Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What's important

I spend a lot of time reading David's stuff each week. I sent a link to his blog to a friend in NOLA and she agreed that in many ways he is our lost brother -- even if he doesn't realize it yet.

I often find myself thinking about my friendship with Jade. If I had met her later in life, I'm not sure that we would still be friends. Jade was, is, and probably always will be, very superficial. But that was her upbringing. I know this because she has been my friend since I was seven. Her family lived two houses away and we were always in and out of each other's houses. I have heard the statements that her mother makes. Her mother is all about appearances. Well, mine is too but not to the same extent that Jade's mother is. Jade's mother is saditty. Nah, actually she's bougie. (And this is why Jade will probably never read this blog. Because the truth can be painful.) So Jade's mom often sat around with her nose in the air, looking down on us plebians, or so she imagined us, and told her daughter how pretty she was.

I had a twisted upbringing during which my mother never allowed people to compliment me on my physical appearance. Turns out that folks actually thought I was cute, but also a little intimidating. Because of my upbringing, I hit college thinking that I was not physically attractive. That was OK though because I learned to appreciate the people who liked me for me and not for what they saw. It gave me the insight to see past the outer shell in others as well. Through my 20s and 30s I have often found the need to explain my choices in whom I date to others. "But you're too cute to be going out with him." Yes, the physical package is nice and all but after a few dates, there has to be something more there.

This is probably why I was so intrigued by online dating in some ways. I usually refuse to post a picture. I want to be judged by what I say, not how I look. The one time I posted an ad with a photo, I got responses from guys who were just responding to the photo and not to anything I had written. I'm sorry but I can get that walking into a bar or club. Heck. I can get that walking down the street.

In recent years I have had conversations with my mother on this topic.

"You just don't notice, do you? That guy almost broke his neck trying to get another look at you."

"Yes, they do that. It's not important though."

Experience has taught me that those guys could care less about what I think, what I feel. And I point out to my mother that in the end, these are the things that really matter. Despite all of her faults, she has given me the strength to be happy with who I am and to not accept anyone who cannot see the beauty in that alone.

Back to Jade. When Jade and I graduated college, I had a conversation with my mom about the whole dynamic when we go out. Jade has always been outgoing. I am a natural introvert. It took me years to learn to be this outgoing. My mother said at that point, "But you have always been cuter than Jade. The difference is your personalities." Jade has always been about acquaintances while I wanted friends. Also Jade's parents were a lot better actors. Or perhaps she was better at not internalizing the stuff going on at home than I was. Either way, I ended up a lot more guarded and slower to make choices about people. I guess that's what I've always loved about Jade -- her ability to live in the moment, to not want to go too deep.

We complement each other. Jade, at heart, is the true partygirl and I was just along for the ride -- a pretender to the throne. No, I was the brains of the operation, always coming up with the plan of how we would get away with our latest hairbrain scheme. Our mothers thought that we were a bad influence on each other. As adults, we told them that we share the blame for everything equally.

David has a hard time imagining 40. I did too when I was his age. Mostly because I didn't imagine that I would ever live that long. I spent my teens and 20s being highly self-destructive -- "Die young and leave a beautiful corpse." My aunt who calls me "The Diva" -- we talk about those times. It wasn't aging that scared me; it was living because sometimes in life, things are not in your control. And no matter how old I get, I know that I will always be beautiful. Because only a beautiful person could look at some screaming homeless guy, like I did last Thursday night, and say, "I will not give you money but if you are hungry like you say you are, then we can go around the corner to the market at the gas station and I will pay for whatever food you want." It took a lot of convincing but as he went through the store, he was as happy as a kid picking out a new toy.

And so I like to think that I am beautiful in my actions and not how I look. (Heck. With the Clairol I can still pass for being in my 20s to most folks.) Beauty is making sure that a soldier has a comfy seat for the ride home. Every now and then true beauty is found in the pages of some magazine proclaiming who is dating whom or who has given birth. But often it's not. That's just entertainment.

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