“Do these pants make my hips look wide?” I asked my husband as I stared horrified into the mirror.
“Define what you mean by ‘wide,’ ” he said.
“Wide!” I repeated. “Do my hips look wide?”
“Uh, uh, uh . . . ,” he stammered.
“OK,” I explained. “If you say they are the width of one of the Olsen twins, well — both of the Olsen twins together — that is good thing. If you say they are as wide as our giant plasma TV screen, that is a bad thing.”
“Who are the Olsen twins?”
“Oh for god’s sake,” I shrieked. “You DO think my hips are wide!”
He disappeared from the room. I obviously saw in the mirror that my hips had expanded, but still I would have loved to have heard, “Honey, you look wonderful just as you are,” completing the sentence with “and not the least bit wide.”
But, as I said, he’d escaped to wherever it is husbands escape to when they know that whatever they say is probably a lost cause.
So where can I turn if I want positive feedback on my appearance, even if it’s not quite — shall we say — accurate? My children? When my kids were little, I could wear a ratty bathrobe, let my hair stand on end like a rooster’s comb, and have both eyes inflamed by pink eye, and yet one of the three would never fail to say, “Mommy pretty.”
Now they are grown with children of their own and how I look is of little consequence to them. Mostly I appear in their lives to baby-sit their offspring and they wouldn’t notice if I came dressed in Goth, so eager are they to get out the door. Not quite the source I need.
As for my children’s children, I remember cuddling with my oldest granddaughter, awaiting her first sentence. I fully admit to feeding her the words, “Grandma so lovely.” Her actual first sentence, “Grandma neck wiggly.”
Now she’s a teenager and pretty much just rolls her eyes when she sees me, or any adult. But there is a place I can go. I have women friends. At least when I need positive affirmation on my appearance, they’ll give it their strongest shot. When my hair was unfortunately dyed crimson before my last vacation they studied my trip photos and said, “You match the autumn foliage,” keeping their faces straight.
And, they did the best they could when I showed up at a fancy event looking like a football player in the shoulder-padded suit I’d bought for my daughter’s wedding 18 years earlier. “Retro is so you,” they gushed.
Or, when they saw my new center-lined bifocals for the first time, one said with such earnestness, “That line pinpoints the blue in your eyes so well.”
Female friends are indeed wonderful, but still, I think a woman needs an occasional compliment from the man in her life. To that end, I picked a strategy that just had to work. As we were dozing off I said to my spouse, “Honey, what was the first thing you found attractive about me?”
“Uh, uh, uh,” I heard, followed by silence.
“Well,” I told him, “while you think about it, let me describe what attracted me to you. It was your liquid brown eyes, your wavy hair, and the way you barely spoke above a whisper.”
Silence. The man is technically oriented and must think everything through so I waited. And waited. Soon I was asleep. What seemed like hours later, half awake, I heard a murmur.
“What?” I said, not quite coherent. He still barely speaks above a whisper, only now it’s annoying.
“Your teeth. That was the first thing I noticed about you. You still have nice teeth, even though they’re getting a kind of yellow . . . .”
I stifled the urge to use my yellowing teeth to bite his head off. Instead I uttered, “Define what you mean by a kind of yellow. Do you mean garish yellow, like a school bus, or soft tan like Old Yeller?” I followed with, “Remember, positive is good.”
“Old Yeller,” he whispered. “He was such a good dog.”