Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kind Words

I've never been one to chase after the unattainable beauty standards of American culture.  I've gone through life flat-chested, short-legged, waistless and with a mouth full of crooked teeth, but I never felt all that self-conscious about it, and I never felt that I was bullied or teased about it.  But, being the person of artistic bent that I am, I've always maintained a wardrobe that spoke to a heightened design sense, and I never, NEVER leave the house without arranging my hair in some non-scary fashion and putting on at least a minimum of makeup.  I like to look in the mirror and think, "There.  I won't make anyone run away screaming today."   I ceased entertaining the thought of  inspiring appreciative looks or actual compliments about twenty-five years ago. 

But lately, I've been feeling just...ugly.  I don't feel like I'm making a graceful physical transition from middle age to old age at all.  The skin above my eyes has begun to puff and sag to the point that it is interfering with my vision.  And, of course, one eye is leading the charge over the other, so I look perpetually...asymmetrical.  And my hair, which has never been my crowning glory, has decided to surrender to my never-ending struggle with it by simply...falling out.  My core muscles have deteriorated significantly over the past few years, putting stubborn bulges in places I didn't even know could bulge.  These days, I'm looking more and more like a bald, pot-bellied, snaggle-toothed Buddha than anything I would equate with a gracefully aging former hippy.   And the clothes that are out there now--the ones I can afford, anyway--are not designed to flatter this problematic sixty-year-old figure.

Even so, I do take pains to look my best, whatever that may be, whenever I go out in public.  Just because I can't stand the idea of not looking at least marginally put-together  when I'm out among other people.  If I look bad, I feel bad.  So I indulge myself.  To that end, every Saturday night this summer, I have carefully chosen an outfit to wear to the Sunday market the next day.  Always adding a touch of sparkle or a scarf or something, just to make ME feel good.  And keeping in mind that I'm going to be working.

This past Sunday was our last market of the season.  I have been in a strange mood lately, what with suffering from the uglies and struggling with the realities of my marriage.  And market days are a day of intense interaction with the husband:  90-minute drives to the site and back, and then the 8-hour stint at the market itself, just him and me.  I have to hand it to us, we have been handling the togetherness rather well.  After a somewhat rocky start, we fell into an understanding of, "You do what you do, and I'll do what I do," and we're actually very careful not to step on each other's toes.

I don't really remember the exact conversation, but I remember remarking that I was just...ugly.  Of course, he said, "Oh, no...you are not."  And of course, that has little meaning coming out of the mouth of someone you know is trying his best to maintain a positive equilibrium between you and himself.  Not that he didn't mean it.  That's just how I tend to view most compliments, or denials of my self-bashing, that come out of his mouth.  It's definitely MY problem, not his.  I wallow, and he does not seem to have the magic winch that can drag me out of this particular mud hole.

Later that afternoon, though, something did happen that managed to pull me out, at least a bit.  The wife of the guy with the booth next to ours came up to me, completely unsolicited, and said, "You always look so pretty!"  (And there is no way she could have heard my earlier remark, since their booth is an enclosed wooden structure and we are right next to the speakers from the band, so the music makes it hard to hear our own customers, much less conversations going on in the next space.) 

Imagine that.  Not just an appreciative look.  An actual verbal compliment, from a stranger.  Something I hadn't expected in a million, billion years.  Sometimes, the Universe throws you a bone that you don't even know you are in desperate need of until you get it.

So let me just say...if the Creator inspires you to compliment someone today, DO IT.  You never know just how strong a lifeline one kind word can be.   

No comments:

Post a Comment