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Holten: The world smiles with you

Kevin Holten1 / 2
Holten Cartoon2 / 2

Are you a citizen of Frown Town? I don't mean Frown Town as if it were a place in North Dakota, South Dakota, America, Canada or Jamaica. I mean Frown Town in terms of a state of mind, attitude, point of view, demeanor or disposition.

If so, I hope you get out of there quickly. That's because a citizen of Frown Town is simply someone who too often wears a frown.

Now, it is important to distinguish between squinting and frowning because, for example, I come from a long line of squinters. My dad is a squinter, my grandfathers were squinters, my sisters are squinters and my son is a very good squinter. There's nothing wrong with being a squinter. In fact, if it weren't for squinting, actor Clint Eastwood would probably have sold cars in Vacaville, Calif., rather than still be starring in and directing movies for Hollyweird.

Mr. Dictionary defines a "squint" as looking with your eyes partly closed. It usually happens when you are facing the bright sun, some stage lights or a policeman's humungous flashlight. Whereas a frown is a displeased or angry look, like a scowl, and it usually shows up on your face in the midst of a lengthy argument with your wife, girlfriend or both.

When I was in college, my mother sometimes frowned while telling me not to frown. She explained that it could cause wrinkles to form between my eyebrows and if I did let those wrinkles form, I'd look like I was frowning even when I wasn't frowning.

Now, since frowning is a habit, it is as hard to break as smoking, chewing, drinking and teenage texting combined. Thus, like a severe addiction, it takes practice, preparation, regulation, restraint and sometimes a lobotomy for you to completely kick it. So don't do it.

When I was in early grade school, the high school kids used to call me "Smiley" and I thought it was a bad thing, so I tried to quit smiling. Then I grew up and realized that it was actually a gift and that they were paying me a very nice complement.

But it is sad that we, as a society, tend to deride people for smiling. It seems that, for some reason, a smiling stranger makes us feel uncomfortable because we think they are up to something or laughing at us. Or they simply make us jealous because they are so happy while we might feel distressed, distraught and disturbed.

Mr. Dictionary says that a smile is when you assume a facial expression indicating pleasure, favor or amusement. I say that it is the one of the greatest gifts that you can give to someone and, even better than that, it is something that is very contagious and spreads faster than butter on toast, the common cold and Canadian thistle.

Comedian Phyllis Diller said that a smile is a curve that sets everything straight. Plus it is something that confuses an approaching frown.

Smiling is infectious,

You can catch it like the flu.

Someone smiled at me today,

And I started smiling too.

According to Dr. Mark Stibich at, there are very good reasons for you to smile. For example, smiling makes you more attractive, changes your mood, relieves stress, boosts your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin, lifts your face, makes you look younger, makes you look successful and helps you to stay positive. In other words, smiling makes you live longer.

Not only that, but scientists have discovered that your body has to work harder and use more muscles to frown than it does to smile. So why not smile? It's easier.

Most importantly, smiling is part of the greatest moment that you can experience in life. And what is that moment? It's when you look at the person you love and they are already smiling at you.

Holten is the manager of The Drill, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at