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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Don’t let Resting Spokane Face ruin another Christmas

 (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
(Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

This most joyous of days can pose a special challenge for some of us.

That’s because of Resting Spokane Face.

A lot of us have it. And I’m sure you know it when you see it.

Resting Spokane Face is a vaguely dour default expression that makes many of us here appear to be unhappy. Or at least unimpressed.

On almost any other day, it’s not a big deal. There’s something to be said for being taciturn. Comedians and clowns didn’t build this city. But on Christmas, RSF can complicate the exchange of gifts.

You see, those of us afflicted with RSF are not bad people. We want to be loved, and we love others in turn.

But when opening Christmas presents, we sometimes fail to achieve a satisfactory projection of glee.

It’s no joke.

If looking happy was akin to playing music, it could be said we can be slow to arrive at performance tempo.

Resting Spokane Face is a visage that seems to say, as the Talking Heads once put it, This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.

OK, this is not the only city in America with a lot of people who don’t act like old-time game show hosts. Far from it. But there’s something about Spokane. There is a prevalence of stoic countenances here. We seem to have turned looking slightly dyspeptic into an art form.

There are several theories, if not irrefutable explanations.

Some say there’s something in the water.

Others contend our dark winters are to blame.

Bitterness about decades of feeling underpaid gets mentioned.

Still others maintain that a no-nonsense heritage of farming, logging and mining produced a population not predisposed to goofy grins and guffaws.

And of course, there was the North Carolina game last April.

Resting Spokane Face can afflict even those who did not grow up here. Just look around.

Some of us are born to skepticism. Others have skepticism thrust upon us.

Which is all well and good. Except at Christmas.

Nobody wants to hurt someone’s feelings by appearing to not be excited about a present.

Now let’s be clear. It’s not as if those burdened with RSF are incapable of smiling. It’s just that something has happened in our society that renders a simple and sincere “Thank you, it’s just what I wanted” inadequate.

I blame Facebook. Those who belong to the social network tell me that online exclamation inflation is out of control and has been for some time. That is, simply using one exclamation point to express excitement is no longer considered sufficient. I’m told that if you don’t employ half a dozen exclamation points it is assumed you just don’t care.

Someone writing “Happy birthday!” on Facebook might as well say “Go to blazes!”

This raises the bar at Christmas. One is expected to emote. Required to emote.

For Inland Northwest residents with Resting Spokane Face, this expectation of effusive animation turns the beloved ritual of opening presents into a pressure-filled occasion.

Of course, families sometimes understand. They know Grandpa Lou or Aunt Stumpy has never turned gratitude into a theatrical production. They know RSF is no indication of a lack of emotion. They know real life is different from a show.

So maybe keep that in mind today.

The joy of being with loved ones at Christmas isn’t something that always shows on the surface. Sometimes you need to see what is in a person’s heart.

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