October 8, 2008


I received an astonishing, rather back-handed comment at work last week. It revealed to me that someone in the office has been observing my rear end, and not hating what they see. At first it stunned me, then my reaction swung from flattered to mortified for a full hour afterward.

It's fall, which means the weather turns immediately and inexplicably grey, and though the falling leaves are beautiful, the sky and air are filled with unfriendly frost. This is the time I resume zombie mode; sleeping in as much as possible, letting my hair dry the way it falls, wearing the comfiest clothing. I cease to make the same effort to look good, though I always, always cover up the beard. And not making that same effort diminishes the way I feel about myself until I cease to even think about it and just focus on getting the job done every day. So to receive a compliment, even one veiled in jokery, lights a fire under my apparently shapely behind.

I buffed and shaped and put a french manicure on my toenails. I started wearing contacts and earrings again. Shaving my legs (up to mid-thigh at least--I'm inspired but not miraculously so) to wear skirts. The rush of looking good had been exhilerating--I wanted to perpetuate the feeling.

It can be a rare thing in this life to get a compliment, with people encouraged to be more private and withdrawn lest they get stepped all over. It made me think not only of how important it is to receive them, but how important it is to give them to other people.

Another girl I work with is very self conscious about her skin. When she jokes about it, you can tell it's bothering her. And of course, I think she's crazy. Even if her complexion gets uneven, her skin works so well with make-up that you'd never notice until she pointed it out. And I can't say, "At least you don't have a beard." So I focus on other positives when she gets frustrated. It's hard to tell whether or not it helps, but we all like compliments, even if we only laugh and wave them away the moment we get them.

So as tempting as it is to dwell inside ourselves, languishing in the belief that there's something inherently wrong with us, sometimes it's good to realize that whether bearded or not, others are feeling the same way. And they could really use a kind word or a hug.

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