Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poker Face

Let’s talk about THE POKER FACE. You know the face I’m talkin’ about. When I hear the term “poker face” I actually do not think of poker…at least, not right away. First I think of a doctor. I’m wondering if you need proof you’ve mastered this face in order to graduate from medical school. You know…they could video tape you in an ordinary conversation with a pretend patient…and then said patient could, say…pull an intestine out of his pocket (maybe during a coughing fit…work with me on this) and they could make sure that the doctor-to-be can muster no reaction whatsoever. No grimace, no horrified step backward…it would be one of the rare occasions where nothing is actually the correct answer.

“Where else can THE POKER FACE be used?” you ask.


Well, I guess there’s poker. (Duh.)

Then there’s celebrityville…Clinton Kelly has perfected it…the man’s got it down cold. I’m sure it’s taught in this venue as well…and not because he’s dealing with fashion disasters. I’m guessing TLC wants to see him react to those…I’m talking more about his being prepared to deal with the general public on such an up-front and personal scale. I’m imagining they sat him down early in his career and said “You’ll never survive in this biz if you don’t perfect this face,” and they demonstrated the no-reaction-at-all face, which he promptly parroted…adding the cornflower-eye-stare for drop-dead emphasis. After the execs picked themselves up off the floor, they deemed him prepared for public life and sent him off to makeup.

Finally, there’s parenthood. The ultimate test for THE POKER FACE. It might not be needed early on in the process but make no mistake…you’ll need it soon enough. I personally feel it’s used twice as often on BOYS than on GIRLS but this is only a personal observation. It’ll first crop up in toddlerhood, maybe the first time your little guy pulls the drawers out on the dresser and tries to use them as his own personal stairway to access the character he sees on the 19-inch teevee, causing said dresser and teevee to crash down on top of him. This thankfully only resulted in a frantic trip to the ER and a bloody bump on the head for the toddler, but so scared the crap out of said parents that for the next ten years his teevee was mounted to a steel bracket in the wall.

Not that this really happened (it did.) to anyone I know. (It was Taylor.)

With boys, the poker face is often used in conjunction with some amount of blood. That’s the hard part…not reacting to an injury when inside your head, you’re screaming like a banshee. Trying to look only mildly interested in wiping the blood off your son’s face while you’re mentally already dialing 9-1-1 and running through the list of known allergies with the paramedics is no easy feat…but it comes with the territory. If you’re lucky, it’s simply a bloody nose and after half a roll of paper towels and a change of clothes you’re back to being golden. He never has to know that you’ve jumped at every sound for the next several hours, fearful you’ll see him come hurtling through the door…clutching a bloody wad of tissues…a look of panic on his face.


Don't even get me started on the years when they want everything from red-tinted contact lenses (Taylor does not even need glasses) to sleeping in their clothes to save time dressing for school the next day...(Connor will do anything to sleep 5 minutes longer).

The POKER FACE is your constant companion during those in-between years…when your children are no longer babies but are not quite ready to be on their own. When they still need you and your infinite wisdom but they’d never, ever admit it.

As native New Yawkers, THE POKER FACE is a part of our genetic makeup…as instinctive as dodging cars in traffic or not rolling your eyes when someone mispronounces Houston Street. We try not to blink when we see the odd person walking the pot-bellied pig down 7th Avenue.The fact that it can help us survive in other areas of our lives is just icing on the cake…or in this case, chocolate chips in the cannoli.

I do love myself a good cannoli.


Now you, my thoutful & witty readers. When have you found the best use for the POKER FACE? And what tricks do you use to keep that look plastered there? Inquiring readers (that'd be US...especially ME, FYI) wanna know! So, spill!




BlackLOG said...

Dry humour is where I find the poker face most useful. The more ludicrous the statement the more poker face control is required.

