Peter and I were at the stoplight on Broadway and Bleecker licking gelato cones and waiting to go back to the office. I was talking, and he was staring at a point about two inches above my eyes.
“Do I have gelato in my hair?” I said. I still eat icecream much as I did thirty years ago, but usually I smear it only on my nose and chin.
“No, but I just noticed you have all this…grey hair,” he said, plucking at strands. “Wow. Big chunks of it, here and here. In fact it’s white, not grey. I’d never seen it before.” We share a sunny cubicle twelve hours a day. “I like it,” he added carefully.
Sometimes, when we’re idle, my sweetheart puts a finger on the tip of my nose and moves it around, lengthening it and testing different angles. I have a ski-jump nose that was installed crookedly, and he has an art director’s eye. He looks pleased with himself when he comes up with a perfect nose for me, though it is hard to gauge with his finger in the way. In return I sometimes stretch his forehead smooth and try to imagine him twenty years ago.
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who silently tweaks other faces. John Kerry is painful to watch because I can’t work out which PhotoShop tools I need to unclench his face. Would it help to take the sadness out of the eyebrows? How many inches should I sand off that jaw? Since I don’t have a vote in this country, the Issues matter less than my private game of Mr. Potatohead. Jenna Bush, whose thick neck and chimp’s features morph disturbingly into her father and grandmother, is another bothersome project these days.
My friends and I are at the age where we see first hints of the faces we deserve, and I search their features for changes to look for in myself. Grey hair, latent jowls, crows’ feet, smile lines, and knit brows: this where the stories start.