Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than visiting with a bunch of old friends. I’d rather deliver a speech to a room full of 1000 tomorrow than rock up to dinner with a cast of 10 tonight, eight years since I’ve seen many of them.
It’s not that I don’t like them. Indeed, I like them very much.
It’s just the weight thing. And the hair thing. And the wrinkles and weight thing.
Years ago I was your gal-about-town in full make-up and pretty hair every single day. These days I rarely worry about my appearance – I dress for speed, not style. The hair is mostly pulled back in my ‘signature’ (ha!) pony tail and the make up is non-existent. I don’t know what people think of me on a day to day basis anymore. Most of the time I’m a moving target anyway, so if people are commenting, I’m gone before I can overhear.
I think the thing about dinner with old friends is my own sense of inadequacy. I feel happier now that I don’t go to all that endless trouble all the time, but I still feel a little bit like I’ve “let myself go” and that hurts. The fact that my dear old friends will feel obligated to offer some kind of compliment about how I look hurts even more. “Oh, you look great,” they will say. “Your hair is so gorgeous” they will gush. And I know that compared to ten years ago, this is simply not true.
I just can’t handle a false compliment, no matter how well-intended it is. It’s hearing “You’ve lost weight!” every single time I go out. No, actually, I haven’t. But because I’m fat, that’s an easy compliment to butter me up with. I get it. You’re fat ergo you must be trying to lose weight so an affirmation will be appreciated. Instead, every time someone says that to me it reminds me that I need to lose weight but I haven’t.
I will be doing it myself, of course. A “love your dress!” will escape, followed by a “you look so great!”. We can’t help ourselves, it’s part of being friendly. We say nice things to others and we really mean it at the time, but the weight of their own expectations will cloud the way they hear us.
“Just accept the compliment with thanks,” my mother said to me years ago. I want to, but I just don’t believe it. It’s awfully hard being a realist sometimes… and isolating… and somewhat anti-social! I know I judge myself far harsher than anyone would ever dream of doing. Being kinder to myself might help me accept compliments with much more grace and courtesy than I currently do
So tonight, I am uncomfortable and dragging my feet a little. But once we’re past that awkward compliment stage, I will be so lost in my old friends’ company that I will forget all about criticising myself all over again. And that’s true friendship, at the end of the day.
[Image by Natalie Haywood]