A man and woman who cannot smile because of a rare condition have fallen in love. It may seem like Alex Barker, 45, and 38-year-old Erin Smith are not thrilled to be together but their expressions are actually due to Moebius syndrome.
It causes paralysis of the cranial nerves, meaning sufferers cannot make any facial expressions. But the disease is what brought Mr Barker, from Coventry and Ms Smith, from North Carolina, together.
The couple found love after meeting on a social media site for people with Moebius syndrome, and after just four dates, they got engaged. Ms Smith said: ‘At first, I would never have thought that I would ever fall in love with someone that was born with the same thing I was.
‘But I mean it’s not just the Moebius, we have a lot of other things in common too. ‘It is so nice to have someone that understands me for me. I love his British accent. It makes me melt. It does it just gives me chills.’
The couple, whose speech is also affected, have to be creative when expressing their feelings due to the fact they’re unable to smile.
Mr Barker added: ‘I can tell when Erin is happy because she always puts her head on one side and goes “ooh,” and I think although we can’t show facial expression, we know each other’s mannerisms, so when we’re upset or when we’re frustrated or whatever, there is a lot of nonverbal communication that goes on.
‘I think the eyes tell a lot too, even not just Alex, but my family and friends have always said that they can look in my eyes and I smile with my eyes, they know I am happy.’
Mr Barker revealed he was severely bullied when he was younger and he was unable to get a girlfriend. He said he still struggled when he met new people.
Mr Barker added: ‘If I meet people for the first time they might smile at me in greeting and then they are wondering why is he being rude? ‘Why is he not smiling back? And I’m like I’m not smiling back because I actually can’t… I actually can’t do it.’
Mr Barker said it had found it difficult to meet a partner before he found Ms Smith because not being able to smile was a ‘relationship killer’.
The two lovebirds have spoken to a specialist about having children and were told their offspring would not necessarily have Moebius and it would depend on the makeup of their genes.
But for now they are just enjoying being together. Mr Barker said: ‘Just having Erin’s hand in my hand, just means the world. It means we don’t have to show any facial expression.
And I know when Erin is looking at me that there is a smile inside somewhere.’ Moebius syndrome is very rare, with only around 250 people with it in the UK and less than 1,000 worldwide. The couple will feature on Body Bizarre on Saturday at 10pm on TLC UK.