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The Yawn

Silent human facial and body language are a study unto themselves. Much has been written on the sneer, the shrug, folded arms, crossed legs, rolling of the eyes, and other manifestations of human withdrawal from direct and civil engagement. I most certainly am not a behaviorist, psychologist or sociologist, but because we dogs can't speak, we are actually more sensitive to your non-verbal communications than the average human being.

That being said, let's take a look at "the yawn" from a dog's point of view; or, better still, from my point of view. Here at Faded Glory Farm, Isabel and Micah view the yawn as an indicator of guest relaxation and contentment. Your highly revered Webster dictionary defines yawn as " to open the mouth wide involuntarily, as from sleepiness or boredom.". Understanding that, I guess that there must be a very fine line between a yawn and a snore. When Micah and Isabel see guests yawn, it's definitely a win-win for Faded Glory Farm. When they see you yawn, they know that you've shed some of the trappings of your life of care and responsibility and are ready to relax.

Here at the Inn, I get to see yawns of virtually every variety. For instance, I personally yawn loudly while stretching just before I lie down. I also turn three times before lying down. This is referred to as "denning," and our ancestors did it to fluff up our chosen resting place and, at the same time, circle to ensure that predators are not nearby. It is a throwback to pure instinct (a doggy thing). My yawn prior to "denning" isn't a yawn born out of boredom, it's sort of a silent 'punctuation mark' that calls a halt to ongoing conscious activity and is leading up to a a "good night, y'all!"

In the old days, yawning was considered impolite in that it signified boredom. I just can't imagine what anybody would find boring in the 'old days,' can you? In the nineteenth century many a righteous yawn was hidden behind ladies' Victorian-era fans. After fans fell out of favor during the early 1900s, the silk kerchief was known to conceal many a yawn. Today, most Kleenex are too small to successfully veil an unabashed yawn, and folks have had to come up with new and innovative ploys to hide their boredom. So, these days, the yawn has morphed into acceptance as a precursor to stating one's intention of cutting a visit or meeting short and heading home to perhaps rearrange a sock drawer. Dismissed as a mild form of out-and-out narcolepsy, the unabashed yawn is sometimes acceptable at night; but yawning and taking one's leave during daylight hours may still be considered by more genteel folks in the South as 'gauche.'

Even a dog like me knows that yawning before or during sex can lead to serious consequences. Some of the most serious human 'train wrecks' I have witnessed at the Inn were instigated by yawns launched at inappropriate times. Eager young brides and grooms rarely yawn themselves into dangerous territory, but couples celebrating their tenth, fifteenth and anniversaries of longer durations, do sometimes end up yawning their way into unchartered waters. Yawning after sex is sometimes acceptable, but it, too, may precipitate a trip to the "never-never land" of intimacy, and most folks who have been there, never want to tread that barren ground again. You humans are sensitive about the darndest things! My advice? If you want to be considered youthful, vibrant, and physically unscathed, it would be best to abstain from yawning in polite company altogether.

When is it effective to yawn? How do you use yawning to your advantage? I thought you would never ask. Yawning is, and always will be, a kinder alternative to complete and utter rejection, so sometimes it is kinder to yawn than flee.

If you are walking in the forest and you are confronted by a grizzly bear and her cub, you can try yawning without making eye contact. Hopefully you are wearing your Depends at the time of this encounter. You will need a lot of luck in this situation.

If you are at a party, or a Faded Glory Guest Appreciation Happy Hour, and you have been trapped in a conversation by someone with bad breath who wants to tell you about a movie they recently saw (scene by scene) ad nauseum, it might be time for an unabashed yawn. They'll get the hint.

If you have been invited to the home of friends who have just returned from a trip to Alaska with 1,500 exciting slides that they took with their 35mm camera, you can either pray that their Kodak Carousel projector jams, the household suffers a debilitating power-loss, or just begin to yawn loudly before excusing yourself to flee for your car. Chances are, you will be forgiven.

If you have just finished dinner at a restaurant with a middle-aged blind date (selected by a maiden aunt or a well-meaning friend), and you have learned that your dinner companion still lives at home with his or her parents and avidly collects Beanie Babies, it might just be the time to begin yawning - loudly. Or, better still, just quietly slip away to a nearby restroom and hope that it's windows aren't painted shut. You humans know the drill.

Yawning is infectious. The act of yawning has recently been proved to probe deeply into our power of suggestion. At your next bridge club or poker game, try launching a long, healthy yawn, and then quietly observe the other players around you. Even though nobody is likely to consciously notice or mention your indiscretion, you can count on the fact that at least one other player will also yawn within the next two minutes. Then, as if on cue, one or possibly more of your group will begin to yawn. It's a shame that we can't spread goodwill using this methodology.

In these cases, yawning doesn't signify complete rejection, just a hint of boredom. There's always an element of doubt as to the extent.

Now, at the risk of my causing a yawning epidemic among you, my readers, I will stop my friendly rant and head out onto the sunny side-porch of the Inn for a much needed nap.

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved