"He is but he isn't." This may or may not surprise you, but according to the ancient art of Chinese face reading, this contradictory nonverbal message dominates Governor Romney's facial features.
"His eyebrows -- the placement on the face, their shape and form, give one strong message that he is an approachable person. But the tension in his mouth diminishes that message," says Jean Haner, author of The Wisdom of Your Face and The Wisdom of Your Children's Face. Adding to the mixed signals are crow's feet around the governor's eyes that the Chinese call "joy lines." She says, "Joy lines usually mean that this person can be affectionate but the tension in his mouth makes him give fake smiles."
An ancient branch of Chinese medicine, face reading began more than 3,000 years ago as an adjunct branch of research and development. "It may sound bizarre but Chinese face reading isn't a woo-woo thing. It is based on science but not Western science," Ms. Haner says. Chinese doctors and scientists decided to study the sophisticated patterns formed by distinct facial features which were then interpreted to help diagnose illness. Since everyone has his or her own unique facial jigsaw puzzle, each face reader will discern something different in a given face.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, I interviewed Ms. Haner and two other experts in the ancient Chinese art of face reading to find out what the candidates faces' revealed. Their insights were so well received by readers that I decided to check in with them again for campaign 2012. Specifically, I asked what the changes in the president's and vice president's facial features mean in terms of their personalities. I also asked them to analyze the personality aspects which could be discerned from reading the Republican candidates' facial features.
If Mitt Romney's face reveals internal contradictions, his running mate Paul Ryan's appears to be the opposite in that it broadcasts his intentions loud and clear. "Romney wants to win but he struggles with it. This can be seen in his jaw, which is not as strong in comparison to Ryan's," says Ms. Haner. "Ryan has what the Chinese call a 'politician's jaw,' which is the sign of someone who is very competitive and driven. Ryan just wants to win." Accentuating his jaw, the indented temples indicate someone who could be a workaholic, a compulsive exerciser, or just plain compulsive. "The set of his eyebrows and brow bones talk about him needing it to be just his way. There are very specific signs of stress in his face: the vertical lines in his lower cheeks and the whites under his eyes," she says, adding, "Plus, the left and right sides of his face to do not match." That mismatch can indicate someone who struggles to keep his life in balance.
"Ryan has a yang, or masculine face. He may be a bit of a clencher," says Janice Pastorek, a medical skin care specialist who has been using face reading for the past 15 years. She says that while "there are no bad characteristics in face reading, clenching the jaw gives out the message, 'I may be biting off more than I can chew when I have a lot of decisions to make.'" She agrees with Ms. Haner that the abundance of joy lines around Mr. Romney's mouth appears to be in conflict with the message projected by his forehead: "I have tension about communicating and about actualizing what I am thinking."
Patrician McCarthy, author of The Face Reader and president of the Mien Shiang Institute in Santa Monica started her career helping attorneys read jury members' faces. Now, she helps them read the faces of witnesses. "Overall, we are trying to determine what element the person is. What does he have in excess and where is he deficient?" she says. According to the Chinese typology which is based on the elements in nature, Ms. McCarthy finds that all four candidates are wood personalities. "Wood people tend to be natural leaders. They will push and defend boundaries. They tend to have strong egos and are not shy about putting forth what they want and don't want." The motto of the wood people is: "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine." They feel they know what's best for you. This, she believes, is how we as Americans see leaders.
Although wood characteristics dominate Mr. Romney's facial features, there are some metal characteristics as well. "Metal people are a little cooler, a little bit more distant. There's a certain perfectionism that comes from believing, 'We don't do it that way,'" Ms. McCarthy observes. She can see these characteristics in the shape of the governor's lips. "One of the things that stand out is that his lips are very thin. He keeps them closed even when he smiles," she says. "From a Chinese medicine point of view, this shows that he is ready to fight for his strongly held point of view and yet he does not like conflict."
While noting that President Obama, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan all have prominent brow bones that indicate someone "who wants to help you out but they want to tell you how to do it," Ms. McCarthy perceives an imbalance in Mr. Romney's eyes as indicative of someone who has "father issues." She says, "His upper eyelid on the left comes down more. That's the sign of a critical father. Very often, this type of person follows in his father's footsteps and tries to be 'better than,' while always looking for approval."
President Obama's face shows significant changes since he took office four years ago. Some can be attributed to normal aging and the stresses of the office but face readers interpret certain specific physiological differences as signs of internal psychological shifts. "Soon into his presidency, there was a change to his mouth, which was starting to turn down. Lines cutting down from his mouth into his chin are a sign of disappointment," says Ms. Haner, who speculates that his disappointment could be due to his having been disappointed by someone upon whom he relied, or a feeling that he disappointed other people. "He came in with all these promises and he hasn't been able to fulfill them, so the lines may be saying that he is disappointed with himself," she says.
To Ms. McCarthy, these Fa Ling lines, as they are called, reflect someone who knows his or her true purpose in life. "Obama has had these for years, which is good. The downside is that they have been too deep and too long, reflecting that he is trying too hard to find his purpose," she says. She also notes that his central brow bone seems less prominent, which suggests someone who is more comfortable with his authority. Four or five years ago, the brow bone formation suggested that he was more concerned about being controlled than he is now. Ms. Pastorek says that the loss of volume in his cheeks means "he's not having fun." She describes the "number 11's," those vertical lines between his eyes as "much deeper." She says, "This shows someone who is struggling with communication not only outside of himself but inside himself as well. Maybe he is not listening to his heart, the brain of his emotions."
And those ears! You could write a book about what the president's ears have to say about him. "The ears show us what happened in our early years. Obama's forward-facing ears are different sizes which represents a missing parent, due to death, abandonment, or emotional," says Ms. McCarthy. His ears have a thin, rounded helix, representing the challenges faced by children who have to fend for themselves. The president's ears remind Ms. Pastorek of the Buddha's. "They always make the Buddha with big ears. They say, 'I come with strength and tenacity. I am not going to fade by the wayside.'"
Both Ms. Haner and Ms. McCarthy observe a significant change in Vice President Joe Biden's eyes. "His right eye is more closed than his left eye was four to five years ago, suggesting that he has become more sensitive about what he gives out emotionally and personally to the public," says Ms. McCarthy. "This usually occurs when someone feels they have been misunderstood or not supported."
To Ms. Haner, the discrepancy between the sizes of Mr. Biden's right and left eyes indicates that "he is taking in a lot of information about you when he is talking to you but he doesn't want you to know it." She says this may indicate that "what he is trying to do is read you so that he can relate to you... for the 10 minutes he's with you and then he's on to the next person." Overall, she noted that the vice president's facial features show that "he is sincerely, genuinely warm, lively, fun, sociable."
The vice president has a tendency to clench his lips, says Ms. Pastorek, adding that Governor Romney has that tendency, as well. "They don't want to be interpreted for their charisma. They want to be interpreted for offering intelligent information," she says. Mr. Biden's face sends her the message that he struggles with sensitivity every day. She says, "He could use more support.'"