The other area where it comes in useful is dealing with US Border guards. In the early years we would innocently try and converse with these guys (to be honest they are the real kings of the poker face). Attempts at witty British banter met with more Stonewall than Thomas .J. Jackson managed in his entire military career and he was the original but clearly no longer the best. Pushing got me way to closer to a 'free' all over body search (internal not so much an option more a prerequisite) than I care to think about. These days I'm content to play no card poker with them.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Very interesting post. Having grown up in the NYC area I think you're right about that. But I beg to differ with the boys and girls. I need the Poker Face with Daughter #2 more than her sister Or brother, tho I use it with all 3. But she is physically always doing something, and the things that have always come out of her mouth require major Poker Face!
I also found it handy working in the hospital; I never knew what I'd see when I walked into a room.
On another note, I have an award for you on my blog today so please stop by. Don't know if you already have it, but I'm so enjoying reading your posts!

starfish264 said...

WORK!!!! Everytime somebody asks me something stupid or ridiculous - my face is schooled to neither break down in hysterical laughter, pointing at said person and rolling round on the floor laughing at their incredible optimism, or lunge for their throat - it's more of a poker all-body reaction really!

Other than that - I use it liberally when applying sarcasm - usually accompanied by one questioning eyebrow (oh yes - my eyebrows are under full individual control!), and during all banter sessions with my friends when the levels of innuendo (in-your-endo?) usually reach eye-watering levels, all whilst we remain perfectly straight faces. Suh-weeeeet!

Heather said...

That was histerical!

My grandson was trying to tell me a bibical story with a twist of pirate. I kept trying to keep the "Poker Face of I am listening intently on this fabulous story" but he kept making all the pirate gesture and Arr noises. I failed miserably!! He just cracks me up!!

I have never been able to pull off a "poker face" in anything.

jmberrygirl said...

My poker face is pretty much nonexistant. I have never mastered the technique, though I'd like to think I do better at work than other places. It's hard for me to hide what I'm thinking because my thoughts usually spill from my brain out my open mouth like niagra before I can even catch up with them... controlling facial expressions seems like overkill! I've been told (more than once) that if I manage to keep my mouth shut, my face says it all for me. Especially when I think someone or something is incredibly stupid. =)

Tinkerschnitzel said...

Ah, yes, the poker face. I work for a church. I have to use it ALL THE TIME. I think the only time I can't control it is when someone mispronounces a common word or uses the wrong one. Please tell me people don't pronounce Houston as Whoston. That would get em a whack upside the head, but then again, I'm also from Texas. :)

ValleyWriter said...

My best use of the poker face was when discussing a particularly interesting essay with one of my GED students. His chosen topic? How to make crack cocaine. I steeled myself and kept a straight face while discussing how to incorporate his "expressive text" into a 5 paragraph essay format and expand upon some of the finer points of crack production to help flesh out the text.

That was 5 years ago - and I'll never forget it!

book*addict said...

I've never been able to master the poker face, but with an almost 2 year old daughter, I've learned to master it. I am determined to raise better than how my mom raised me (I'm extremely competitive), so I've needed to keep a straight when my daughter is doing something she shouldn't but looks so cute doing it. No easy. Also, even though she's a girl, she acts like my little bro on crack. That child has the capability of being in 10 places at one while leaving a mess behind her. She's like a hurricane. Sometimes all I want to do is laugh, but the poker face comes in handy and she's learned to take me seriously.
Let's just hope I can still succeed in The Poker Face area once she's older and starts to get curious.

Runnergirl said...

Having babysat, I can appreciate the above! I don't really have one though, but did have to try and perfect it when dealing with my non-passed-on grandma. She used to come out with the most ludicrous statements!

Eimear said...

I guess it says something about me that when I hear the words "poker face" I think about Lady Gaga... XD

A random use for the poker face: when you're giving out free newspapers in a streetcorner and a drunk gets into his head to hug you. You think: "I'll just keep quiet, not look disgusted and not seem upset and he'll just go away when he's done hugging me." And then they come back for more...

Mark Price said...

I guess my best use of the "poker face" is when my wife is asking me why I didn't do that thing I so promised to do while I sit calmly and tell her we have never spoken of it before. She's all like "You promised to (insert any number of things I am putting off) today!" There I sit all poker faced like this was the first time I ever even met her. Never works by the way. Garbage is out!

JennyMac said...

haha...I am so inept at the poker face, I wrote an entire post on it too. LOL.

lifelove'n'wine said...

