Dear Fonzie, I just posted this on Best American. Love, Jenny
Prosper and Long Live [a gesture suggestion for depression by Jennifer Michael Hecht]
I’ve got something to sell you about. It’s a show and tell.
It’s about signs and gestures and how we get new ones. Our world's top six might be: thumbs up, peace, thumbs down, rock and roll, and fuck you. Try them right now in quick secession.
I can use my face to flash you some quick information, as a flashed sad-face means bad news.
Great news for people with low self-esteem is: eyes wide and a shake of the head to suggest disbelief, mouth downturned, shoulders up, then… jazz hands.
We ought to have a simple gesture for thank you. The best we have is hands pressed palms together and a little tilt of the head, toward face-down. That’s easiest to recognize but any sign that needs two hands has limitations. You can ask for the check or for a bottle opener with one hand. I guess the bow of the head alone, with slightly lidded eyes, actually works for thank you.
I’ve been thinking about this. Say we had a gesture that meant: “I feel so terrible I can’t stop thinking about death” which specifically does not signal a breakdown of the normal social walls. I’m thinking of Spock’s "Live Long and Prosper" but upside down. You flash that at a stranger and if she is feeling bone awful also, she flashes it back, while someone having an okay time right then flashes back a supportive upright LLP. The symbol should be quick, deniable. If you want to start a conversation you have to try it through normal means and risks. What I am suggesting is just an unspoken semiotics of support.
Excellent work staying alive since I posted last. Now stay alive until I have an opportunity to encourage you yet again. At the latest, one week from now, but I feel all stealth posty, like I may sooner paste up un autre placard rather than later.
ps Chewy words are tasty as nougat, no? Nu? Here's lookinat chewkid. wordy your mother. peas out.
pps Would you like to be Happy All the Time? Simply read this book: The Happiness Myth.