|Photo description: close up of an eye, the iris is purple.
She noticed Joe's new jacket hanging with the coats at the back of the salon and asked, "Who owns that beautiful blue jacket?" Joe answered that she did. She said, "My son would love that."
"My son has the most amazing blue eyes," she said, "when he was born his eyes were a lovely purple, even now, his eyes are blue with a slightly purple hue."
"When people meet him they really notice the colour of his eyes. He is a lovely, handsome man."
One more time.
And continued with pain in her voice.
"And he thinks he's ugly. He really thinks he's ugly. I can't understand why he feels that way. I can't understand why he can't see himself as he is, beautiful."
Then, realizing that she had slipped into intimate conversation with strangers she brushed the conversation away and deftly changed the subject.
This blog has two endings.
As I listened to her, I sat there, looking at myself in the mirror. I saw what people see. I saw a fat man in a wheelchair, bald headed, eyes with luggage enough to move a movie stars shoes. I saw what people see. I know what strangers think of me. I know they see me as ugly and ungainly and unworthy and unlovable. I know that.
But I don't feel that way.
I don't feel ugly.
At least I don't feel those ways very often, maybe only in very low moments. My life is so full of purpose and so full of living that I don't think of my looks very much at all. There are moments, and I've written about them here, when I see myself reflected in the eyes of others - cruel eyes with shallow vision. I may be stung by what I see there, but it passes, it always passes.
I think because I'm loved.
And because I rise every morning to purpose.
And because, at my core, I'm OK with me.
I realized, as she spoke, that I am a lucky, lucky, man.
As I listened to her, I felt her sorrow. I felt the pain of the words that she was saying. She was a mother that loved her son. She was a mother who wanted her son to live with joy and not be plagued by thoughts of himself as ugly and unworthy. She was a mother, whose voice gave away her inner thoughts, "What did I do wrong? Why does he see himself in such a negative light? Was it what I said? Was it what I did? What could I have done differently. Did I do this to him?"
Parents don't need much encouragement to look to themselves with blameful eyes. Her son may see himself as ugly, but she sees herself as responsible. Her burden may be worse.
I would have loved to know her well enough to say, "Your son lives in a world, separate from you. You see his beauty. But he doesn't measure beauty in his mother's eyes - he doesn't trust that you can see him as others see him. He lives in a world that bombards men, in the same was as it pummels women, with impossible images of beauty. Men, these days, are presented in magazines as flawless, strong jaws, washboard abs, shoulders strong enough to carry the fantasies of strangers.
Parents are responsible only for loving their children and for raising their children in a loving environment. Her love of him was palpable. Her worry for him a tangible thing.
He has a mother who loves him.
And because of that, I believe that he will one day, look in the mirror and see what she sees.
I want to believe that.
So, I do.