Because Main Street Makes You Feel Beautiful
Most days, I like who I see in the mirror. I mean, enough anyway. Been working on that self-worth and all. As a woman, though, I’m societally trained to tear myself apart any time I pass a reflective surface. You don’t really mean to, but there you are, trying not to criticize yourself in a passing window.
Since I can’t help looking sometimes, I stare at the ground more now. Hence the pennies.
So this past weekend, I was standing on Main waiting to cross Union. I’m in front of Gould’s, and there’s a woman a few years younger than I am on the same side of the street coming towards me with her friend.
As we’re standing there, I noticed her outfit. It kinda looked like an oversized long-sleeved t-shirt, but there was a touch of tailoring to it making it a pretty cute dress. Black tights and booties rounded it out.
She was dark-headed to my ashy blonde and looked about ten pounds lighter than I am. She had on makeup, where I typically go without. We weren’t substantially different looking people in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment, my knee-jerk reaction to this woman just walking with her friend was to be judgey.
It’s not her, obviously. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. Not like she woke up that morning and plotted out how to get judged more than she already does as a woman. She got up and did what made her happy.
So why did I feel like that in the moment?
The answer is screwy, but I bet the ladies feel me.
First of all, I can’t tell you the last time someone paid me a compliment. I know, I know. It’s not about what other people think. But hear me out.
It takes a toll on you when the people in your life you’d hope would say those things to you from time to time choose not to. It would eventually get to anyone, but codependents especially start questioning their overall value, not just their physical appearance. (Enneagram 2s struggle with this as well – be careful!)
And yeah, I know. Self-love. It’s up to me. Blah blah blah. We’re trying. Be an overthinker, though; you can only fight that crap back so long. After awhile you start thinking the worst. No one likes you. You’re hideous. Obviously you’re a failure as a human being. Blech. So, that’s the foundation of this situation.
Codependent or not, women are sadly trained to do this from pretty early on in life. Most of us don’t even realize we do it. We’re bombarded with “you’re not good enough” images and ads and we’re always comparing ourselves against those. Every one of us is looking for that external approval in some way, even if just from our person.
So you’ve got all this garbage in your head, and then someone walks by who looks more like the standard than we do? Head game ensues.
And it’s dumb.
Loud and Clear
And the complete dumbness of it all came through loud and clear in that instant. Thanks to therapy, I’ve realized I’m not actually in competition with other people like I used to believe I was. And I’m no longer using my appearance or talents or charm as a means of “controlling” my situation somehow.
I don’t have to be the biggest personality in the room, and I can enjoy being alone in public these days without feeling obligated to participate or interject. It’s pretty liberating, honestly.
So yeah, when I felt that old judgment rise up in me, I recognized it immediately. But what was cool was that I was immediately aware that there was no competition between that brunette in the cute dress and me.
The stress that I’d have usually put on myself, that I felt trying to well up inside of me, disappeared immediately when I reminded myself that we were just two people going about our day, enjoying a little winter sunshine.
Here Comes the Sun
The lights changed and we were free to cross. We actually ended up meeting eyes, and I just smiled at her. Genuine. I really meant it. I was grateful to her for the moment I’d just had in my head, even if she’d never know that.
As I walked past the Family Dollar, an older African-American gentleman on a bench said, “Excuse me, miss.” I’d somewhat seen him from the crosswalk, but I was looking down again, of course, and hearing that initially thought he’d be a homeless man. But when I looked up, there was a fairly nicely dressed fellow smiling at me.
I slowed up a little, noticing his clipboard, paperwork, and calculator where he’d been working, and he said, “You’re just beautiful. You go get a dictionary and look up ‘beautiful’ and…” — he gets off the bench and takes a knee on the brick — “…and you’ll see your face looking out like this,” as he makes what I can only imagine he thinks are big doe-eyes.
Main Street Makes You Feel Beautiful
Thank goodness for sunglasses because the tears were instant and the knot in my throat so tight it squeezed the breath out of me a little, and I just stood there unable to speak to this man in dress pants on his knee in the middle of the sidewalk on Main Street.
“Just beautiful, miss,” as he used the bench to pull himself off the ground.
I got myself together and I just stared back at that sweet soul and told him, “You have no idea what that means to me right now, in this moment. It’s been…” and I pulled back on the desire to overshare, “…well, forget all that. But thank you. Thank you very much.”
Sitting back down on the bench, he just grinned up at me, all teeth.
It took everything I had not to run over there and hug his neck, but I’m working hard on boundaries, so I refrained. I just smiled back, tried to blink the tears out of my eyes, and wished him a beautiful day.
As I set back out, I noticed myself in the glass of the street level windows of passing buildings. Instead of rushing by with my head down toward the bricks, I slowed down a little to see if I could see myself through his eyes for just a moment.
And you know what? I kinda did. I wasn’t worrying about how my thigh gap was doing. Rather, I was looking for that beautiful inside myself, the kind that makes a grown man take a knee in a filthy street.
In that precious moment in the sun, I got it.