Creating One’s Face

When we are young, we have the faces our parents gave us, but when we are old, we have the faces we deserve. Habitual expression of feelings and attitudes are the engravers, and the most powerful is not laughter or even worry, but censoriousness. Who has not seen old people whose mouths turn permanently downwards in disapproval, and so are anatomically unable to smile? In the same way, pursing their lips in ostentatious condemnation has over the decades moulded the shape of their mouths, so that in the end they are condemned to look as if they are invariably sucking on a lemon. If you gave them free tickets for a world cruise, they would contrive to find something to disapprove of, as if their very faces would not permit any expression save the one in which they have specialised, the Snapping Turtle. It is most unlikely that such people are aware of having missed out on something, for example smiling, because if the bitter satisfactions of censorious disapproval outweighed the flighty satisfactions of joy and goodwill when they were young, how much more satisfaction do they now derive not only from the disapproval in itself but from the lifetime of honourable consistency therein? Such people often begin their sentences with “What I always say is…” and are clearly dependent on their self-image as someone who always says it, rather than anything positive or pleasant. It would be a great mistake to imagine that such frog-faced lemon-suckers belong to any specific time and place, such as for example the generations of Maiden Aunts created by the world wars. Those young ladies who clearly derive immense satisfaction from condescension to the inferior race of men are hereby warned; this is what you will look like at eighty.

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