Love can change everything, including your face.
It’s easy to love someone so much that you no longer see them. Sure you can know that they’re sitting opposite you at dinner (stealing your French fries), be aware that they’re lying next to you on the couch, or resting beside to you in bed (hogging the duvet). But really see them, that’s different.
I realized this the other day when I was out to dinner with my husband. We were at our favorite Chinese restaurant, getting heavily involved in our bamboo and black mushroom dish. Our fingers joyously entwined in our wooden chop sticks, when I decided to look up from the tangy deliciousness before me and look at him. Yes, it was a big call to draw my eyes away from the steaming vegetable dumplings, to steal them away from the children at the next table stabbing each other with their utensils. But, I was determined to see him with fresh eyes.
Of course, I’d looked at him countless times that day, even that meal – but I wasn’t really seeing him. Instead I was seeing my perception of him; the millions of happy moments we‘d shared, the countless jokes we’d laughed at, and the obstacles we had overcome. Every time I looked at him I saw us, our life, our love. But not him.
They say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and it’s true. We’ve all experienced the near miracle of a physically unattractive person morph into a god or goddess upon discovering their essence. Conversely, we’ve experienced the Shrek-like horror of having the person we lust after or admire become less appealing the more they’re known. It’s not as if we consciously wish to enhance or diminish their appearance, rather, our emotions gauze over our eyes. It explains why we can fall in love and even become obscenely attracted to someone we know is no oil painting.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You get the face you deserve”. When I first heard this growing up, I was shocked, how could beauty be the gift of the good? And maybe as a teenager it feels as though there’s no justice in the splendor stakes, no logic to the looks allotment. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand what he meant. You see, our face is a blank canvas upon which one can paint a thousand different expressions that set over time. I’ve witnessed a lifetime of smiles miraculously turn up the corners of a person’s mouth into a kissable cupid bow. I’ve observed decades of optimism put a mischievous sparkle in the eye with which no mascara wand or eye drop can compete. Inner beauty doesn’t just transform the way others see you, it has the power to alter what it is they see.
Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy; In history many of the great beauties were in reality little more than plain, but there was just something about them, a vulnerability in their eyes, a warmth in the voice, a freedom in their open mouthed laughter that made us connect with them and secured their status as icons.
With this in mind, I took one long look at the man opposite me, out of curiosity for what I might discover, and was impressed with what I saw. But in the cold crispness of that moment, I discovered that while I enjoyed looking at his eyes, I still preferred looking into them.