The Southern Belle and I couldn’t help but shake our heads at the tightness and shortness of the skirts in the crowd around us. One girl actually pulled her hem up as she wobbled by like a baby giraffe in sequined stilettos. Considering this was a business etiquette dinner and the dress code was supposed to be “business dress,” I could only imagine what “business” these girls were aiming for.
“Oh my gosh,” the Belle said, turning to me, “what if we get to our tables and we have to listen to them all night?”
I batted my eyelashes at her and said with a smirk, “Then we will wear our Decidedly Neutral Faces and focus on the food.” She grinned; this was a plan my dear Southern Belle could get behind.
You know the expressionless expression described in books when a character very determinedly lets nothing of his/her emotions show on his/her countenance? Well, the Belle and I have that down to an art. Usually the idea is to keep our true feelings under wraps – except from each other. We can take one look at the other’s face and know precisely how hard she is working to keep that Decidedly Neutral Face on. It’s particularly useful in situations where outright eye rolling would be rather rude and we need a moment to muster up some faux enthusiasm.
We’ve utilized it many a time, but we first put a name to it during our attempt at Yogalates (yoga + Pilates) last year. We had decided to take another class at the rec to balance out the cardio of Zumba with some muscle toning. However, within five minutes of the class beginning, I knew I couldn’t spend a semester doing this.
As soon as the instructor said, “Namaste” and dismissed us, the Southern Belle appeared at the side of my mat. “So, we’re never doing that again.”
“Oh thank goodness,” I gasped.
She laughed. “I was looking at you to see how you felt about it and you had this Decidedly Neutral Face the whole time.”
“I was trying to be polite!” I protested.
“I know, but because I know you I could tell you were just so done.”
That’s the nice thing about our friendship, I suppose: we can communicate almost telepathically. We also let each other rant and get a little bit judgey sometimes, because we both know that ultimately the other is a perfectly nice person with a little bit of sass that needs to be relieved every now and then. Unfortunately, taking baby steps into adulthood means that the even nearly audible eye rolls of our adolescence are now harder to get away with, even if we are well-mannered enough to keep the actual thoughts to ourselves (we did complete the etiquette dinner with flying colors, after all).
I’m trying to shift my default thought process from the negative to the more positive side. I’m dissecting why I have the reactions I do, and working on reminding myself that I don’t know the whole story from just a glance. And generally, I’m getting better at not reacting so quickly based on my snarky inner monologue.
But sometimes, it’s really useful to just hide those habitual thoughts behind a Decidedly Neutral Face – and have a friend who knows exactly what I’m thinking.