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One of Those Faces

February 11, 2024

I think I have one of those faces. I’m not sure exactly what that means, and it can probably mean a lot of different things. What I mean when I say it is that people see something in my face that pleads for attention. Conversation.

Invitation to share personal history. Medical. Marital. Personal. Conjugal. You name it, people seem to want to share it with me based on something that must be on my face. There is no other explanation.

I am not a flashy dresser. My wife just recently complained about my old man pants. I’m not sure, even after two explanations, what she means. Something about how they shine. In fairness, I do spend a lot of time on the back side of them. These days, when I’m not walking on the treadmill, I’m sitting on my couch or my rocking chair. Napping. Or reading. My reading is not even that interesting to most. I read about the Civil War. Or WWII. I wear New Balance sneakers. I buy two pairs at a time and wear one pair out thoroughly before wearing the second pair. Thoroughly worn out means leaking when I walk in wet weather, and since I don’t spend a lot of time walking outdoors, my sneakers last me quite a long time.

And I am an old man. The point is, whatever about me beckons for others to converse with me is not related to my clothing. I was never in the military so I have no military bearing about me. I googled ‘dad bod’. I don’t have one. I thought maybe I have a granddad bod. I googled that. There is no such thing. The only thing I am sure I can safely say is that no one wants to see me in a Speedo. Or a thong. The only thing I can figure is that I have one of those faces. “One of those faces” is also something you can google. The author of one page observed/theorized that “I seem to have one of those faces people seem to think they know me for some reason. “ That kind of resonates with me but it is not exactly what I’m talking about.

My face seems to invite interruption. My face seems to speak a language completely foreign to my body. My body will hold a newspaper or Kindle up to my face literally giving my face something to visibly do. My body is sending a signal that my face is otherwise engaged. Is not currently open for business. That, contrary to appearances, my mind is somewhere removed from my face, body, or present surroundings. But I seem to have one of those faces that, in total defiance of my body, signals ‘open to approach’. In fact, my face is out there like the guy with two flags waving traffic in his direction.

“Come on over. Tell me all about your hernia operation and your divorce. Please spare no details about the peccadillo in Houston that led you to move to Montana and now your family has disowned you.”

Honestly, sometimes I really want to slap my face for getting me into those conversations. The only thing that holds me back is that I know the minute I do it, I’m going to have three more people rush over to offer support and sympathize with tribulation stories intended to let me know I’m not in it alone. People care. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I’ve had people engage me while I was sitting at my son’s Karate lessons. I was reading. Nose-down-in-my-paper reading. I tried grunting-acknowledgment parries of their thrusts, never looking up from my paper. My body shifts and squirms trying to signal it and my face is currently in maintenance mode. The signal is ignored. Or missed. This has happened in classrooms, meetings, bus stops, standing in lines, etc. Etc. ETC. I truly have one of those faces. It is either not working with me or somehow secretly working against me.

My wife is a people person. I enjoy talking to her (most of the time). I’ll gladly stop what I’m doing (most of the time) or pause what I’m watching (most of the time) to talk to her. She has developed some skill at reading my body language and disregarding my face. She’s better than most people at it, though she will tell you that sometimes I have to explain to her that she is missing signals. She will also confirm everything I have said. She will confirm that she and I can sit side by side on a bench. I will be deeply engaged in a book or magazine. She will be actively seeking conversation with everyone in the room. And the water cooler. And people want to talk to me.

I’ve written often that I am not a people person. I have had one person explicitly tell me that, actually, I am a people person. I believe she arrived at that conclusion because she, my wife, and I sat in a restaurant over lunch for an hour or so enjoying a great conversation. I don’t hate people. In a small group, you could even get the impression I’m in my element. That I am in fact a people person. If I’m hosting something, I go out of my way to visit and engage everyone at the party. I’ve learned some social skills from my wife over the years. That not having them has consequences. However, I’ve never been comfortable in groups. I can get on famously in small social gatherings with some effort. Even deal with attention if everyone gets a turn and mine is brief, but most times, when my face gives me a break, I’m usually going to be occupying myself by myself. Uninterrupted. Unengaged with the world. It doesn’t often work out for me like that. I just have one of those faces.

         

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