Self-Portrait of a Man over Thirty

I was told to write a self-portrait. Yes, write one. It’s an amusing thought, I think…after all, artists paint self-portraits all the time, so why shouldn’t writers write them? These were the questions put to us this afternoon at my bi-weekly night art class with Jane Caulfield. She, a middle aged woman with three children and as many smile wrinkles around her eyes, prodded us to look carefully at our features and dig deeper into our view of ourselves.

“You can learn a lot from a face,” she told us. “It goes beyond the auto-biographies authors are so key to pen. It delves into the soul behind it, revealing, like a Monet, the garden beneath. If you look at a face at just the right moment, you’ll uncover more of the mystery in them than you ever thought possible. So study your own face, see what it looks like, and ask what it is telling you about yourself.”

I’ve got the mirror propped up in front of me right now, and I’ve been staring at my face for a half hour or so, trying to uncover secrets. It’s really just my face – I look at it every morning when I shave, and every evening when I rub the light, comfortable stubble and ruminate on the events of the day…

Very well, I suppose I should write something. First, a critical and forgiving technical analysis.

I have an oval, angular face. It juts into a small, strong jaw at the bottom and curls into a full, jaunty cowlick on top. Jaunty, what a fun word. I wonder if that describes something deeper. Am I jaunty?

My eyes are large almonds, possibly more of a rectangular shape. They’re deep, brown wells with a lot of hope behind them. I’m pretty hopeful, I guess. Some crow’s feet around the corners reminding me that I’m over thirty. Funny, there are exactly three lines on either side, probably one for each of my failed relationships.

Ok, I just smiled at that, and it really changed my countenance. The heavy paunch of my cheeks lightened and firmed into a more youthful glow, and my eyes, even though they scrunched on the bottom, grew bigger somehow. It seems almost as if my face finds smiling more comfortable and is more used to it. I suppose that means I have an easy smile. That’s good. I like how I look when I smile.

I think I’m a pretty likable person…so why am I still alone? I know that if I found someone to share my life with, I’d dedicate all my energies to their happiness. But I have no one…no one to give that energy to. I’ve only ever had three relationships in the span of my thirty-two years. What’s with that? I smile easy, I’ve got nice eyes,  I’m full of hope – just all round good guy.

The closest I ever get to flirting with anyone is Jane Caulfield. She flirts with me a little once in awhile. She is a beautiful woman in the prime of life, comfortably satisfied by her husband and, what’s more important, her husband is satisfied by her, so she can afford to be a little flirtatious. It’s fun sure, and harmless sure enough, but I want something that’s not harmless. Someone I can dive deep into and come up either buoyant or scarred. That’s what I want.

I would have thought I would be terribly lonely by now, but it’s surprising how much you can get used to and comfortable with. Maybe I don’t want to find someone?

Ok, maybe I veered too much off topic. But that’s my self-portrait. I sure hope Jane doesn’t ask us to read them aloud in class.


Photo Credit: Fred Herzog (

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