Sunday, June 20, 2010

Actually, Barbara, a mirror only has one face

A friend of mine recently signed up for a dating "something".  I'm not sure if it was one of those speed-dating events, or an internet website, or a guy dishing dates from the back of a truck.  What I do know is that part of it involved a questionnaire on which there was a question asking:

"What do people of the opposite sex first notice about you?"

She explained that she'd had to think through the question quite a bit.  Is it her laugh, or her hair, or her smile, or her breasts?  I think she eventually went with her smile, but threw in something about boobs as well, in a nod to realism.

It made me start thinking about how I'd answer that question.

I'm not (all things considered) that focused.  I don't think anyone who has Stokowski hair en minorite is really allowed to be.  I'd be asking for trouble if I primped and fawned, and the sunburn on my forehead from last weekend would have been a much bigger deal.  But said sunburn is a good place to start.  At the moment, I think that would be what the opposite sex notices first.  It's hard to ignore peeling skin on a face -- who knows what terrible skin-based STDs I could have?

But that's a temporary malady.  Already, the inflexible "rubber cement" look is mostly gone, leaving just an overall lobsteriffic glow.  I'm self-conscious about it, imagining that people are horrified and fascinated by this decaying, while all the while I forget that many people get sunburned.  On the list of maladies one should be concerned over social ostracism, it's pretty far down.  Especially in the summer time.

Setting aside the sunburn, what's the next thing that people might notice about me?  Something of a more permanent nature?  Hmm.  I suppose it's my hair.  The only comments I receive on my personal appearance are people commenting if I've gotten my hair cut.  This happens like clockwork, whether or not I've actually been to the scissor people.  The frequency and earnestness of these interrogatives increases exponentially the closer in time to whenever I step out of the shower.  In fact, it's probably mathematically provable that the instant I step out of the shower, I actually HAVE had my hair cut.

No doubt it all stems from the tendency of my hair to wisp like tendrils of clouds if I'm not paying attention to it.  Over the course of a typical day, the rigors of simply being me draws strands of hair into strange Jenga-like stacking formations.

Following the hair on the top of my head, maybe the beard comes next.  The funny thing about my beard is that it grows a certain amount, then basically stops.  Occasional upstart strands will, like overachievers at a relay race, reach outwards to seek something -- possibly individual recognition.  Armed with a beard-trimmer, they get trained back into place like some bizarre surface topiary.  Whenever I find that I've missed one long enough for it to be obvious (often in a strange place like the corner where my jaw meets my neck), I feel that people may notice that.  It's a pretty subtle thing, though -- I doubt people would find it in passing.

Or perhaps people will notice that my glasses aren't even with my eyebrows.  The effect created is that something on my face is out of joint.  Turns out it's my ears, which -- ever so slightly -- aren't the same height.  But I haven't had my glasses adjusted in approximately 10 years of kids playing with them, so I bet they aren't in the corrective shape anymore.

Let me double check something...

So my eyes are green.  They're not the sort of jade green that people buy tinted lenses to achieve.  They're rather... lichen green.  You know how you don't really know what color a tree lichen is (being somewhere in the middle between green and gray), but if someone were to stop you and ask what color they are, you'd say green?  That green that you spoke of would be the color of my eyes.  They're the color that makes people look at them and say, "Your eyes are green... I guess."  One describes my eyes as "green", and then one shrugs.  That collective performance describes my eyes.

I have big lips, I suppose.  The effect is mitigated somewhat by beardings, but it's still plainly true.  They help me to play the trombone low, I've been told by older people who like to tell you these things.  "Boy, have you got big lips," one said.  "Guess that's why you're a trombone player."  Ahh, out of the mouths of "people who aren't babes".

It'd be cute if they were four and not sixty-two.

No doubt it would be "tall" that would be used to describe me.  I don't feel "tall", usually, in the way I'm sure people don't feel "brown-haired" -- it's just hard to see oneself.  But last night's wedding with a men's room ceiling only eight inches above mine made me aware.  As Shakespeare's Rosalind put it, I am more than common tall.  Median height for a man is 5'10", I think.

Height is a funny thing.  I remember a female friend of mine becoming sullen when I accidentally referred to her height of 5'9" as being "not that tall".  She is a fair amount taller than the US average (which for a woman is around 5'5"), but in a conversation where we had just been talking about my height of six foot four, she is "not that tall".

Plus, height is extremely obvious.  The eyes thing is pretty subtle, but unless I'm sitting behind a counter it's easy to see that I'm tall.  There have been a couple of amusing formal photos of the assembled Fountain City Brass where I'm strikingly taller than the rest of the people in my vicinity. 

One study found that, of women placing personal ads, 80% specified men of six feet or taller.  And the magazine Cosmopolitan suggested that women are "most attracted" to men who are 1.1 times their own height (so sayeth Wikipedia).  I guess that would make me perfect for that 5'9" woman. 

I wonder that I've never asked what women noticed as my best or most noticeable feature.  It might be something that's handy to know!  And I haven't even gotten into the intangible aspects, like sense of humor or kindness -- those would (I hope) also be things women might consider under things "first noticed", assuming nothing physical about me was noticed first. 


  1. What about how you walk? I tend to notice how people walk and move around.

  2. If asked, I would say your overall jovial nature is more eye catching than any one particular feature. It all ties in. I think it runs in the family!