I use the poker face for poker.

But I also use it when I'm trying to pull one over on someone (usually Geoff or one of my brothers). I must keep my face perfectly still and calm while I tell some crazy story or false fact to this person. Geoff says that this is lying, but if you tell the truth within a couple of minutes it's not lying it's JOKING...obviously.

While I'm good at keeping my poker face during poker games, I'm terrible when I'm "joking". My mouth twitches because I'm trying not to smile and my eyes get to wide. Oh well.

Insanity said...

Haha. I can only do it when the sarcasm bug bites, which is fairly often and especially when I'm in a foul mood or when I put a lot of effort into controlling my facial muscles. xD Otherwise I can't keep a straight face to save my life. Well I guess if my life depended on it, I could do it but that's beside the point. Thanks for making me chuckle today with this post. (:

carissajaded said...

I've found I often use poker face when I see someone I recognize, but don't particularly want to talk to. I try to take any recognition out of my face so it is clear I'm not being rude, I just don't see them!

I can't read the word poker without thinking- But I don't even know her!

How old am I!

Allegria said...

Great post! I usually use it when trying to pull a fast one--usually in conjunction with my sister. When we were roomates in college, we managed, through sheer strength of poker face, to convince a group of people who had known us as siblings for years that no, we actually weren't. Or making a few Americans think that there wasn't electricity in Canada (I was living in Vancouver, B.C. at the time) and that I had an extension cord running to Blaine, WA.

It was good to have the practice then, though, because with kids it is taken out on a regular basis. Usually when my daughter (6) says something bizarre, like the other day when she pulled out my...uh...feminine hygeine supplies while tidying up the bathroom drawer and proceeded to announce to all that my pullups (she has a toddler brother)were now tidy and arranged. Did I laugh? Nope. "Thank you very much dear, now let's go downstairs and start supper."

MJ said...

I too thought of Lady Gaga when I first read the title, even though I think I have listened to her a total of 2 times my whole life!

I SUCK at the poker face. The only time I have been able to perfect it is when dealing with my girls. These lovely children make a WWF ring and a catagory 4 Hurricane look mild!! I get to be the mean cop while dad is the good cop - it's not fair!!

MJ of Dirty Little Confessions

snoble24 said...

my poker face comes to my nieces and nephew. when there being well brats to put it nicely yet there kinda amusing me at the same time. i have to keep my poker face on and get on to them for whatever they are doing. also when i am being stupid and start asking questions about something someone has said that i know will shoc them i asked and i know the answer i just do it to get the reaction of what the .... sometimes i cant do it though. or when im telling a white lie. you know when you lie to a child about something cuse the truth would hurt them. like my edist neice and nephew they have asked questions about there father why he was shot and killed. well i say i dont know when the truth was he had been beating up this guy many times and so when he was drunk he came over to this guys apartment to kill him he had a knife and he thought the guy be in bed. well the guy had over heard him saying he was gonna kill him tonight so he waited up all night long with the gun. when there dad broke into the aprtment and came into the bedroom real quietly with the knife the dude shot him and kept shooting till he was dead. the kids dont need to know there dad was an abusive drug dealing drunk. they have asked why there mom left there dad well i know its cuse he beat there mom alot and when she was pregnant with the boy he beat her so bad she almost lost him and went in premature labor and he was dead at birth and had to be worked on. after that she didnt think her kids were safe around him and she left. the kids dont need to know that though. so iv done the poker face of i dont know why with those things

Lauren said...

Poker face eh? (yeah... I'm Canadian). FAMILY REUNIONS! I had my wisdom teeth removed three days before Christmas almost three years ago. So I'm cranky, can't eat any delicious food and I'm so swollen it looks like I'm growing another head out of my cheek. Everyone is commenting on how swollen I am until my one aunt comes up and tells me she doesn't think I look swollen at all. And she honestly didn't see it! I was like: "Thanks," while thinking: "There's no way my face is that fat! Who do you think you are!" (She has a tendency to pick on me...)

Picture Imperfect said...

Haha... LOVE it!

I use my poker face all the time with my boss when she comes up with her totally unreasonable expectations. I just look at her. No response, no words... just the blank poker stare. Goes right through her.

She used to just keep on talking, as though I simply hadn't understood what she said to me.

Now, she goes "oh wait... that was probably unreasonable of me wasn't it?"

Of course, it never *stops* her from being unreasonable. It just give me time to stop myself from saying "are you freaking kidding me????"

She's learning! ;o)

Kathryn said...

BlackLOG: Well, what about the British guards? Of all ppl, I expected that from you first. Don't tourists spend their entire vaca trying to get these guys to crack a smile? Dry humor is the BEST, though...no-one knows if you're kidding...and then they've no clue what to say or how to act.

Maureen@IslandRoar: Oh, Maureen! Thank you! I'll be sure to stop by in a bit...you know I have to get my fix of your wonderful writing at least once a day. Interesting to hear about daughter #2, but I'm guessing that may have more to do with the birth order than her gender. Also, I'm not surprised that being a nurse, you've undoubtedly got the face down pat.

starfish264: Oh, boy! I'd looove to be a fly on the wall for one of those sessions....work, or w/your friends. As a matter of fact, the hell w/the wall...pour me something and count me IN!! Sounds hilarious!

Heather: I have learned that The Poker Face is much more difficult with boys, I think. They are generally so funny! Connor once told me that he learned in science that cracking your knuckles does NOT cause gingivitis.
I almost choked on my coffee!

jmberrygirl: HA! Oh, c'mon! What if: Your girlfriend shows her a hideous brand new engagement ring she's just rec'd. You're telling me you couldn't manage to pull one off?? I'll bet you could!

Marissa the Conservative said...

Insane incident with Taylor. Glad he's all swell! But me, since I have no children & I'm not YET a doctor :), I use the Poker Face when something funny (to me) happens in public...let's say.. oh.. maybe a kid trips and falls. I use to turn around && get a light giggle in, but now, my good blogger, I just think of something that really GRINDS MY GEARS(!) and voila! Poker Face is full mode :D. Or I just try not to really think about it..OR if my iPod is on at the moment, I focus on the words and blah blah, blah..

Kathryn said...

tinkerschnitzel: Well, I'm sorry to say, they pronounce it like the city.
Huh-you-ston. As if the cameras around their necks and the necks craned to the sky (no tall bldgs in the city where you live, buddy?), or the matching I (Heart) NY sweatshirts isn't a dead giveaway.
ValleyWriter: Are you kidding me? And I thought for sure you'd end this comment with: And then I called 9-1-1. Wow! Is there teacher/pupil confidentiality?? that's some story! Scary.

book*addict: HA! You'll do just fine, honey. I can remember my early poker face...the one where the toddlers would fall down and look to me to see if they should be crying. I'd have to smile and say "O-KAY!!"...all sing-song...and they'd stop tearing up and all wud be well. I guess that's when the poker face first gears up!

Kathryn said...

Runnergirl: Oh, yeah! When someone says something completely "out there", you've got to know when to just give 'em the blank look. It's the only way to go!

Eimear: Oh, no! That's a tough one! I'd prob say something like, "Sorry buddy...it's one hug per customer."
And here you are, trying to be the nice one....!

Mark Price: Oh, you naughty boy. Why do guys think this will work...indefinitely?? I can see after the first few months...maybe.
I said MAYBE. You may need to practice in front of a mirror. BTW: You have no email link on your blog? Actually, it's not a question. You don't. Email me when you get a sec...I have an idea. (I, however, DO have a link to ME.)

JennyMac:You did? I swear...I didn't see it! But I'm on my way there now!

lifelove'n'wine: Hey, at least you can utilize the Poker Face when it REALLY matters....you're not winning any green for telling a joke, right??

Allegria said...

Re: my comment above. They weren't Depends or another brand of the same, btw. Just thought I'd clarify. LOL Just regular, well--you know. And I'll stop now... *blush*

Sports15 said...

school...those first few weeks of college it was all about "what was your score on the SAT?" And now that I'm applaying to business school, I get the annoying "What was your score on the GMAT."

