Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reflections on my Face (I don't see what you see)

A funny thing happened when I opened up my email inbox this morning.

I had an email from a kind friend who sent two photos of Mark and me. We were guests at her wedding last spring (more about that in a minute), and in snapping candid photos of the guests, her photographer captured me and my hunk in a couple of shots.

The photos are obviously taken by a pro. The composition is lovely. The resolution is far better than I could ever get with my little pocket camera. There was only one thing...

The woman in the photos wasn't me!

Hahaha...or at least she wasn't the "me" that I imagine myself to look like...

Mind you, there is nothing at all wrong with this woman's appearance. She just looks kind of, I don't know, angular and bony.

Like this:

Or this:

That chin! The neck! The mouth! Does she ever relax?

Sigh...of course it's me. For those of you who are close to my age, you will know exactly what I am talking about. And for you younger readers...all I can say is, well, just wait. Gravity will have its way.

Candid snapshots are such an odd, modern thing. It's only been in the last 100+ years that we've been able to see ourselves captured on film in this way. It happens in the tiniest slice of time: the intersection of a facial muscle's twitch and the click of a camera button, and an expression is frozen for inspection.

I don't see myself this way when I look in the mirror (yet another relatively modern invention, when you think of the whole span of human history). I can compose my expression, smooth my facial muscles, relax my jaw. I see what I choose to see.

But others, apparently, see me this way all the time. As a high school teacher, I am perhaps more self-aware than I might be if I worked in an office. Every morning I put myself in front of classrooms filled with young humans. Seventy eyes watch me move, laugh, talk, burp, frown, gesture, scratch my head, smile. Seventy eyes that belong to the most self-conscious demographic on the planet. They groom themselves so carefully before coming to school. Appearances are everything. On the one hand, I'm just another peripheral adult in their lives. They deal with me for one hour a day, and then they're on their way to far more important interactions with the people who really matter to them--their peers. But on the other hand, what else do they have to look at for the hour? Without fail, whenever I get a haircut, my students always notice. And they mention it. I know they're watching

Ah, well. It's not that I really mind that I look different to others than I imagine myself to look. There's not much I can do about it. Even for people who have had plastic surgery, there is a gap, I'm sure, between their perceived appearance and the reality of how others actually experience them. And of course what matters most is who we are as a person, how we live our lives inside the skin and bones that we call home, the choices we make and the ways we can be human with others.

But still. It kind of makes you think, you know?

And by the way, here's the lovely bride and her family:

 Becky, Ben, Lucy and Will had such a beautiful, joyful day. What a delight it was to share their wedding celebration with them!
Becky herself is a professional photographer, but for her wedding day she wisely turned the camera duties over to another pro. The photos here were taken by Jenn Repp.

After spending some time with these photos, I have to point out my absolutely favorite thing. It's this:

Gosh, I love this guy.

(PS - More reflections about my face here.)


Dorothy said...

Relax. The years have been good to you and your face. :)

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I hardly notice my face at all. When I saw a new doctor and she asked me when I started having a rash. I hadn't realized that I had it, and neither Scott or I had any idea how long it had been there. I can imagine living without mirrors now, which would have been unthinkable as a teenager. Lol

I agree with Dorothy, time has been kind. You are just as beautiful as you have always been. :-)

Polly @ Helping Little Hands said...

You look great, Mom. One thing to remember is that pictures capture a frozen moment. Faces that look really weird in pictures (about to eat a bit of foot, blinking, etc) don't look weird to people experiencing the real you because we don't experience people as frozen, but fluid and moving.

The pictures taken of you are lovely, though, and I would say capture what I imagine you to look like.

Bryan Lewis said...

I often feel the same way whenever I hear a recording of my voice. I feel like a sound like a dim-witted caveman or something.