Black Eyes.


“His actions gave the whole corporation a black eye.”

“Abu Ghraib was a black eye on the U.S. military.”

Etc., etc.

Obviously, for whatever strange reason in our culture, black eyes are a symbol of humiliation. In comedy, going back to the days of silent film (and, who knows, maybe on the stage before that), the black eye is the icon of ignominious and utter defeat. Have a bruise on your jaw, nobody thinks too much about it; move that bruise just an inch or two north, so it’s under your eye, and society assigns it mortifying meaning. A treatise could be written on the irrational reasons this is so, but it is. So I thought if I ever had that marker, I wouldn’t be able to stand it.

And yet I do have one, and I don’t feel humiliated at all!

I woke up groggy to a ringing alarm in a hotel room in Las Vegas on Friday morning. The nightstand was to my left. I propped myself up on my left arm, and reached across myself with my right hand to turn off the alarm. As I did so, my left arm slipped completely off the edge of the mattress, and with it my sole means of support, plunging my head toward its fateful encounter with the corner of the nightstand.

A gash on my cheekbone bled profusely. When I got into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror, my face was covered in blood, making identifying the exact location of the wound impossible until I washed it all off. My wife put some antibacterial ointment and a bandaid on it (she is prepared for anything), and I put on the hotel bathrobe, grabbed the ice bucket, and went down the hall to fill it. Upon returning to the room I wrapped some ice in a washcloth and put that on the wound for about a half hour.

On Saturday, the worst damage to my face was a circle of swelling on the insulted cheekbone. But this morning, the area under my left eye is all purplish.

I can tell some people are looking at me with more than the usual amount of interest, but I don’t particularly care. And that surprises me. Although my face wears our culture’s agreed-upon symbol of humiliation, I am not humiliated. It’s kind of nice to find that out.


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