Kathryn said...

Insanity: You're very welcome, sweetie. I'll bet you could pull it off with ease. All those little white lies we tell our friends to make them feel better about themselves? That requires a LOT of Poker Face!

carissajaded: HA! I've often done that quickly-look-away and feign the didn't see you look. It's really quite effective, if you can keep moving!

allegria: Oh, good one! You've got it down cold, my dear. Good thing...all that practice in college is gonna come in mighty handy now!

MJ: Well, dealing with the kids is when you'll need it most, so you should be just fine! Esp. as they get older...you'll really need it then!

Kathryn said...

snoble24: Well, with that horror story, you've got to keep a blank face and tell those innocent children you don't know what happened! That's something you hope they never have to deal with!

Lauren: UGH! Your aunt sounds MEAN!Family reunions...that's a good one! "Yeah, so happy to see you! Sure we should keep in touch! Nah, I'm not online AT ALL....."

SMOOG! HA! I love it! You're slowly getting thru that thick head of hers! Meanwhile, you just keep counting to 10 in your head...and thinking of the different ways you'll loosen one of the wheels on her desk chair. (You didn't hear that from me.)

Kathryn said...

Allegria: Don't worry, babe....I've got your back! We ladies knew exactly what you meant...as I'm sure the guys did as well. No worries....

Sports15: You just keep practicing that silent stare....you'll shut 'em up in no time!

Ron said...

Helloooooo Kathryn!

You said it, girl!

Having lived in NYC taught me the MOST about Poker Face. I mean in order to survive you MUST. But that's what I love about that city...it's wild and insane, yet nothing shocks me anymore.

I need to use my Poker face at work. ALOT. And waiting on insane people gives me great practice. In fact, I had to use it today when a customer told me the cologne I was selling, smelled like a public restroom!

*insert POKER FACE

Love ya, my friend! Hope you had a GRANDE' day!

xo

Kathryn said...

Marissa the Conservative: Well, aren't you the nice, kind one! It's hard to hold back that bark of laughter when you see something funny at someone else's expense. It's also hard to hold back when someone's saying something really STUPID...don't you think??

Kathryn said...

Ron! I don't know how you do it. I'd want to haul off and smack him one. If you don't like it, just *think* it, you idiot....it's not like Ron's the one who MADE the damned stuff!
Grrrrrr.
When we win the lottery/sell our bestselling novel/become bff's with some obscure kazillionaire price of some country we've never heard of/discover the cure for temporary irregularity, we're SO OUTTA HERE. I'll meet you at the airport. (PS: We are NOT going to Alaska, Antarctica or Greenland, FYI.)

Mandarin Kitten said...

I absolutly bring shame to the poker face but I think it's most useful when negotiating something.

I also thouht of Lady Gaga...

Oddyoddyo13 said...

I'd probably say I use my pokerface when I've used my pokerface when I've done something I shouldn't.(We all use this one.) Its the "Yeah, I know what I did and I'm trying really hard not to A)smile, a terrible and strange habit of mine or B) break down and beg you to forgive me.

Chrissy said...

Red tinted contacts? Whaaa???

Poker face is essential when your new guy drops his pants and you come across a teeny peenie for the first time. "Oh my. It's so....bbiiigg."

Alicia said...

I have an excellent poker face I use when talking to my boss and sometimes even to clients.
You know how that is, you’re sitting there looking this person in the eye, feigning interest while in the back of your mind your wondering how you can skip out of the office 5 minutes early to beat the traffic and wondering if you remembered to delete that email you sent to your sister about how your boss is a big &%$wipe, you get my drift right?

And my best poker face is the one I have on right now that says I’m totally concentrating on my work while glancing through the file on my desk occasionally when really I’m typing this comment to you Kathryn!

class-factotum said...

I use my poker face when I'm trying to decide how to react to a horribly racist comment made by elderly relatives. Inside, I'm horrified, but I have tried the, "I don't care for that word" approach and guess what? it hasn't changed anything. They are who they are and they're not going to change so now I just change the subject.

