It’s OK, I’m not talking about card games, this is about faces and the expressions they wear.
I’ve always been envious of people who can assume a poker face whenever they need to. It’s wonderful camouflage and very valuable because we all need to hide what we are feeling now and then. But I can’t do it. My face is made of India rubber.
When I was a child it got me into all sorts of trouble and I didn’t really see any value in it until I married my old darling, who was a young darling then and very tender and gentle. We were talking in a general sort of way and I was wondering whether it would be all right to argue with him and deciding against it, when he suddenly said, ‘You don’t agree, do you?’ which surprised me because I hadn’t said a word. So I asked him how he knew. ‘It’s your face’ he said. ‘Your dear, little India rubber face.’ Being told I had an India rubber face could have felt like a criticism, if it hadn’t been for those two tender words ‘dear’ and ‘little’. They turned it into a love song.
After that, I began to see advantages in having an emotionally transparent face and to notice how many people spoke without saying a word. For a start, the kids I was teaching knew I approved of them without me having to say a word and that was a reward to all of us. But now and then I saw the disadvantages, of course.
I was teaching at the time when all the gobbledegook of the proposed national curriculum was arriving in my office, incomprehensibly written, badly spelt and hideously ungrammatical and, as if that weren’t enough, usually accompanied by a 12 page form also incomprehensible or ambiguous or both which I was supposed to fill in – and usually didn’t. I was sitting in my office snarling at the latest horror when I heard a group of kids talking outside the door. They were debating whether or not to knock and after a while, one boy said ‘Don’t let’s. She’s got her face on.’ It was true, I had. But I found another face just by thinking about them and went out to see what they wanted. India rubber, or to call it by its technical name ‘non-verbal communication’ is blessedly adaptable.
Since then I’ve seen it everywhere, in new mothers making their first loving contact with their newborn, in a baby overjoyed to see a loved adult, in two toddlers communicating with limited language and transparent affection, in the beautiful Monroe’s glowing face as she looked at Arthur Miller. And as the years have gone by, in my own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. To see the newest arrival with her face lit up with smiles just to see me, is pure joy. India rubber can’t get any better than that.