I Hate That My Face Is So Emotionally Reactive

a closeup of a tiger's head. The tiger's eyes are squeezed shut and its mouth is open but its teeth are clamped together.
Image by Karen Roe / CC BY

“There are certain children who are told they are too sensitive, and there are certain adults who believe sensitivity is a problem that can be fixed in the way that crooked teeth can be fixed and made straight. And when these two come together you get a fairytale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.

I believe there is something in these old stories that does what singing does to words. They have transformational capabilities, in the way melody can transform mood.

They can’t transform your actual situation, but they can transform your experience of it. We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay. I believe we have always done this, used images to stand and understand what otherwise would be intolerable.”

-Lynda Barry, What It is

*

“What’s wrong?” he says.

“Huh?” I reply. “Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

He frowns. “No, you’re not. You want to be fine. That’s not even close to the same thing.”

“Seriously, it’s okay.” Truth be told, I’ve just had a momentary flash of discomfort at something he said. But I know it’ll pass. I know it’s just my anxiety. Nothing that needs getting into.

“Page,” he says, sternly. “You can’t fool me. I saw it on your face.”

And as I stand there in front of a person’s whose facial expressions are so inscrutable that they might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics, about to have a conversation I don’t want to have, I really wish that none of this were happening.

A Brain Without a Front Door

I hate that my face is so emotionally reactive.

Microexpressions dart across it before I’m even aware of how I feel. Flickers of unrest. It’s only a moment, but those closest to me learn to read those fleeting emotions. Register them, even if I’m barely aware of their presence.

It doesn’t matter how quickly I move on from them. How diligent I am about working my face into another expression. How little that passing emotion mattered.

Or how much I want to be fine and feel like it’s no big deal.

They can see the stress. And once they see it, they want to address it.

It never feels fair.

I envy folks who aren’t so sensitive. And sensitive folks whose faces aren’t as emotionally reactive.

Y’all get a brain where you get to have secrets, and mine is missing the front door and everyone can see my business. There’s no privacy. My feelings are on display.

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