I also use it when I am around my husband's parents, who are mean and nasty and say horrible things. Again, I debate whether to challenge them, but will they change their beliefs or behavior if I do? I doubt it. They are shameless and as far as they are concerned, their behavior is perfectly acceptable and I am the Bad one whom their son should never have married.

I am in the market for a drug that will let me be somewhat mentally present at supper with them but that will also take me away to a Happy Place while I am enduring the experience.

Picture Imperfect said...

(PS: We are NOT going to Alaska, Antarctica or Greenland, FYI.)

I am SO bummed. I'm only a couple of hours from AK... I would buy you hot chocolate (or beer, margaritas, wine... whatevah!) and everything...

*sigh*

;o)

Picture Imperfect said...

...and thinking of the different ways you'll loosen one of the wheels on her desk chair. (You didn't hear that from me.)

BWAAAAHHAAAAAhahahaaaaaa! This is so priceless. Just shot coffee out my nose.

*thinking*

Oh yes... it shall be done... :oP (thanks for the tip)

Kathryn said...

Mandarin Kitten: That's the hardest time to use the Poker Face....when you're negotiating something. I tend to look at the floor..and scowl a lot.

Oddyoddyo13: Growing up, my dad wud say "WHO (fill in the blank...it was always something bad)???" Now, who in their right mind wud pipe up with "ME! I DID IT!" We learned early on the basics of the look!

Chrissy! HA! Yeah and then...it's light's OUT.....FAST! (You can tell him the snickering he thinks he hears is coming from the next-door neighbor's teevee!) HA!

Alicia: Excellent job, my dear! And you comment didn't get deleted, so you must've completed this task w/o a flaw! Yeah...if they only knew what we were thinking half the time they're talking!

class-factotum: Well, if you find that drug, please send some my way! I often go to my happy place, 'cause you're right...they're not changing who they are/how they think, no matter what you say. Sometimes, apathy is the best response of all.

Smoog: Okaaay. I'll let you buy me some margaritas. (Notice I said "some".)
Tip on the chair wheel: Wait till she's coming back from lunch or a really awful meeting. She's more likely to launch herself into it and it'll make for a better collision. Also, have cell phone battery charged & in "take photo" mode.....

Walter said...

Unconsciously, I use Poker Face when I'm guilty of something. :-)

Picture Imperfect said...

SOME margaritas - ok, you're on! Re: the chair... oh man you have no idea how much this image has helped me get through today! I am SO glad it's Friday!

I FAILED at Poker Face today. I think the words "You have GOT to be kidding me!!!" even crossed my lips more than once. Thankfully my boss was behind me backing me up this time though...

She can live another day. Hell I'll be generous, she can have the weekend. LOL!

Kathryn said...

Walter: Um. How unconscious can it be if you're aware of it?? C'mon...you KNOW you're guilty!!!

Smoog! Sounds like a Margarita is definitely in order, my dear. Just be the duck and let it all just roll off! Happy Friday!!

Wendy Blum said...

I am a tad behind on posting a comment about POKER FACES. I have found that people born under the sign of Scorpio have mastered the poker face. I mean they are the champions. My husband is a Scorpio and I am telling you he can be talking complete bull to anyone about anything and not blink or have any kind of facial movement. He is the best at a staring down as well. I think it's just inbred into the Scorpio nature. And not just my husband. His sister, my co-worker, one of my former high school friends and I could ramble on...Scorpio wins the poker face award.

evilteenietiff said...

I love it when kids 'try' to use the poker face,

"I DIDN'T DO IT!"
They shout out as they purse their lips into a thin line, or a little pout.

The evidence clearly on their hands and smeared on their faces and the upholstery, but somehow their little poker faces tug at your heart strings and make the punishment just that little pit less severe.

I swear the little toddlers know this, smart little munchkins

Kathryn said...

Eviltennietiff: Wow. You seem to know an awful lot about this behavior, missy.

And I DID find that Chocolate icing stain on the underside of the couch cushion right after you left....

Hmmmm......

Kathryn said...

Wendy Blum: I AGREE! My ex is a Scorpio as well and it's the same thing! OH, God....he can lie straight to ANYONE'S FACE and not blink. SCARY!!

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