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A Prime Time Request
You know what’s funny? When [CRIPPLE JOKE EDITED BY REQUEST OF EMMY], and then suddenly [CRIPPLE JOKE EDITED BY REQUEST OF EMMY]. Don’t you hate that? And then it looks at you with its tongue hanging out as if you’re the asshole. Of course, you can always do what I do which is [CRIPPLE JOKE EDITED BY REQUEST OF EMMY]. Of course, that’s not entirely legal. Not in this hemisphere anyway.
Let’s talk about what we see. What is inside our perceptions, what is outside of our concerns. Everyday I sit here at the bookstore, and when I’m at a loss of words to write, I peer around. I look on the face and body of each of the people sitting here. Reading, talking, drinking coffee, doing homework. Others shop throughout the store, reading the back covers of books with the hope that some well phrased hook will grab enough of their eager attention to buy the book, take it home, and read it in bed beside their lovers. There are shy people, looking at the floor and avoiding eye contact with any stranger. There are loud people whose laughter cuts the glass of silence. There are angry people yelling that their drinks weren’t made properly, demanding a manager. Others in their discomfort from the angry people look at the employees with a look that explains apology on behalf of the irritated customer. A hundred different interests and points of view. A hundred different music tastes and movie tastes and book tastes and people tastes. Strange that we’re all coexisting here without much regard that the other exists. We are all a common thing, however. We are all beautiful.
People look on me and see whatever they see. I have no idea what it is that they observe, and I don’t care too terribly much. I look on people and see whatever I see. Often, I have difficulty explaining to people what it is that I do see in the strangers I look on. What’s funny about that is that what I see is very simple; I see beauty. I tell people that I see beauty on the face of each person, and the simplicity of that perception seems too vexing to understand, and that makes me slightly sad.
The impression from any stranger to me is his beauty first. We all are beautiful inherently, we start in a perfect beauty to what is supposed to be the beauty of our uniqueness. Then we layer what we think our beauty ought to be, or rather, the beauty that we choose to share with others. Some layer on makeup. Some layer on clothing. Some layer on fat or hair or modifications or attitudes. The layers seem to pile atop everyone’s beauty strip by strip, don’t they. What we seem to forget when we see a stranger whose sweatpants are not quite covering his ass, or a stranger whose hair is a frightful mess, is that his beauty is still there beneath the layers of what he is choosing to share.
What the hell am I talking about. Seems I write that phrase more than anything. Here’s a story. You kids know that I end every blog each week with the phrase ‘stay beautiful.’ I say this to my friends when I see them, and sometimes I say it to strangers if I get the feel that the stranger won’t take it the wrong way. Recently at the bookstore, I shared my table with a stranger who needed an outlet. I was at a table near the outlets, and I plugged in a power strip to accommodate more users. A woman looked for a place to sit with her computer, and there were no seats, so I took off my headphones and offered her the space on my table that I wasn’t using. She smiled, thanked me, and set up her work space. We worked in silence, save some pauses from our respective tasks to stretch and playfully complain about not getting our work done or the grey and wet sky. Several hours later, I packed up my computer to leave. The woman smiled and thanked me again, and I said, “No problem. Stay beautiful.” She said, “I’d have to be beautiful first.” I said, “We all are, don’t worry,” and left.
I didn’t tell her that she was beautiful because I gained something from it. I wasn’t attracted to her. I wasn’t trying to pick her up. I wasn’t trying to fuck her. I walk beside someone who means the world to me and don’t want to be beside nor am I interested in anyone else. I told her she was beautiful because it was true, and that was the appropriate thing to say. Her surprise and witty response, though clever and quick, heavied my heart a little bit. It reminded me that this is what most people think about themselves. Most people see themselves as a lesser thing of beauty. Of course there are some; there are always some, and those are the people whose beauty is layered under and obscured by the ideas of self. These ideas often and ironically keep them from seeing the beauty in others. But this isn’t about those folks. This is about the rest of the people. The ones who forget.
Where is the disconnect? Where is it, or rather, when is it that we learn to be so aesthetically comparative that we lose our own sense of beauty? Is it media? Is it celebrity worship? Is it the bitterness of rejection hardening our hearts as the years mature? Does it even matter. If I knew when I began to think that my beauty was in dearth of that of others (which I do know), would that help me recover from the doldrums of aesthetic frustration? Unlikely. But how do we recuperate? How do we resuscitate our perception of our own beauty when we have already decided that beauty is outside of our tired grasp?
Most of my readers modify. I myself modify. Piercings, tattoos. Some of us bifurcate, some pocket, some scar, or brand, or implant. We find comfort here, don’t we. We slide into our skins beneath art and jewelry and in some internalized ether like prehistory chemistry event, we have confidence and poise. Then we are bestowed with a responsibility. A responsibility to know our own beauty, and to let others know of their own beauty.
We don’t all take the mantle of this responsibility, do we. Most of us go along in reality, worrying about ourselves, our families, our lovers and children, and not much else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but realize this for a moment: I think you’re beautiful. I think that person at the table over there tilling her Farmville real estate is beautiful. I think the person who made my coffee is beautiful. The old guy with the political t-shirt advertising a belief that I don’t agree with is beautiful. If any of these people asked or approached me for conversation, including you, he’d know about his beauty because I would tell him. So little time is taken to focus on what is beautiful, and so much time is spent on studying the rust that caresses the edges of our day to day. Unfortunate that commenting on a stranger’s beauty is met with an assumption of motives ulterior.
It doesn’t have to be, however. The motives of my telling you that you’re beautiful is to remind you of something that is already true. I gain nothing from your feeling beautiful, and my telling you is similar to my telling you that the grass is green or the sky is blue. I don’t call my readers to action; I really don’t believe that I have much influence on anyone around me short of the laughter from my telling a dirty joke or the occasional palm sting of a well placed high five. I am not telling you to smile at a stranger, to hold a door at the Wawa (or Sheetz or QuickChek or whatever your convenience store of choice is), to let someone pass in front of you while shopping, to let someone turn onto a busy street, to ask “how are you” and actually listen to the answer. I am asking you, however, to remember that the other person is just as beautiful as you are. The other person is just as valuable as you are. The other person is very much a mirror of your own beauty, and if you can see the beauty in the stranger, you can see the beauty in yourself. How wonderfully simple. Stay beautiful, kids.
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