The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon
Presentations: Anne Lovett
I see my beauty in you... begins one of my favorite poems by the Persian mystic and poet Rumi. The poet sees his beauty in the admiration of his friend—his mirror.
Those reflecting glasses on the wall, those pools of Narcissus, can be friends or enemies, and the older we get, the less likely we are to risk drowning in our own admiration. We begin to identify houses and stores where the mirrors are good and where they are evil. There is an evil one in a house I go to occasionally—sidelighted, guaranteed to ruin my day. In Marshalls Department Store, the mirrors are rigged, I swear, to flatter. Otherwise, some of the clothes in my closet would not have been purchased.
I see my beauty in you. What we see in the glass tells us nothing, really, but what we think of ourselves, and a good opinion from others is not easily won.
“Beautiful” was not a word my parents used to describe me when I was growing up; the usual one was “smart,” followed closely by “hard-headed.” Indeed, with the dreadful haircuts I was bullied into, which my mother and aunts called stylish but were actually reminiscent of Nazi prisoners or novice nuns, I felt downright homely. I retaliated after graduation by coloring my hair burgundy—if it was going to be short, it might as well look French and therefore cool. After a year or so of Piafish locks, I grew my hair without criticism, and the singing nun was left behind for good, along with small-town culture and despotic relatives.
The mirror told me I looked pretty good with long, blonde hair. Still, beautiful wasn’t a word I’d use to describe myself. My dates would sometimes tell me I was good-looking, but you couldn’t rely on someone who wanted something from you or who might be under the influence of alcohol (they usually were). The man who would become my husband described me as “pretty.” After the images of convent and prison, his choice felt all right.
When I was forty-six, a man looked at me over a coffee cup and said, “You’re so beautiful.” This man was not my husband. This man was in love with me, and he really believed what he said. He believed it so much I began to believe it, too. What happened there is really not germane to the story—but the upshot was that I musingly asked my husband, “Do you think I’m beautiful?”
“Why sure, you’re a very attractive lady,” was his answer. This was the wrong answer. I do not need to tell you why this was the wrong answer, and I am sure you will not be surprised to hear we are no longer married.
My friend gave me more than he could have imagined.
I see my beauty in you....
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