While reaching for a paper towel in the ladies room at church, a young teen who I had seen staring at me while washing our hands, looked me in the eyes and said, "you are really pretty."
I was shocked. First, most teen girls I knew wouldn't feel comfortable saying this to someone, and second, she thought I was pretty!!!!! I was unfortunately so stunned that instead of thanking her and immediately returning the compliment, I only said, "Wow. Thank you."
Now, clearly this young woman is intelligent and most likely has a future as a model scout or rare art dealer, so she knows what she's talking about in the realm of beauty, but she couldn't have been a day over 15...so why am I still thinking about that compliment five days later? It isn't like Tyra Banks plucked me out of the congregation as a must have in her next how-pretty-can-you-look-while-acting-like-a-caged-animal compettion, which I am now confident I would win. I wasn't stopped by Justin Timberlake so he could write a quick song about my breathtaking gray roots, not that it couldn't have happened, he just wasn't there.
Seriously though, why did it mean so much that this little girl found me pretty?
I feel like I'm reasonably normal looking. I don't obesses over my appearance, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care. I use wrinkle cream and when we had money I would get a facial every now and then and have my hair colored. I have been known to change my clothes two or ten times before going out at night, but that's mostly just because I am so excited to get out of the house without my children.
I have been told previously that I'm pretty, but there was something else to this for me. When I worked at The Hula Hut here in Austin, many a male patrons were free with their compliments, and their advances, after one too many cocktails. But, being hit on by intoxicated males is no great victory.
(Unless you are counting the time I was hit on by one in particular that currently sleeps beside me every night.)
My husband, from time to time, will tell me I'm pretty, but I think that's in the contract. Aiden is always quick to say I look nice when I put on something other than jeans or my running clothes. Strangers though? No, strangers don't throw out things like that to me anymore. I'm the Mom.
In my youth, before I had kids that is, I felt pretty, but now I only feel that in tiny, fleeting moments on a good hair day. It's difficult to see or even find in that bathroom mirror when I am getting ready to go to the grocery store, preschool pick up, or something equally glamorous. I don't even think I think much about it anymore.
I still get dressed. I still put on makeup and comb my hair. I care in that I like to feel put together, but I'm not devoting energy to it. There's way too much other stuff going on around here, and I don't know that I would want to exhaust myself if I did have the time.
I feel confident and content with myself, but pretty? Well, pretty seems self indulgent, youthful, and demanding of more than the 10 mintues I have to spend trying to apply makeup while fighting off Stella's pleas for mascara, blush, lotion, ANYTHING that comes out of the mysterious makeup drawer.
I look in the mirror and find spots on my face that appeared and darkened with each baby. I find a never ending cycle of graying hair, which requires more time and money than I currently have to treat it. I find small, deflated breasts that have become more and more amusing/sad each time I finished nursing. Despite trips to the gym, I still find too much junk in my trunk...and the junk jiggles a lot.
The truth is though, I don't think about a lot of those things. Well, I don't think about them much. I'm OK with it all. I think I'm gratefult that those are my biggest complaints right now. I have been dealt a good deal with what I have, but often feel like that what I have been given in going fast or simply ignored because there are too many little people around here that need inner, more important good than the pretty.
I think what struck me so much about that young girl's compliment was that instead of ignoring the way I look this week, too busy or too apathetic to care about my appearance, she made me feel...pretty, and it felt sort of fantastic. I think I will forever remember the way that girl looked at me, how emphatically she spoke. Perhaps she was high, or on some sorority dare, and my ability to judge younger ages now is more jacked up than my roots, but she made my week.