In tribute to the night I first seduced him, my boyfriend Christopher presented me with a card he had fashioned from these Michael Paulus cartoons.
I’d had him in my sights for weeks, but that night, at a party thrown by his housemate, I was feeling particularly irresistible (sporting my reading glasses & a red satin gown, I was decked out in my signature evening look – “Intelligent, but with Cleavage”) & I decided to make my move. Drunk on infatuation & enough vodka to stun the entire Russian armed forces, I stumbled into his library at 2am, where he was resting on the couch. Feeling my hand on his face, he opened his eyes & stared at me with what could have been awe at my cleavage, or surprise at waking up to find a near stranger molesting him in the middle of the night.
“I’m tracing your zygomatic bone,” I informed him.
“It’s lovely. You know,” I said dreamily, “when I close my eyes, I can just about imagine how your skull would look with all the skin & flesh stripped off.”
Now, if he were the excitable type, he would have responded to this intruder seductively caressing his face (“Intrusively probing my face, actually,” Christopher, the backseat writer, is now claiming. “It felt like aliens poking at my head”) and expressing what could be construed as a desire to skin him by having her removed from the premises faster than you can shout, “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!!” down a well.
But he’s completely unflappable and took this, like all the other eccentricities I would inflict on him in the years to come, in stride and soon afterwards, we began dating. Much to the delight of my mother, by the way. Concerned about my social skills and increasingly panicked about seeing me single at 25, she had gotten desperate enough to begin looking upon my volunteer work with the homeless as a mixer situation.
It’s said that psychology students see phobias & complexes everywhere they go, and something similar may be true of students of forensic osteology - whenever I meet someone new, at some level my brain is taking stock of their bone structure & constructing an image of what their skulls may look like in my mind’s eye. Even when among people I’ve known for years but who have particularly interesting faces, I sometimes find myself staring at them fixedly until they shriek, “Stop looking at my bones!” It’s not that I want to flay them, exactly. I just can’t help but be curious as to what’s going on under there.
Doing the reverse - predicting a person’s facial features from his skull is far more difficult for a variety of reasons (any facial features, like the end of the nose or the ear, have a cartilage rather than bony base, key descriptive features like hair, skin, tissue thickness must be guessed at, etc.) and finding an accurate way of doing so remains one of the holy grails of forensic science.
This habit of mine is mostly an intellectual game that makes subway rides, meetings, & other everyday activities much more interesting. For example, when my former roommate would drag me to what they call “art films” (because, I suspect, they are like paintings, only with less humor, action, or suspense), I couldn’t very well whip out a crossword puzzle in the theater. But when the heroine stared blankly into the camera to symbolize the ennui of modern life, I could at least stare back & entertain myself by measuring the dimensions of her mandible.
So! Next tumblr meet-up. You’re not all going to studiously avoid making eye contact with me, right?