Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Hooked on faces

Men are supposed to think about sex more than anything else - once every six minutes according to some sources. But I don't believe that. Men must think just as often about other things - like money or coffee, or even the human face.

We think about the human face an awful lot. Our own faces, our partners' faces, our friends' faces. Faces that are young, old, beautiful, ugly, deformed, wrinkled, smooth, black, white, happy, sad. We see new faces all the time, in the flesh and in the media, and they linger in our minds.

We admire and remember faces that are beautiful. We note peculiarities like huge noses, scars, crooked teeth and dimples. We look for the nuances of feeling that words are hiding. We guess at age from the degree of visible wear and tear.

Particular faces can have a potent emotional effect on us. They can be uplifting or intimidating. Which is why political leaders like Saddam Hussein and Mao Tse Tung put their images in so many public places to reinforce their power.

Familiar and trusted celebrities are used to sell products, to suggest that only the very best of everything would cross their threshold.

An ex-lover's face can haunt us for years. Everywhere we go we think we see them, only to find it's not them at all. We seek out new partners with similar looks, sometimes not even realising the uncanny resemblance.

Whether we like it or not, we form instant reactions to people based on their appearance. It's said that interview panels do that so routinely they find it hard to disregard their first impressions and make a more rational judgment.

My mind is awash with sex? Decidedly not. I'm much more likely to be recalling a beautiful face I've just seen, or wondering why someone looks so exhausted, or watching a politician's forced smile, than I am to be contemplating a carnal workout.

In fact I could study people's faces all day. Every face is a human epic, an emotional symphony, a soul unveiled. Every face is a revelation.

21 comments:

kylie said...

i have friends who notice every fine detail of a face but lots of that stuff escapes me. it's very annoying when they comment on somebody's state of mind and i havent noticed....
it probably saves me a lot of worry though!

Nick said...

Kylie - I'm the same actually, I notice people's faces but not in great detail, only the most obvious features. Unless I'm sitting next to them for some time, that is.

e said...

The eyes do it for me every time...but I also tend to notice symmetry, skin tone, expression and whether someone has a tendency for dark circles beneath the eyes.

Ever notice how the face changes when someone smiles?

Megan said...

I'll tell you, I'm having a grand old time imagining the stories behind the faces of the regulars I see on the train every day.

Sometimes when I'm in a very large crowd like a concert or a sporting event, I get a bit overwhelmed. Not from a fear of crowds, but from sheer overload at the number of faces!

Wisewebwoman said...

One of my favourite occupations is to study faces. Especially old faces. Every wrinkle a story - you can tell if people are laughy or saddy by nature.
I've got a problem with the plastic though, no story there.
As my granny used to say: we call wind up with the faces we deserve. Even if it is only plastic.
XO
WWW

Wisewebwoman said...

"all" not "call" though it kinda works....;^)

Nick said...

e - I tend to notice in particular expressions, eyes, age, hairstyle and skin colour (including redness or paleness). Smiling can totally change someone's face in a second.

Megan - I also like guessing people's jobs and personal lives from their faces. No way of knowing if I'm right, though!

www - Old faces are sometimes more expressive than young ones because of all the wrinkles! And old eyes can have more to say as well.

Scarlet Blue said...

Is this a subtle way of saying you're deserting blogger in favour of Facebook?
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - The funny thing about Facebook is that it doesn't always have faces and doesn't often have books. And no, blogging is obviously the superior choice for us educated, discerning cognoscenti.

Baino said...

I'm like Megan, a chronic people watcher. Interesting about the interview panel's first impressions, must try that out and soon. I tend to look at the whole package. There's some truth to the fact that by the time you're 40 you wear your 'life' on your face.

Grannymar said...

Eyes are what I notice first about a person, the shape, colour, hair and mouth come later to fill the picture.

Two of the best faces I ever knew belonged to 95 year old ladies (not related) both had snow white hair and eyes that danced, They were wonderful!

Nick said...

Baino - By the time people are forty, their faces are starting to get really interesting and lived in.

Grannymar - Eyes that danced, that sounds fabulous. I know people with eyes like that too, it's a tonic just to look at them.

Suburbia said...

I am really bad at remembering faces, I guess I need to pay more attention!

Nick said...

Suburbia - I remember faces easily enough, it's the names I forget. Roll on universal telepathy.

Leah said...

This is a really beautifully written piece, Nick.

I love faces too. Especially the interesting, irregular ones with lots of intensity.

tattytiara said...

I look for kindness. It's ultimately an indefinable, know-it-when-I-see-it (or at least believe I do) quality, but a smile's definitely a huge difference maker. Like anything else, it comes down to what you do with what you've got. A scowling supermodel probably ain't gonna pass the interview.

Nick said...

Leah - Thanks! Unusual, irregular faces can be a lot more fascinating than the bland, perfect faces the media are so fond of.

Tattytiara - Oh yes, I look for kindness too. Also happiness and sensitivity. When you see them, they really shine out of the person's face.

Suburbia said...

Hee hee! Is that on the cards then? Can't wait!

Nick said...

Suburbia - If only! Wouldn't that save an awful lot of embarrassing, shifty-eyed trying to remember the name of that guy who's just greeted you like a lifelong buddy?

Rummuser said...

I am a great face watcher too. The speculation on what is going behind that mask is a fascinating way to pass time in airport lounges, and other places where a lot of movement of people takes place.

Nick said...

Ramana - They may be thinking great thoughts about the meaning of life, or they might just be thinking they need to pee. Who knows?