I was giving a ride to a young friend the other day when he suddenly caught sight of himself in the passenger-side mirror. “Man, I just pray I never go bald!” he said. “I have such a weird-shaped head!”
“What are you talking about? You do not!“ I said back. But then instead of modeling a more self-accepting way, I went foolishly on. “I know what you mean though. I wear bangs because, well…. really I’m kind of homely and I always figure bangs might help.”
It was a pitiful exchange and one that had me thinking yet again that if we could only stop fretting about how we look, or how we come across, or what they’re thinking of us NOW, we‘d be so much more open to the present moment.
We’d be better able to notice things I mean: Like nature. Or other humans, who are just so funny and brave, and kind for the most part too – and what a shame to miss catching daily examples of all that.
When you spend your time fixed on your own ‘image’ it’s like going to see some great movie but then missing all its bright beauty because you’ve spent the whole time in the theatre’s dim little bathroom critically regarding yourself in its dim little mirror. I mean, didn’t we all do enough of that in Seventh Grade?
It isn’t easy to be self-forgetful, God knows, especially in this Internet culture where everyone but your pet hamster maintains a carefully crafted public ‘profile.’ Then too there are those things your parents were always saying to you when you were young, like “Stop that awful slouching!” and “Get your hair out of your eyes, can’t you?”
When I was in high school, I was always pointing out the run in my stockings as if it had just then appeared, when in fact I knew very well it was there when I put the stockings on that morning. And what kind of strategy is that, pointing out your defects to others before they can point them out to you?
People do it though. Compliment a woman on her hair and half the time she’ll say “Oh it’s all crazy today!” Compliment her on her dress and she’ll call it ‘just an old thing.’
Men do it too. At one point in my career I was considering whether or not I should sign a deal with a literary agent I had been talking with for the better part of a year. I remember closing one jaunty exchange with him by saying, “Well, it would be great if we could work together. Among other things, I like your teeth.”
“My teeth?“ he cried with true alarm. “My teeth are the first thing I’m going to change when I’ve saved up enough money!”
Oops. I should have remembered then that passage from Alice in Wonderland that I’ve always been so struck by. It comes when Alice first meets the Mad Hatter before sitting down at his tea table.
“Your hair wants cutting,” he nervily remarks.
“It’s rude to make personal remarks,” she tartly replies.
And she’s right, our little fictional Alice. Just ask very tall people how they feel about hearing all those “How are the weather up there?” cracks.
No, we’d best not be talking about one another’s looks. Doing so just sends us all back to the sad little mirror in the movie theatre bathroom, there to miss, on the big screen just down the hall, that dazzling feature film called Life.