I’m going through one of those phases where I don’t really like my face, which is a very defeating place to be. When you don’t like your hair or your wardrobe, are relatively simple fixes. Disliking your face is treacherous. It’s also a bit insulting to those who really enjoy it, like your parents and life partner. I was looking at my son’s fantastic little face today, which also just so happens to be my dad’s face, and wondering how I would feel, or perhaps how I will feel, if/when he mopes around the house some surly teenaged day and declares his surly teenaged distaste for the face I’ve worshipped at so fervently for so long. My son, at least for now, looks like my family, and by proxy, me, and really not at all like my husband. If this keeps up, and his face doesn’t morph come Life and Puberty, he’ll be complaining about the same face I’m publicly shaming at this moment. Strange. Sorry, face. What is one to do? Sing ‘Man in the Mirror’? Not really relevant. Watch ‘Face/Off’? God no. (Why, Joan Allen? Why?) I dislike my face less when all my makeup is applied; I regret that self-imposed clause, but if means my heart and my face are, at least temporarily and maybe a little dishonestly, at peace, then is it really something to be ashamed of? More questions than not.
My husband sure likes my face. My son smiles when he sees it and he copies its expressions. My tiny scientist grabs it, pulls at it, reaches into it, tastes it, and searches it like a landscape. Sometimes he looks at me with such adoration, it’s like a glow. If he could form words he would declare his mom as the most beautiful creature in all the galaxy. I’m not worried about that statement sounding impossibly narcissistic; I think every child thinks that about his/her parents, to varying ages. That parental face represents love, safety, and the proximity of food- of course it should be exalted. These days he smiles at just about anyone that smiles at him, which occasionally brings pangs of envy. Only months ago I would endeavor for hours to elicit a genuine smile from him. I have literally hundreds of ‘smiling’ pictures of him, but I can tell you the exact one that brought tears to my eyes because it was the first incident of prolonged, intentional inter-smiling. Then slowly he would begin smiling whenever I smiled, then eventually when Grandma smiled, and so on. Now, the dog walks by and he grins. My face and my smile are still special to him, but not the way they once were; they’re not as powerful.
I’m writing for a skin care line these days, packaging and whatnot, and I often have to think about how faces work, how they should look, how I’d want mine to look after I apply X and what I’d be willing to pay for X to make me love my face. I’m being forced, by that gig and by my and my parents’ aging, to confront the face that this is the youngest, smoothest and firmest my face will ever be. In that, I’m trying to convince myself that now is not necessarily the best my face will ever be. Perhaps I’ll have one of those marvelous aged faces like the ones you see in coffee table books about wisdom and beauty. Maybe my face is a (very) late bloomer and I’ll believe my grandchildren when they look at me and glow because they believe I’m the (second) most beautiful creature in all the galaxy.