Saturday, June 8, 2013

Help me lose my cheeks (or at least mislay them)

One of the few advantages to living in the last few moments of human civilisation is the excuse it gives for not worrying overly about one's health.
I don't know about you, but genocidal death cults flinging nuclear weapons about like Armageddon's going out of fashion hardly infuse me with the desire to get up at 5am and go jogging, suck mineral water out of teated bottles, or reverse my standard procedure when eating a supermarket sandwich and start throwing away the bread and cheese and eating the funny green bits.
The only problem is that while the ill-advised lifestyles of others result in an interesting, slender, dissipated look, I have a tendency to put on weight.

Now, as some of you may know, the wife and I have just managed to cobble together an offspring by the traditional means (us muddling through Britishly in the early stages with the assistance of Jane Russell movies; nature's strange alchemy taking over for the finish).
The result was a fine son called Edward, perfect in all ways except a bizarre tendency to burst into bitter tears whenever I try to wash him under his chin. However, my own memory of childhood is that it's difficult enough to negotiate at the best of times, and I don't want to add to his problems by landing him with a fat dad.

I can always tell when I cross the threshold between robust and dissolute: it's a simple little trick which you may wish to try for yourself.
Keep the head straight but roll the eyes downwards. (For some reason this hurts like hell first thing in the morning, but you should find that by noon the sensation is little worse than nauseating. This is your body telling you that it's time to start drinking again.)
Anyway, look down, and ascertain how much of your own face is visible. If you are in peak shape all you will be able to discern is your nose, which, by some quirk of vision, appears not to be attached to your face as such, but rather to hover in space an inch or so beyond its jurisdiction.
This proves either that there was insufficient evolutionary advantage in getting an accurate sense of of the position of one's own nose relative to the head by straining the eyes downwards, and thus no more realistic mechanism for doing same evolved than the plainly unsatisfactory one we're saddled with, or alternatively that the world's major religions are right, Darwin was wrong, the truth lies fundamentally beyond the grasp of reason alone, and we should forget about looking at our noses and get back to doing God's work (basically killing each other, interspersed with a bit of chanting).
But to return briefly to my point - that is to say, to continue to light a candle for the Darwinian hypothesis - once you've got over the fun of the old floating nose trick - and it is fun, be in no doubt of that - keep the eyes in the same position and check to see if any other facial components hove into view (as we nautical types like to say, but so rarely get a chance to).
Under normal circumstances, the answer is no. If like me, however, your face is carrying the evidence of excessive indulgence, you may dimly sense a strange blur under each ocular orb (or 'eye' as I prefer to call it).
What is it? A little grease on the old cornea? No; it doesn't rub away. Something left over from an over-enthusiastic Italian meal? No, not that either. (At least, I assume not. Certainly not in my case.)

Your guesses may well get pretty wild and desperate before the truth suddenly strikes you with the full, agonising horror of Bob Dylan's singing voice being dragged down a blackboard - that what you are in fact sensing are the hazy outlines of your own cheeks.
Now, obviously, these should not be visible. A man should no more be able to see his own cheeks unaided than it is possible to read the lyrics of 'Eleanor Rigby' without laughing.
But the terrible thing is that once noticed, these 'ghost cheeks' (as it were, and I think you'll find it was) never again quite go away. Throughout the day, you'll constantly find yourself trying absent-mindedly to brush them away. If you wear glasses, you'll keep taking them off and looking at them, try to clean the lens, perhaps make a mental note to make an appointment and see if you need a stronger prescription.
But all to no avail. They are always there, floating on the edge of your awareness, like the spirit orbs that follow Noel Edmonds about. (In fact, I wonder if what Noel mistakes for glowing balls of supernatural energy might not likewise be his own cheeks. Next time I see him I'll ask him if they float randomly about his person or always hover in roughly the same place. If the latter, then we shall know.)
So I owe it to my lad to lose sight of both of my cheeks before he's at the stage where he can look at his dad, then at other people's dads, then formulate the conclusion "oh for pity's sake, what a crap-looking dad I've got."
I have yet to decide, however, whether to get rid of both at once - what George Bush would call the shock and awe approach - or to tackle them one at a time, a trickier but less exhausting tactic for which George Bush has yet to coin a term. (I keep ringing his people but they fob me off with excuse after excuse.)
My hope is that if I merely work on, say, the left cheek, thus reducing by 50% the exercise I need to do and Saucy Bar-B-Q flavour Transform-a-Snacks I need to cut back on, the right one will see the game is up and shuffle off of its own accord. One enormous cheek reflects as badly on itself as it does on the bearer, and if my cheeks are anything they are, at heart, rational.

Incidentally, is it true that, while all animals worthy of the name have faces, only humans have cheeks? If so, what for? They offer no survival advantage, are not aesthetically pleasing and so play no role in the process of sexual selection, and they seem to serve no purpose other than to make you look like a tourist's plaster ornament of a drunken Franciscan friar whenever you climb more than three stairs in a row.
They are, to be perfectly frank, the very last thing I want to see mooning back at me whenever I try to look at my own face, and their days are hereby numbered.