About face

I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicles the period after the sudden death of the author’s husband’s and the concurrent illness of her adult daughter.

On the back cover is an intriguing photo, one with such interesting composition and mystery that I’ve found myself staring into it on occasion. It was taken in Malibu in 1976. I play the guessing game with myself.

I think on their names. John Dunne and Joan Didion — Irish, perhaps? Quintana Roo, their daughter. Must have a connection to Mexico — hopefully it will be explained in the book. She looks to be about my age that year.

I study their faces. Yup, Quintana looks like the perfect combination of John’s facial structure and Joan’s self-assured sassy. She looks as if she’d like the photographer to leave already, and let her get back to the conversation she was having with her parents.

I read for several nights. I find out, as part of a casual mention, that Quintana was adopted. On page 118: “…John and I had brought Quintana home from St John’s Hospital. She was three days old.” Not much of a clue until two pages later: “We took Quintana there on the day of her adoption, when she was not quite seven months old.” (No other mention so far, so I am still guessing at the story and filling in with what I can intuit.)

I study the photo again with this new information. I look at the faces to re-verify their connections.

I do this face-study thing often, and I wonder if I do it more often than most (read: non-adoptive parents). I look for genetic clues in faces to see if families are biological or adoptive. I look for similarities in chins, matching mouths, equal smiles, companion expressions, between children and parents and among children.

I wonder if, on this playground or at that school function, there are other families like us — connected by biography rather than biology.

Do you? Study faces?

6 thoughts on “About face”

  1. And I am just the opposite of most people here. Unless there is something blatantly obvious, I don’t look at resemblance at all. In fact, when I try to match up features, I almost can’t. People ask me who my daughter looks like, me or my husband, and Matt and I almost always say “she looks like herself!”

  2. I do, I tend to look for overall resemblance though rather than distinct features. If I don’t see the overall thing then I go into features! That is an intruiging photo though! Jen (Blog Gems)

  3. I’ve done this my entire life. My biological brother and I look nothing alike. Our mother is fair skin and our father is dark skin. I came out looking exactly like our mom and he exactly like our dad. I’ve always been so proud to have him as my brother but it always seems like I have to justify why we look so different.
    Interesting things I was told a while ago…the things about ourselves we are the most self-conscious of, or would like to change, are the things we notice first about others. For instance, I’m in a wheelchair, when I was younger I walked very awardly. Now, I study the way other people walk. I’ve always hated my nose, it’s the first thing I look at.
    Going through the adoption process myself, I have “noticed” more adoptive families. I feel like I get excited when I see multi-racial families because I imagine that could be ours someday.

What say you?