I suppose it is only natural that as one approaches sixty, Ohmygoodness60!, that one reflects on past activities, actions, and decisions. The other day one of my colleagues, who was in high school with me, commented that she still has moments when she sees me and remembers me as a blond. I had blond hair as a young girl, sandy hair later, and then dyed it blond for several years. So yesterday I took some photos to school with me- four of my best blond ones- and we had a good laugh. She made the comment that I was a “looker” in school.
That’s a comment I get a lot when people see photos of me as a girl or young woman. Gary thought I was quite beautiful when we met. What is ironic is that I never thought of myself that way. I was very insecure and I thought every other girl in school was prettier, thinner, had better hair, certainly better teeth, and nicer hands. I worried about being too short. I spent at least three weeks wanting to be a model, but a good friend said, “Well, you’re short. And you have that nose.” Another thing to worry about! LOL I was also a bit clumsy and awkward, something I blamed on being raised on a farm with boys. I couldn’t even play sports, so that separated me from yet another high school clique.
My uncle spent years using “ugly” as my nickname. I thought one of my aunts was a dead-ringer for Elizabeth Taylor. And my father liked to say “you can be beautiful or smart, but not both”. I know he meant that I could spend my time polishing my nails or reading a book, but I knew I was very, very smart, so it was only logical that I wasn’t beautiful. So my family background set me up for a lot of insecurity.
I was tumbling all that around in my brain yesterday as I watched a high school girl who works in our building after school. Girls are so vulnerable at this age. I think that’s why they marry early, as I did, or form cliques, or join gangs. They are insecure and seeking reassurance from someone, anyone, that they are beautiful, talented, smart, funny, or in some other way unique and wonderful. I don’t think many of them get that even today. I’ve spoken with young girls who don’t realize how great they are because they are so busy comparing themselves to others and finding fault. And in our society much of that fault centers on weight and size. I blame much of that on actresses and the media.
I think it is up to some of us real women who have weathered the storms of life to act as mentors and role models for these girls. I think we need to seek some of them out and let them know that they are a “package deal”- looks, brains, personality- and that all of their skills and talents will be put to good use in the future. I remember high school as a time of study and fun and excitement, but also a time of great conflict, doubt, and drama. I thought I was doomed for failure at least once a week. There were two women at church and a teacher who kept me on the right path and gave me the confidence to become the woman I am today. I think Judy and Hatsene and Jeanne know what an impact they made on my life. Another older woman in our community told me recently that she often worried about me when I was in high school because I seemed so lost and confused.
So, I challenge you today to look within your circle of influence and see if there is a young girl who needs a kind word and some gentle guidance. Don’t assume that because you perceive her beauty, talent, or skill, that she is aware of it. She may be drowning in a sea of confusion and doubt.