In any culture, attacking a person’s face is the most personal way to give vent to your feelings. Cutting off noses, throwing acid, shooting, clawing, gouging… think about the last time you were really, violently angry at someone. Chances are you either targeted or wanted to attack their face.
Your face is central to your identity, it is how you view yourself and is the physical basis to which other people attach their reactions to you. The way you look determines what job you hold, how much money you make, how many friends you have, who you married and quite a bit else besides. We can say that it shouldn’t be, but the truth is that your face is your fortune to some degree or the other. That’s why people are so obsessed with them – their own and other people’s.
Which is why would-be attackers favor it on an instinctual level. Destroy a person’s face and you can be sure they’ve gotten the message. Like Connie Culp, a domestic violence survivor who was shot in the face by her husband five years ago:
The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.
Although a nine year old girl called Sandeep Kaur had her face re-attached in 1994, up until a year or so ago, skin grafts and facial bone reconstructions were the best people like Culp could hope for.
And then five months ago, she became only the fourth person in the world to recieve a face transplant.
Culp’s expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.
On the one hand, it all sounds terribly Dr. Frankenstein – walking around with another person’s face attached to your head is not really all that cool as even Face/Off was forced to conclude. But as Culp explains, it’s not exactly a picnic to walk around with the shattered remnants of a face either. So she needs a facelift or two, slurs her words and when she wakes up in the morning she sees a stranger’s face in her mirror – compare that to little children audibly pointing her out as a monster in their midst.
I’d take it.
”When somebody has a disfigurement and don’t look as pretty as you do, don’t judge them, because you never know what happened to them,” she said. ”Don’t judge people who don’t look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away.”