Thursday, October 8, 2009


I just watched the first season of Lie to Me and quickly went and got the Microexpressions training tool from Paul Ekman's website. The show's amazing not just for Tim Roth's acting (or the fine work of the other actors, including Kelli Williams who is totally hot in this soothing calming way like a fine blanket of falling snow) but also for the science, which is fascinating. And fascinating even though I'm not sure I buy it. But I took the test and did the training and now I feel subjectively like I am seeing more in people's faces than I used to.

For those who don't know, Lie to Me and Paul Ekman's research are based on the idea that people's faces don't lie. It's similar to what Suzette Elgin (see her blog to the right, ozarque) says about tone of voice. People can't lie very well, if you know what to look for. There's a movie out (I've seen the posters on the TTC called "the invention of lying") in which one person can lie.

So I'm at a party the other night with this little beauty who's telling me that she thinks she's hideous and everyone thinks she's angry all the time. I tell her about Ekman and microexpressions. She says, so I can't lie to you? I say, no. What do you see? I'm angry, right?

"I don't see anger, and I definitely don't see hideous."

But what I do see, and this is the truth, is these intense expressions of sadness.

"I get sad, sometimes."

"That's what I see."

She starts to tell me more, and the party interrupts now and then. We leave off, and pick up again, a little later, when we're both a little more sober.

I'm intrigued by her, this muslim princess. She's a feminist and an activist and deathly afraid of her family and community, she feels guilty about all kinds of things that happen in her country, things her people do to other people. She's jumpy. It's fear and sadness, and I want to earn her trust. Is this part of her strategy with guys? To make us feel like we want to protect her? We play the games we play, conscious or not. What's hers? Does she want me to see the sadness and fear? Even when she laughs, it's like she feels like she's stealing it, like she's not supposed to.

A few days later I see her again. We're talking about her life and her plans. I'm deep into giving her advice, maybe to make things safer for myself, or maybe I am trying to attract her now. I don't trust my intentions. She's too young for me, I tell myself. But I am close enough to smell her hair now and I think about what it would be like spread on my bed. That's one feeling, and it's there. But so is my desire to make that sadness go away, to replace that fear with confidence, to tell her that trauma can be overcome through connection and understanding (connection with me maybe, I think to myself, and let the thought go).

"I'm going to go for a smoke," she says, "my lungs have breathed clean air for too long".

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