Think back to when you were a little kid. How did you know for sure whether your mother or teacher or babysitter was really, truly angry at you or whether she was merely irritated? You could probably tell by looking at her mouth. Happy mouths have one set of behaviors, annoyed mouths have another, and mouths belonging to furious people have a collection of characteristics all their own.
Need a Crowbar for That Mouth?
The classic sign of the angry mouth is lips that appear to be smashed down and glued together, a gesture that's technically called compressing the lips. The lips are smushed together in a thin, tight line. Compressing the lips can also be a sign of extreme frustration — an emotion that's headed toward anger, perhaps, but hasn't escalated to that point yet.
Before you dramatically change the look of your mouth, consider the final outcome. Will your mouth still look natural? Think of someone who has a set of too-big or too-small dentures; his mouth never looks natural or normal, and unfortunately, the odd look of his mouth is what you tend to focus on.
Imagine that you're trying to balance your checkbook and you keep coming up short. You know there's a reason for this, and you can't rest until you find the missing money. If anyone happened to see your mouth at this very moment, he'd instantly know that you're tense, confused, and fed up with the whole project.
The lip-purse is often confused with compressing the lips, but there's a subtle difference between the two. As you just read, when you compress your lips, they appear to be joined together tightly. The lip-purse falls somewhere between compressing the lips and puckering them — it's almost a combination of the two. The lips are smashed together, but instead of being somewhat extended in a straight line, they come together in what appears to be a slight angry pucker.
Pursing the lips can indicate anger, but is more often used to convey confusion or disagreement on some level. Let's say a couple is discussing their dinner plans. The man wants to go to the new Indian place; the woman has her heart set on Italian cuisine. Lo and behold, the boyfriend pulls out a coupon for a free meal at the Indian restaurant, which makes this an offer that's tough to refuse. His girlfriend mulls this over: she's no fan of curry, but she is a thrifty person. Her pursed lips betray the indecision swirling 'round in her head.
Puckers and Pouts
What's the best way to extend a message of extreme affection from across the room? Just pucker up, Baby! The lip pucker is the precursor to the kiss, of course, and is an unmistakable sign of love and affection.
Well-designed and very practiced puckers can be seen on models in all sorts of advertisements, from cosmetics to liquor. In order to read the message behind these lips, you have to take the rest of the face into consideration. A wide-eyed pucker is far less romantic than one accompanied by hazy, sultry eyes, for example.
Pouting — extending the lower lip just slightly over the top lip — can indicate sadness, anger, or frustration. Most people tend to think that pouting is something that small children do, but that's not always so. Children's pouts tend to be more obvious than adults', for the simple reason that kids don't bother to temper their emotional expressions. So while a child may jut his lower lip way out and over the top lip in a most effective manner, an adult pout is usually more subtle, with just a slight protrusion of the lower lip.
Interestingly, since the pout is one of those body language traits that instantly reminds you of childhood, it's also a move that's used in flirting.
A Kiss Is Still a Kiss
As you'll read in Chapter 12, some nonverbal cues vary from culture to culture. Holding your hand in a certain pose might be completely acceptable in Europe, for example, but insulting in regions of South America. Fortunately, what you've heard about the language of love is true — it's international.
In every culture, kissing is a sign of affection — but did you ever stop to wonder why people are compelled to join themselves together at the oral cavities, which are potentially fraught with peril (in the way of germs and bad breath)?
The area around the nose and mouth is one of the most sensitive regions in the body — it's packed with nerve endings. Kissing excites those nerve endings and gives you a sense of exhilaration, peace, and/or well-being. So there really is a reason you feel exhilarated after that first kiss with a new love interest — your nerves have been fired up!
Puckering is used to convey love and sensuality.
Sticking your lower lip out makes you appear young and innocent. Take heed, though: If you choose to employ the pout, do so sparingly. Although it's coy and cute, it also happens to be a gesture that can go from endearing to annoying in about one minute.
Because of those nerve endings, just touching the lips can affect your mood. This is why you'll see people rub their mouths when they're upset or confused — by touching the mouth, they're literally soothing their nerves. It's also why the simple act of brushing your lips across a special someone's cheek can be almost as exciting as giving him a smack on the kisser.