Saving Face

The eyes have it… and so does the rest

Photo by Ilene Bergelson © 2018

Photo by Ilene Bergelson © 2018


I sought solace in a gingerbread bear.

From Starbucks.

You might be wondering, at this moment, if something has gone wrong with your eyes. A regular, cookie with who knows what in it — you, Ilene? I must be seeing things. No. Your eyes are fine.

My stomach was not.

Generally speaking, I’m fairly selective about what goes into my body. It is my body, after all, and I’m fortunate to have healthy, nourishing choices available. I’m pretty consistent in choosing real food that works for me. Most of the time when I veer outside my norm, it’s because I’m traveling and part of how I experience where I am is in experiencing the food.

But it would be a stretch to say that a gingerbread man from Starbucks is quintessential British cuisine.

So why partake? Because, on that train platform in a modest English town, a gingerbread cookie sounded very good to my stomach and ultimately, I have the right to override myself.

It is a right I exercise so I can better stay in touch with not just what I choose, but why I choose what I choose. But that’s a theme to explore on another day.

Back to our gingerbread friend...

There was something about the sequence in which I ate the cookie that gave me pause. It’s something I’ve noticed I’ve done before and it flies in the face of logic.

Have you ever made a cookie that looked like a bear? Or any other living creature? The batter that makes the foot, or the scarf, or the cute little hat, is the same batter that makes the head. And the icing that makes the “clothing” is the same icing that makes the eyes, nose and mouth.

So why do I save the face for last??

As the train rolled through the English countryside, I started at the bottom of this unassuming bear and worked my way up. I realize there are others who would have started their snacking with the head and not thought twice about it, but I think far more of us start with the limbs. There is something about faces…

In college, there was a girl on my dorm floor who was vegetarian. She would describe her diet as, “I don’t eat anything with a face.” I saw her point, but wondered about the beauty and mysterious systems of various plant life, who lack the relatable-to-humans face feature.

I also remember being told many times that the eyes are the windows to the soul. OK…but what about faces as a whole? Think about the “in person” interactions you have every day.

I munched on this for a while and realized that good, bad, or indifferent, faces are the first part through which we seem to connect when meeting others, and the last part from which we seem to disconnect when leaving them.

That makes our faces, and the act of facing each other, pretty important.

While this realization shed some light on my gingerbread bear eating habits, it raised another question: if showing (which is a way of sharing) our face is important, what might it mean when we choose not to “face “each other? Not just literally, as in looking at each other (which, in itself, sends a clear message), but, what about figuratively — as in not “facing each other” or staying disengaged in order to “save face” in certain situations?

When we withhold our literal or figurative face from another, we are withholding a very essential part of ourselves. By ‘saving face,” we lose out on a richer connection. Which, upon reflection, doesn’t seem like much of a savings.

So the next time I find I’m “saving face,” I’m going to override myself, like I did in the rail station, and challenge my personal status quo. I’ll ask why: “What am I really saving?” Embarrassment, maybe? Or being able to send one more email uninterrupted before looking up?

Perhaps I’ll find it’s better to show my face, rather than to save it. After all, if I’m consciously choosing good things for my body, why miss out on a real exchange with a real person? That works for me.