Years ago I worked at a terrible place but it was very prestigious so I put up with all kinds of shit. I had one of those managers who only showed up in person once a month for a staff meeting. One time, after one of these rare appearances, he asked me to stay behind for a minute.
“Some people,” he began, shifting in his chair and avoiding eye contact the way total strangers do, “Some people are having a difficult time interacting with you, Sarah.”
“Really?” This came as a shock because my desk was located in a windowless closet in the basement of the organization. I pretty much managed my entire project via email. Sure, I cracked jokes with the handful of people I saw in the hallways or at lunch, but other than that, I couldn’t think of a time that I had had anything resembling an ‘interaction’ with anyone, except for our monthly staff meetings.
I wondered who it was that had a problem communicating with me, or what the heck they wanted to communicate with me about. So I asked.
“Oh, I’m not going to go into detail about that.” The little vermin man bared his rodent teeth and shifted some more in his chair, lifting himself up to sit upon his tiny, folded up legs.
“So… what am I supposed to do with this information?”
“You need to work on it, Sarah. It’s important to be a good team player.”
“Work on what? I don’t get what I’m doing that I’m supposed to work on!”
“There! You’re doing it right now!” His eyes lit up and he reached out and pointed to my face. “That - right there.”
“You’re doing it right now. With your face!”
“Yes! Right now you’re making a - a face. That’s the problem.”
“The problem is my face?”
“Just try to work on it,” He unfolded his legs and got up and left the room.
Later that year, I had dinner with an old friend who happens to be a cosmetic surgeon. We have that kind of friendship where we only tell the truth to each other, and over dinner we caught up on all of the human things we had been up to over the previous year. At the end of the night, as we were saying goodbye, he reached out and pressed his index finger into me, as if I had a doorbell right between my eyes.
“Hey, let me know if you ever want me to take care of that for you.”
“Take care of what?”
“Oh, come on. That… thing. Right there.” He pressed it again. Ding dong.
“Tell me what you’re talking about,” I insisted. My friend started to look uncomfortable.
“It’s your... you know, that wrinkle there or whatever. Some women are sensitive about that kind of thing, and it’s super easy to fill those in. You know what? Never mind. You look great, forget it. Forget I said anything.”
Forget you said anything. About how I should fix my face.
My face has a very important job. My face speaks volumes when I’m at a loss for words. My face will suddenly interrupt a staff meeting and announce that a colleague is straight up lying about their budget, or taking the credit that is due someone else. If you’re saying something confusing or nonsensical, my brow will jump in to request more information while I’m still clearing my throat and thinking of a tactful clarifying question. When I’m surprised, my forehead communicates various degrees of wonder, disbelief and amusement. And when I’m concentrating on the exact nature of your human experience, that crack front and center on my face is saying, “I’m right here. I’m present. I feel you.”
My emotional contortions and acrobatics have left their mark on my face. It’s my fucking face. And I’m kind of attached to it.
Sarah Elovich is a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA.