It’s taken me awhile, but I think I’ve figured out what I have in common with North America’s finest film actress. Like me, Meryl Streep is a face-toucher. It’s hard to believe that a performer so lauded for her versatility would do the same thing in every movie, but if you watch for it, it’s there. Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher, Karen Silkwood, even Mia (the Mamma in Mamma Mia) did this thing where they kind of tapped their chins with their index finger while thinking about something. Maybe I’m misremembering, maybe it’s not there in every movie, but I picked up on this tick because I’m terribly astute and also because I’m the most frequent face-toucher in the land.
When I’m anxious, self-conscious, or worried, I touch my face. Or if I’m embarrassed, angry, or flirting. I touch my face when I have too much stubble, but also if I’m too recently shaven. I tuck my hair behind my ears and rub my temples and tug at my eyebrows and tap my cheekbones. I check my throat glands and palm my eye sockets and pull on my lower lip until it hurts. Anytime I’ve ever been on camera for anything, directors have had to tell me not to touch my face. Filming didn’t happen often, by the way, I’m referring to crappy student films and no-budget “projects” that never made any festivals—the similarity to me and Streep ends with face-touching, believe me. I’d also always have to gel my hair down flat or wear a hat on camera because I’ve always had an ever-expandable mop of hair that I’d mess with every take and ruin any continuity. The point is, I can’t leave my mug alone.
I don’t think my habit is born solely of self-obsession. I have no illusions about my face, I know it’s long and asymmetrical and droopy and plain, but I think I touch my face so much because so few other people will let me mess with theirs. I’m just wild about faces and I’m frankly a little bummed I just get this one.
Dream: Have a new face.
Goal: Achievable. Barring some sort of Nicolas Cage/John Travolta Face Off scenario, I may never know what it’s like to have a face other than my own. That said, advances in plastic surgery are being made all the time. Some poor woman in the American Midwest was shot in the face but then they performed an entire face transplant on her! I saw a show about it and experts in the field of… facery, I guess, marvelled. To be frank, the woman’s new face was a bit jarring and mask-y, but the same is true of Madonna’s newest face (did anyone see her cameo on SNL recently? What the fuck was that? Did she put a grill in her mouth at the end or something? Is there something going on with you, Madonna?). Anyway, I hope I don’t get shot in the face, but if I save my pennies (and plastic surgery continues to develop), I could try out a few new visages.
Plan: Think about hypothetical faces I could have and what that could mean for me. Faces like:
A smiley face: I don’t mean that stupid logo, I mean a face that’s naturally open and happy. These are people for whom a smile is their most natural and attractive setting. The ones you can’t help but smile back at, all the while knowing that your attempt at a grin doesn’t quite measure up. These folks radiate positivity and draw people to them at parties and are extremely photogenic. They are good-looking because they are happy-looking, but don’t make quite the same impression as the truly best-looking among us, those with….
A symmetrical face. It is scientifically proven that symmetrical faces are the most attractive, and you can’t argue with science. It must be so freeing to have that good-looking a face. People with symmetrical faces are lucky because, unlike the rest of us, they don’t have to worry about how they look otherwise. We normals cursed with a fair-to-middling face put as much effort as we can into the rest of the packaging (the hair, the clothes, the physique), but symmetrical faces don’t require any such work. A strong jawed man or a big-eyed woman will still look beautiful wearing a garbage bag or Crocs because their face is doing all the work.
An expressive face. If you’re just lazing about at home this holiday season, I strongly encourage you to check out the HBO series Getting On, which is a dark comedy about nurses. The head nurse is played by Laurie Metcalf, who also played Aunt Jackie on Roseanne. I mean this only in the kindest way, but Metcalf is every argument against Botox for actresses. Hers is a squinty, fretful, open, exceptionally readable face. All I could find was this clip and it doesn’t quite illustrate my point as the shots of her are so quick, but just watch how her face changes in seconds. Incredible.
An inscrutable face. The flip side of an expressive face would be fun, too. I’d love to be able to receive any information, feel any number of feelings, and have none of it show on my face. My brother has a face like that, pretty unchanging in most circumstances. This is not to say he is unfeeling, but rather that his ability to appear to remain neutral means that people have to work harder to figure him out. That has to be fun sometimes.
Alright, I’m going to lazily level with everybody and say that this face thing is a little half-baked and not truly worthy of a blog entry. Anyone who could see my face right now would know that I’ve just returned from a lovely but too short trip home for Christmas and am in the midst of working the terror that is Boxing Week and I am equal parts happy, sleepy, and jangled. Going from a lazy few days at home to a crazy week at work had knocked me off-kilter and made me a little sad, so I promised myself I would blog tonight (I skipped last week), just to prove that I still could. If you’re reading this from your parents’ home, or you’re enjoying a long winter vacation, I envy you and hope you had a great holiday. If you’re back at work already, you have my sympathy and well-wishes. As another year comes to an end, let’s meet 2014 head on with a big smile. Chin up, Friends. Best face forward.