Biff America: Make my day (column)
“Do I really look like that?”
Ellie was on shaky ground when she paused to answer my question. There was little denying that the photos were not flattering but there was no mistaking that I was the subject matter.
“You look a lot like Clint Eastwood.”
Well that made me feel better, I love Clint Eastwood then it dawned on me that Clint Eastwood is like a hundred years old.
It is admittedly shameful for me (or anyone) to worry about the effects of age, sun, gravity or genetics in terms of your personal appearance. In much of the rest of the world there are those worrying about hunger, violence, oppression and disease — they would love to be safe but wrinkled. So yes to anguish over your looks is foolish but as often is the case when you have nothing important to worry about, you worry about the stupid stuff.
Lately I’ve been feeling (or more accurately, looking) my age. I’ve had my photo taken for a few different promotions during the last few months and it has been increasingly difficult to capture a flattering one. I was discussing this with my buddy Steve who has a similar date of birth. He told me about a very expensive, hand-carved, wood framed, mirror his wife purchased from some ‘fufu’ home decor shop for their bedroom. He told me that particular mirror makes him look awful and just glancing at it causes him to shudder.
“I know I’m no Brad Pitt.” he said, “But that thing makes me look like Keith Richards.” Having worked for many years in television I told him it would help to dim the lighting. Steve told me that was not necessary because when his wife left town to visit her mother he donated the offending mirror to a thrift store.
The reality is none of us appear to others as we appear to the camera. A photo captures a flash of a moment where as a human countenance reflects not only our looks but also our attitude, contentment and demeanor.
I was thinking about all this while sitting at a local coffee shop waiting for my mate. As often is the case, life lessons are ever present if you remember to look.
I noticed a teenaged girl sitting at the next table. The gal seemed to have been dealt a bad hand in terms of genetics and confidence. She had stringy, lifeless hair, a weak chin and acne. She sat alone and buried her face in the menu. I imagined an adolescent life of awfulness inflicted on her by mean teens.
Her posture reeked insecurity. I speculated on her day-to-day experience. Was she teased, did she have friends, did teachers take the time to be kind to her? Was life for an unattractive adolescent any easier today than it was when I was a teen?
The waitress approached to take a drink order and received a mumbled response. The soft drink arrived about the same time as the young girl’s parents. If the plain girl was uninterested in her Coke, she brightened considerably when her mother and father arrived. They too, were ‘beauty challenged’ and were dressed in a modest fashion. I imagined that this day and this meal was probably more special for its rarity.
The comfort they found in themselves and situation was expressed in many ways — the mother brushing a stray stand of hair away from the girl’s face and smiling at her husband … the father, gazed at his daughter with love and patience. They studied the menu like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls. When the food arrived, they shared and sampled while exclaiming of its excellence. If the rest of the world saw them as plain and uninteresting, the three of them seemed unaware of their ordinariness.
The girl that once appeared to have such a sad future now seemed blessed.
As if on cue my mate arrived. She was fresh and flushed from a day outside doing what she loves. Without preamble, but while thinking about the young gal next to us, I said, “Have you ever noticed how a person is beautiful when they are happy?”
“Of course I’m happy.” She said, “I had a great day of skiing and just scored an incredible deal, at the thrift store, on a hand-carved, wood framed, mirror.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores and at BackcountryMagazine.com/Store
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