Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why don't women think they're beautiful?

I ask because I know too many women who, when paid a compliment, will dismiss it as if there's something wrong with my eyes.

Just take it for granted that that Ms T is at the top of my list; it's not her reactions that confuse me. It's women I know who are convinced that beauty belongs to someone else.

When life has been at its worst – for example, during the 12 weeks or so Ms T was in hospital in the last few years, when I thought she was dying – there were people, all women (I don't actually know why), who called me to check how I was doing. They kept track of me when I could barely keep track of myself; cared for me in lots of small ways.

Two took my phone calls no matter when it was I went to pieces. One brought meals around on Saturday nights because I'd been cooking all week after coming home from the hospital and “you must be tired by now”. Another called me, took me to coffee, e-mailed me, and talked incessantly to cheer me up.

And they all listened to me.

Their voices were the greatest comfort I had when I couldn't even begin to cope with anything. They put up with my panic attacks, the way I would sink to despair at night, my calls at odd hours, me sitting on the kitchen floor in a huddle. They'd talk me back onto my feet, ready to be at Ms T's bedside at 9am the next morning. They'd coffee me, hug me, cheek-kiss me, tell me I'd cope, and set me tottering on my feet to face battle again, with a little bit of love as nourishment.

Doesn't that count as beauty? It does to me.

If I were to wake up without warning in an intensive care unit, these are women whose faces would make me feel better just by being there when I opened my eyes. Whose presence would calm me down, convince me that it would all be OK. Whose smiles would warm me (take my word for it if you don't know: it's never warm in an ICU).

Doesn't that count as beauty? It does to me.

This touches the deepest parts of my life, my personality, and my gratitude that Ms T and I are still managing to hold ourselves mostly together after three years that defy description. Ask Ms T's opinion of the individuals I have in mind, and she'll say that her best days happen because I had hands at my elbow when things were bad.

These women know their names. I guess they'd probably cringe to read this, but please god they will forgive me for writing this, anyhow.

They leave love in so many of the places they go, and I have been among the lucky: a beneficiary of love, support, and friendship unearned but treasured.

Doesn't that count as beauty?

It does, to me.

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