My last piece was about making snap judgments about other people, based on superficial, external data or on preconceived notions. I know I do it, and the worse I’m feeling about myself on a particular day, the more judgmental I am of others. We often go through life making subconscious assessments of people that guide our interactions. Of course, intuition helps us prevent dangerous situations, so we can’t entirely disregard that, but I’m talking about something far more subtle, not an innate sense of legitimate self-protection but a learned or inherited prejudice or dislike of “those people.” That’s not just unnecessary; it’s wrong. “Those people” are not all the same, whoever — for my culture — they are.
We also trash ourselves, constantly analyzing and picking apart our features as if any one of them (even if it’s a true assessment) is a valid summary judgment on the totality of who we are or are becoming:
- “I’m not enough.”
- “Everyone thinks I look bad today.”
- “He has more money than I do; I’m a loser.”
- “I’ll never get the promotion; I didn’t go to a good enough school.”
- “My house isn’t nice enough for hosting people.”
I spent the better part of a year feeling sad because Ashlee Simpson got a nose job. Seriously. My kids wanted me to MOVE ON and quit talking about Ashlee, but I couldn’t. Because pre-rhinoplasty, she was distinct-looking, interesting, and intriguing, and then she got a nose like all the other pretty, blonde, cookie-cutter girls and looked like, well, a pretty, blonde, cookie-cutter girl. And then she had to find something else to be distinctive about, so she named her kid Bronx Mowgli.
Honestly Ashlee didn’t tell me why she named her kid that, and I think it’s kind of cool. But I also wanted to meet her, give her a big, older-woman hug, and tell her that her nose was beautiful either way and that, besides, she is not defined by her nose. She’s a complicated, beautiful package of a woman, flawed and awesome both I’m sure. I say this not because I actually know Ashlee. I say it because it’s true; it’s true of all of us. I just want Ashlee (and everyone) to know they are beautiful “as is.”
In my Marvin Hamlisch career appreciation marathon
, my ears have been camping on the soundtrack from A Chorus Line,
a paean to individual identity and the neurotic angst of wondering, “Am I my resume? Who is that anyway?” Edward Kleban’s wonderful lyrics are a travelogue through everything we ever wondered about ourselves and all the ways we ask, “Am I enough?” And Kleban writes (actually, I believe, echoing how God sees us) that we are each “one singular sensation, every little step (you make); one thrilling combination, every move that (you make).”
Flawed, yes; messy, yes; imperfect, yes. With a variety of noses. But pretty amazing nonetheless.