Face Hunger

There are certain people with whom I become mildly obsessed. I’m not sure if it’s a neurodivergent thing, or maybe an attachment-disordered thing.

The fact is that I notice certain faces and voices. It’s not every face or every voice, but when it’s one of those faces or voices, it becomes something of a fixation, if it were possible to view a fixation in a positive light.

These specific faces and voices, I am magnetized to in an almost visceral way. It’s hard to explain because I hardly understand it myself, but when I see one of those faces or hear one of those voices, something that’s usually buried far beyond reach wakes up deep inside of me.

It feels similar to a thirsty plant being watered. It feels like nutrition to a starved body. It’s like there is something in the seeing or the hearing, as well as something in the specificity of that face or that voice that I deeply need — not in the sense that I want to own or possess them (I’m actually quite terrified of bothering them), but mostly in just craving proximity to them.

I want to be a cat curled up in a corner of the room they’re in so I can gaze at them, unabashed. I want to be a rock in their pocket so I can be carried around unobtrusively, listening blissfully to their voice all day, every day. I want them to never stop talking.

Sometimes I wonder if somehow my deeply buried baby selves are still searching for their mother — or any mother at all — though I myself have outgrown the idea that I will ever have a mother in any sense, at this point. But I wonder if they are still searching for some source of love by whom to embrace their impending embodiment; still trying to understand how to interpret, or even bear, life in its absence.

Sometimes I wonder if those faces and those voices to whom I am drawn are somehow encoded into that same DNA that existed in my developing, budding ears; maybe they sound similar to someone who loved me early and fleeting, who I can no longer remember. Or maybe my soul remembers them fondly from another life and that chain of consciousness has been broken here, so they can’t access the details anymore.

In any case, I don’t know. But I have always done this, even since I was a very small kid.

This fixation does not always amount to any other kind of love, oddly. It’s like my brain has separated out the face and voice from the personhood to whom they belong, and while I often yearn to get to know the owners of the face and voice, even if they grant me that permission, they do not always turn out to be people I love or who love me.

Conversely, there are people who do deeply love me and who I also love, who do not fall into this category, of golden face and voice.

It’s very confusing.

When I was little, I didn’t understand what I felt, nor what was happening, so I just automatically assumed when I found one of these people that they were always good and that they would always be someone who would reciprocate.

This innocent assumption has caused me no small amount of suffering.

As I got older, I learned to squash my incomprehensible hungers for all the usual reasons we all deny ourselves: because we see our hungers as weird, socially ambiguous, annoying to others, inconvenient, ignominious.

Only as I inch closer to middle age do I wonder if there is a better way to interact with this. Desires that involve others can be terrifying for trauma survivors — especially those with attachment trauma.

I don’t know the answer, but giving it language is my first tentative step.

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