A few years ago, 36-year-old writer Jesse Raub buzzed his hair for the very first time. “My ancestors are all Irish or Norwegian, so I had always said, for fun, that I have a potato head,” he tells me. The new haircut confirmed his suspicions. “Lo and behold, I realized my head is actually shaped like a large russet potato.” Raub pointed this out jokingly to his long-term partner, who he describes as having “very petite features, proportional to her normal-sized head.” Raub’s girlfriend immediately seized the opportunity to gently rib him — since then, “potato head” has become his pet name.
Raub isn’t alone. Millions of us have huge faces, myself included. My high school nickname was “Bighead,” which is pretty self-explanatory, but plenty of past lovers — whose faces have all slotted neatly into the “small to medium-sized face” category — have cited my gargantuan mug as part of my appeal.
Thirty-two-year-old Claire, a U.K.-based academic, has had similar experiences. “I’ve had some comments from big-face admirers,” she tells me. “I know one particularly big fan who has a borderline kink!” Tellingly, she says these big face connoisseurs often have tiny mugs themselves. In fact, it’s seemingly rare to spot two big-faced babes coexisting in romantic bliss. It’s almost like the combination of two massive mugs together is just too powerful. As a result, many of us are left grappling with the unique dynamics of a “big face/small face” relationship, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
When it comes to defining a big face, the jury is out. Head sizes differ wildly based on factors like race, gender and nationality, but they have been getting bigger over time. In 2012, professors from the University of Tennessee presented research showing that “white Americans’ heads are getting bigger,” with the average skull size growing by eight millimeters in men and seven millimeters in women since the late 1800s. When it comes to any more specific measurements, there’s basically little in the way of definitive, global data. Basically, science sucks at defining a normal-sized head.
What we do know is that plenty of us fail at accurately guessing the size of our own heads, and that women are apparently really into dudes with wide faces — according to a 2014 study of speed-dating participants, guys with wide faces are thought of as “aggressive, powerful and more financially successful.” Gender roles play a huge factor in these stereotypes — the implication is that petite, dainty faces are feminine, and wide, more bodacious faces are more “male” (which, of course, isn’t true).
This complex web of beauty standards can make it hard for big-face fans to come clean about their attraction. Thirty-one-year-old Sims has had a “thing” for big faces ever since developing a crush on their elementary school teacher, who they describe as “very charming with a cute, round face.” Sims has “loved big faces ever since — you get more face to look at, more bang for your buck!”
Sims has an “average-sized face,” but explaining their preference to potential partners can be tricky. “Telling someone they have a sexy, big face is a difficult compliment to give,” they continue. “I think a lot of people hear the word ‘big’ and think of negative connotations.” To get around this potential awkwardness, Sims starts by complimenting a big-faced babe’s specific facial features, before eventually making it clear that their massive noggin is a huge turn-on. “As more time passes, I feel like I can just say, ‘I love your face, it’s so giant!’ I hope people will understand where I’m coming from once they get to know me and my excellent taste a bit better.”
I wasn’t able to find anyone that specifically describes being attracted to small faces, but again, it’s a beauty standard that seemingly changes based on cultural context. Across East Asia in particular, there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that small faces are thought of as beautiful, and in the aforementioned research article about the increasing size of Americans’ heads, the growing size is loosely hypothesized as being correlated to rising rates of obesity. In a world that praises thinness and often lambasts “bigness,” maybe it’s fair to say that attraction to big faces is more stigmatized, hence the cautiousness with which average-sized face folks like Sims take when mentioning this to new partners.
Moreover, big face/small face relationships come with their own specific challenges. Selfies are a big one. “Perspective is an issue in photos with partners, and just with group pictures in general,” says Claire.
“It’s also good to avoid putting your face in close proximity to your partner’s face in social situations, as it can just emphasize the size difference to those around you,” Raub concurs. “Whenever I’m in photos with my partner, it can look like a beautiful woman has fallen in love with a muppet. My best advice is to lean into looking goofy. Nobody will notice your large nose and wide-set eyes if you’re sticking your tongue out, smashing your chin against your neck and going wide-eyed.”
Selfie-related conundrums aside, 27-year-old Cara, who uses a pseudonym, seems to have the perfect big face/small face relationship. Once bullied for her “moon face” at school, she’s now landed a long-term girlfriend who thinks “big faces are trustworthy, friendly and expressive.” There are a few rules, though. “Definitely don’t lend out hats unless you want them to get stretched,” she jokes. It’s also important for the small-faced partner to understand that their big-faced companion might get self-conscious and want to cover their face with more hair. If this is the case, under no circumstances should you complain. As for Sims, they advise always keeping the logistics of working with a massive face in mind. “If you’re kissing someone’s face as a nice, romantic gesture, just be aware that there’s more surface area to cover. It’s a bonus, but don’t be tempted to slack!”
With these tips in mind, it’s easy to navigate even the largest discrepancy in face size. In fact, a huge noggin can come in pretty handy. Or as Cara puts it to me: “I don’t think big faces get enough love. There’s more to use when you’re going down on a pussy! I love to get my whole face in there, press it in. I really get my cheeks and chin involved.”
Now, that’s a big advantage.