Contrary to the popular axiom, Encinitas-based author Jean Haner believes that it's not just the eyes—it's the whole face that's the window to the soul. She's an expert in physiognomy, or face reading, a lost art based in a centuries-old tradition.
“You have wise ears,” she said soon after meeting me at North Park's Filter Coffee House. “You can party all night and still keep going when everybody else has flattened,” adding, “Look at that chin! You have a very stubborn chin.”She had me at wise ears.
Haner first came across the discipline after marrying into a Chinese family 30 years ago. “My mother-in-law was my first teacher.” Back then, the principles behind face reading were antiquated, very black-and-white and deeply rooted in Eastern culture. “People used to say, ‘Watch out, he's got tiger eyes—don't do business with him,' or ‘She's got very round cheeks, called bossy-woman cheeks—don't marry her.' Women with bossy-woman cheeks would never get married 2,000 years ago in China because nobody wanted a bossy wife.”
So, in an effort to bring these teachings into the 21st century, Haner took it upon herself to translate and apply them to modern life. The result is her first book, The Wisdom of Your Face.
“I found myself on the side of a mountain in New Zealand for two weeks, and 55,000 words came out—it was just time,” she said of her oeuvre.
“My work can answer the two most important questions you can ask yourself, [which are] ‘Who am I?' and ‘What is my calling?' Your face is your user's manual, a sort of map of your inner blueprint, and if you create a life that matches that, then you'll be much happier,” she said as she reached for her dark roast.
Some might dismiss her as a New-Age oddball or a snake-oil merchant; however, she says that even the biggest skeptics change their minds within the first five minutes of her workshops.
“I realize it sounds very woo-woo, but some of my best clients are very left-brained corporate types. There is science behind this. It's not like a psychic reading—it's a branch of Chinese medicine.”
Her roster includes people from all walks of life, she says—from everyday folk who apply the tools to online dating or choosing the fastest check-out clerk in the supermarket to successful businessman. Microsoft recently sent her to Hong Kong to speak at a conference for its elite Global Fortune 100 clients, Haner said.
Her goal is “not to judge or ‘type' people, but rather to make them understand who they are and have them live their lives in alignment with their true nature.” In achieving this goal, no request has been too odd. She's been asked to interpret twins', triplets', babies' and even pets' faces.
And even though there are set parameters of what is aesthetically pleasing in Western culture, she's quick to point out that “there are no bad combinations; everything can work. It's all about awareness and understanding.”
In a sea of Botox-enhanced cougars, Haner claims that she's never been thrown off by a little nip/tuck. “Any external change that you make to your face does make a corresponding internal change, because the face is considered a hologram of who you are inside,” she said. “The Chinese have a saying about people that have plastic surgery: They've got a soft ear—in other words, they care too much about what people say about them.”
To Haner, every face is like a fine watercolor, and wrinkles are the brush strokes. “Every significant moment that happens in your life is marked on your face,” she says. “When you get divorced, you get a certain wrinkle—when your father dies or when you give birth to your first born as well. So, to me, your face is like a family photo album, and getting cosmetic surgery would be like burning the pictures.
“It's not about wearing Birkenstocks and no make-up, but it hurts me to see women cutting up their faces trying to look better” she adds.
The release of her book has her constantly on the road, where day in and day out she encounters an astounding number of unique facial traits. She admits, though, that she sometimes tires of the inevitable conversations. “People used to talk my ear off on airplanes as soon as I told them what I do,” she says. “Now I just tell them that I'm on my way to a Bible lecture. They steer clear after that.”
The face of politics
CityBeat showed Jean Haner pictures of some of San Diego's well-known faces—people whom Haner claimed to know nothing about. Never heard of any of 'em, she said. Want to find out who's two-faced and who's likely to develop a drug habit? Read on:Jerry Sanders: “Very good purpose lines. He grew up with a sense of not enough in his life. He has a good, squared-off practical chin, which is a sign of someone with some common sense, and he plays his cards close to the vest. He has what the Chinese call unshed tears, some personal hurts that he has not completely processed.”
Mike Aguirre: “His hairline says he's a little bit of a rebel and a rule breaker. His face suggests that he is skeptical and not too warm. He'll size you up and then he'll let you earn his trust.”
Donna Frye: “She's a woman who is good at taking action. She's decisive, can create a structured plan and go for it. She likes to go and work and people can't keep up with her. Her 30s were challenging, and during her 40s was when she finally went for it and came into power.”
Kevin Faulconer: “He has a diplomat's face shape with a domed forehead, which is a sign of intuition and creativity. His eyes are deeply inset, so he will have great difficulty expressing his feelings. Look at those lack lines, he's pretty dammed stressed.”
Tony Young: “He's got a little bit of a tyrannical face shape, so you'll want to do what he says; if you don't, he'll keep pushing. Boy, I wouldn't like to cross this guy.”
Carl DeMaio: “The Chinese would call him ‘fire.' A good ol' boy that loves to be with people and is a charmer. His kind of face has the potential to say one thing and do another for their own purposes. He loves to be in the limelight, so he's in the right field.”
Roger Hedgecock: “This is a guy who is very intellectual and loves to analyze things. He has a face I've seen in inventors or scientists. He has the potential to either be an amazing person, or to go to the negative and hinder people. His eyebrows show that he wants power in his life and that he can drink and do drugs if he wanted to.”
Marti Emerald: “She has a very strong face, referred to as ‘yang earth.' She cares about people and wants to help, but she gets stuck in having things go her way. If you don't, she's going to remember, and you're going to suffer for it. Her lower eyelids show that she doesn't care about a win-win outcome; she has bossy cheeks and a stubborn chin.”