When we think about the people in our lives, regardless of the nature of our connection, it’s their faces that we imagine. The face is the outward representation of who we are, a reflection of what lies within, the part of us that we present to the world. Faces are the means by which we recognize others. Faces are such an intrinsic part of our identity that we even conjure into being the faces of people we have yet to meet – for example, I’m certain that I know what my colleagues here at Blogcritics look like, because I’ve imagined them all, in spite of not having met any of them – face to face, as it were. Who among us reads a book without drawing a mental portrait of the characters inside? When we look into our mirrors, who do we see?
We lavish a great deal of attention on our own faces. Men shave theirs, or tend carefully groomed beards and moustaches. Women moisturize, exfoliate and paint theirs, and often, when gravity and time begin to exert their effects, seek surgical intervention to repair the ravages of age. We fix our chins, our noses and our eyes in order to make them conform, for better or worse, to some ideal.
There are many colloquialisms involving faces – we have our poker faces for those times when we choose to keep our feelings to ourselves, and we have moments when our emotions are vividly etched upon our face, which is then said to be “like an open book.” We have game faces for when we need to psych ourselves up; we put on a happy face when we might not feel so happy; we save face when we try to avoid embarrassment; we face off with our adversaries; we reserve some face time with people we want to connect with in person; and we face the music when we need to own up to our misdeeds. We read each other’s faces to divine character and intent; we fixate on the faces of our loved ones. We are haunted by the faces of the dead.