Freshman Breaks Cheek Muscles from Smiling Too Much on Zoom in Effort to Make One Singular Friend

Artwork by Mel Wang

MILWAUKEE, WI — All college freshmen are nervous about making friends, but none have been as nervous as the Class of 2024. Awkward icebreakers have been replaced by sparsely populated Zoom mixers, and sitting alone in the dining hall has been swapped for late night bowls of cereal in Mom’s kitchen. 

Despite these setbacks, Emily Chee, CC’24, thinks she has found the solution: plastering on the widest, toothiest smile that she can manage and maintaining that expression for the entirety of her Zoom class sessions. Before COVID, Emily would rhythmically hit the arms of whoever was talking to show her fun and flirty side; now, she must rely solely on her facial muscles to communicate her outgoing personality.

“With online school, I was so scared that people would think I am totally aloof and introverted,” she tells us through her gaping smile, “but I realized that as long as I capitalize on these pearly whites, everyone will know that I am still the friendly-girl-next-door, only 2,000 miles away.” She tells us that whenever she hears an upward inflection in someone else’s tone that she believes might be a joke, she unmutes her microphone and lets out a series of loud and well-timed exhales of air to let everyone know that she is very easy to befriend.

Unfortunately, between the joint socials and the late-night activities of NSOP, her cheek muscles could not support the weight of her social burdens. On Sunday night they finally gave out, audibly tearing during an icebreaker in a breakout room. Her doctor has prescribed her a week’s worth of cheek rest and some painkillers, though Emily still manages a slight grin from time to time, and is hoping to get back her cheeky smile by midterms.