I love Dear Abby; her advice is always so good. Yesterday she counseled a woman on what to say when people tell her she looks just like her mother. The trouble, the woman said, is “my mother is ugly! I no longer respond to the comment, preferring to remain silent and just stare at the person instead.”
Then she went on to ask Abby to “please remind people that unless the comparison is to an attractive model, opinions should be kept to oneself.” And she signed it “BEAUTIFUL IN MY OWN WAY.”
Abby was much kinder than I would have been. “The trouble is your mother is ugly?” I would have written “Are you serious?”
To me no human face is ugly. If the six years I spent studying Anatomy and Physiology to work that second job as a massage therapist taught me anything they taught me that there are no ugly bodies either, but only valiant, hard-working bodies that try so hard every day to do our bidding, whatever crazy head-forward and/or slouching positions we ask them to maintain. (You’d be surprised how many people feel shame about their feet. And yet little was more moving to me in the course of the hour-long session than to hold a person’s foot in my hand for there is visible all the gathered strength and balance we demand every day to go on clinging to the branch, to set out from it in search of food, to catch and settle upon it afterward and attempt to take our rest.)
What Abby did instead of scolding her was to say instead
DEAR BEAUTIFUL IN YOUR OWN WAY:
I’ll remind them, but it’s possible that you are overly sensitive. The person could be referring to a family resemblance, your coloring or a mannerism. A diplomatic response would be, ‘Thank you. Isn’t she a dear?’
I might stop with the “Thank you,” just in case Mom isn’t all that much of a dear, in which case the daughter would seem to be engaging in sarcasm.
I do wonder though: if the daughter feels as though she can call own self beautiful in her own way, why can’t she see that that might be true of her mother as well?
You know I’ve been thinking of Mother Teresa all this week. Who could fail to see her beauty as she went about her work as a pencil in the hand of God? I’d be happy to look like her any day.