerned. She did, however, make it very clear to this four-year-old (who didn’t know the meaning of perfunctory) that my response should be just that, but in a sincere manner with eye contact and a smile. She was also adamant that a major element of replying to “How are you?” was to be sure and return the concern.
Now, I don’t really know if that is (as I was told) good manners or perhaps just a Southern thing. Because, Mom was mostly raised in Kentucky by a true “Kentucky woman/steel magnolia.” My grandmother was a widow at barely age 54, and buried two grown sons. But, I never heard her respond that she was anything less than “just fine” when asked.
Of course, that was a different day and time. “Depression” meant a national economic downturn, and anyone who didn’t smile was simply “in a bad mood,” unless it lasted a really long time, in which case they were labeled “cranky” or “an old grouch” – maybe even something less G-rated. 😉
Granted, this perpetual state of “just fine,” while polite, is not without its problems. Sometimes, people really need to know your condition. Years ago, when I was hospitalized for surgery, I overheard my husband adamantly telling the nurses, “You have got to watch her closely, because she won’t tell you if anything is wrong.”
Whether it is common courtesy, Southern manners, or denial, I think many of us wear that fake smiley face at some time in our lives. Still, I never see that commercial that I don’t remember that long ago lesson.
Now, for the requisite call to action:
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