With a 12-hour workday ahead, coupled with out-of-town relatives (including twin two-year-olds and one five-year-old) at home and the husband pulling a my-Martian-ass-needs-a-night-of-PlayStation-with-the-guys trick on me, I could not help but greet my old friend Stress with a resigned sigh.
And then I came across a survey conducted by the University of Kansas, which said the 'grin and bear it' adage may just be a bona fide truism and that smiling under stress can help reduce its intensity.
So I decided to spend my Trying Thursday (hey, it's better than Menstrual Monday and Flooded Friday) testing this rather dubious theory. Turns out, it works in certain (totally separate) cases involving toddlers, cyclists and spouses, but not so much in instances involving cops and colleagues (yeah, talk about an eventful day).
Diary of a smile
What I want: The newspaper, a quick shower and hot coffee.
What I get: Vendor strike, dysfunctional geyser and three children banging on the bedroom door.
Twin 1: What's this?
Me: It's a belt, baby.
Twin 2: Why?
Me: To hold my pants up.
Wise 5-year old: Hands up, pants down!
Normal Reaction: Throwing the trio out of the bedroom and attempting a mad dash to the bathroom. But like Frank Jr Jr said
in Friends: "There's three of them. I have to protect my area."
Experimental Reaction: Flashing a resigned so-I'll-be-late-to-work smile.
Result: The geyser didn't come to life, but mornings seem less frazzled when you have three adorable kids clamouring to kiss you goodbye.
What I want: No traffic on the way to work.
What I get: Multiple red lights and a cyclist who insists on riding in the fast lane.
Normal Reaction: Cursing like a truck driver.
Experimental Reaction: A thumbs-up and a friendly smile when I finally overtook the chap.
Result: It worked! I was not as stressed out about the traffic, and Coldplay replaced RJ I-love-the-sound-of-my-voice.
What I want: Stories that meet deadlines.
What I get: Nothing.
Me: Is the story ready? It was due yesterday.
Colleague: 15 minutes.
Me: Is the story ready? It was due an hour ago.
Colleague: 10 minutes.
Me: Is the story ready? It was due three hours ago.
Colleague: Five minutes.
Normal Reaction: If looks could kill, she'd be a goner.
Experimental Reaction: A forced so-I'll-order-a-good-dinner smile
Result: Nada. The smile just made my normal reaction that much more sinister.
What I want: No traffic on the way back home.
What I get: My senior editor asking for a ride and a squiggly chalk line where my car should have been.
Normal Reaction: Defensive monologue about how my car was a full 14 meters away from the corner, all the while frantically wondering if I transferred my driving license to my purse-of-the-day.
Experimental Reaction: A tentative what-can-you-do smile.
Result: More stress! My editor took a cab, leaving me to make the trek to the police station by myself in three-inch heels, the unspoken words 'Women drivers' hanging in the muggy air.
What I want: Peace, quiet and a back rub.
What I get: Highlights of yet another cricket match blaring from the idiot box in my bedroom and the husband getting ready for a boy's night out.
Normal reaction: A well-thought out snarky comment that at once conveys piteous puppy and nagging bitch.
Experimental reaction: The let-me-charm-you-out-of-your-PlayStation-plan megawatt smile.
Result: He stayed home. And my back's never felt better!
*Warning: Be prepared for nervous laughter and/or are-you-a-moron? looks when you randomly start beaming in the midst of a stressful situation.