Facial Fingering

Everyone is talking about the current flu epidemic.  That’s OK, because the more it’s talked about, the more people become aware of it and of the various ways of dealing with it.  Better than dealing with it, we should try first and foremost to avoid it.  There are ways to avoid it.  Some ways are easy.  Some ways are not so easy.  And some ways are downright impossible to implement.

One recommendation I keep hearing from the experts on communicable diseases goes like this:  “Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes.”  Sounds easy enough.  Just keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes, right?  Right.  To gauge how easy this might be, observe anyone for a few minutes.  It can be someone you’re conversing with or someone you’re just watching from a distance.  Count the times during a two-minute period that they touch their faces.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but touching my face during a conversation is almost essential for good communications.  How else can I convey my nonchalance, my sophistication, and my ability to multi-task?  I don’t think about it, usually, but when I do I have to wonder if others notice I’m doing it.  Sometimes I place my index finger on the side of my nose, or rest it next to my mouth for a few moments, to show I’m carefully weighing what I’m hearing from my interlocutor.  The eye rub maneuver is quite useful also.  I generally use this ploy when I’ve had enough and I’m hoping the person with whom I’m engaged will back off and find something else to do.  I don’t put my fingers in my mouth just as a matter of policy.  But I do use a toothpick from time to time.  The exercise allows me to massage my gums and burn a calorie or two when I’m in a sedentary situation.  Stroking my ample eyebrows using two fingers means I want to know more.  Finally, the most common finger-face habit is that of stroking my mustache.  That’s the purpose of a mustache anyway, isn’t it?  Stroking it isn’t just a nervous habit.  In most cases, I’m stroking or rubbing it because it’s tickling me.  The whiskers seem to be on the move sometimes, poking into my lip and annoying me.  I must touch them to relieve the tickle.  To avoid touching my face somewhere for very long seems to be near impossible except when I’m asleep.  And even then, I’ve been known to wake myself up scratching my face because it itches.

I know a fellow who can’t keep his fingers away from his nose during conversations.  He tweaks it, rubs it, caresses it, and bends it.  This guy is a nonstop talker, so you can imagine the abuse his nose takes during the course of a day.  With all that manipulation, his nose must be taking on the roles of other appendages.  Except that he can do the nose thing in broad daylight and in public.  You’d have to handcuff and sedate him to make sure he doesn’t touch his face.

I think it’s in the DNA of some of us to touch our faces.  I can’t imagine why that would be, but it’s such a common thing, what other reason can there be?  I’ve seen photos of people in Third World countries who can walk around all day with flies on their mugs.  How does that work?  Flies land on me and immediately start walking around, looking for something.  Those sticky little fly feet prancing around on my face, spreading bacteria and who knows what else across my rosy cheeks.  SMACK!  Maybe if I didn’t touch my face there would be nothing there that would attract a filthy insect.  I’m sure my hands are covered with nasty stuff.  Otherwise, why would I need antibacterial gel and antiseptic wipes?

Keeping hands away from faces, it seems to me, is a monumental task.  It’s just not natural, at least for those of us in this culture.  According to some scientists, humans have a lot in common with gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees in regard to face-touching.  The cards, it seems, are stacked against us.  Keep trying, though.  There are a few ways to help you stop, but don’t think it will be easy.  You were born a face toucher and, one way or another, may die one.

%d bloggers like this: