a healthy interpretation.
We all have those comments that stick in our minds for longer than necessary.
The obvious ones are the highly negative, or highly positive comments from loved ones, the comments that grow legs straight away and run rampant through your mind. The comments that impact your life instantly, that you wear like a stamp on your forehead for a few days, years, months. The ones that can take hours of therapy to remove.
So there are those ones…
…then there are those harmless comments, that you hold onto for a really long time and you don’t know why they’re in there, circulating around in your brain cavities.
Why did that comment stick with me when I don’t even know what it meant?
I’d like to call these comments ‘curious-ifiers’ , because they sit and sit and sit in your brain unit, untitled, claiming your curious time trying to work them out, until the day when you are mature and worldly enough to comprehend them.
When I was 18 I was spending a fair bit of time with people older than myself. I had friends my age, but I also had friends, and friends of friends, that were in their mid-to-late-twenties,(even one thirty-year-old!)…such old folk. Anyway, these mature creatures would discuss things in ways that my young folk didn’t; and I am not talking lolz and yolos, this was pre naughties – pre cool speak. I simply mean that they’d discuss politics and movements and music in a way that sounded super-dignified.
So one evening, a few days shy of my nineteenth birthday, I met up with some of the dignitaries for an adult night of drinking and dancing. I was wearing my favourite green pencil skirt and a black top with no bra. I had my hair out, and I was wearing a bit of make-up, I was also wearing my cherry doc boots(always). I was greeted by one of the male gentry (someone whom I thought to be quite a dish). The gentleman greeted me with a comment that may seem to you all as a fairly reasonable salutation, but at the time really had me stumped. The friend of a friend, the wise old man of 27, smiled when he saw me and said:
“hello Mandy, you look well.’
Hmmmm. What does this mean? ‘well‘…?
Most of the things people said to me when I was 18 delivered anxiety – the need to break down and analyse every comment that anyone threw my way was rife. (Who am i kidding, not much has changed.)
But this one, this one comment, came with an immense curiosity, to the point of obsessive wonder.
‘Well?’, that means ‘healthy‘ right? Why would he say I looked healthy? You mean he hasn’t noticed how hot I look in this green skirt? he doesn’t like my hair like this? He hates Doc Martins. Why doesn’t he like the way I look, he just thinks I look healthy?? Did he mean I wasn’t looking healthy last time I saw him? Healthy??–Was that a quip at some weight gain? Have I gained weight? Does my bum look big in this?
Bah, I got over the comment. I had a few glasses of cheap red and got over the comment pretty quickly. As I mentioned before, it was not one of those bold, stampy comments, with emotional legs. It was a ‘curious-ifier’, it just wanted to make it’s way to a corner of my mind and linger quietly, curiously.
The comment did feel good though. It made me feel nice. Despite not having a clue what he meant, I wanted to keep it.
The seed was planted.
Over the years, “you look well”, in my mind, had morphed into “you look healthy”… and I would grab “you look healthy” from the quieter parts of my mind chambers, at the most unusual occasions and shake it around my brain –all the while trying to come up with some meaning that would stick.
Nope. No meaning yet, just curiosity.
I stopped wearing my cherry doc boots, I started wearing a bra, I wore my hair in different ways, I experimented with make-up/no make-up. Loads and loads of changes to my image –the result and resulting in many other comments more hazardous than ‘you look healthy‘– came and went.
Still, I would grab that little baby every now and then and try and fit it to my image.
What the hell was looking healthy?
I concurred, time after time, that this gentleman was just a bit odd.
Not so long ago, I met up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. When we greeted, I noticed she was looking particularly on top of things; her skin was clear, her brow was furrow-free, she had a spark in her eyes, and a flush in her cheeks.
Without any thought i said to my lovely friend, “…you look well”.
There it was.
You. Look. Well. (not healthy!)
It didn’t mean much, but i didn’t mean nothing… “You look well”, delivered to me all those years ago, by that charming man, just meant I looked good; happy, healthy, on top of things. Wow. I had been harbouring this comment all these years without the benefit of actually understanding it’s powers.
I had been quietly, sometimes painfully, tackling my image for a decade or more; analysing and storing comments related to the way I looked:
“you look hot”, “skinny bitch”, “nice hair”, “you should tone up your arms”, “you look tired”, “your tan has faded”, “wow, you’re tall”, “you look like your sister”, what happened to your tooth?”, “you’ve lost weight”, “you’ve got your mum’s chin”, “i can see a grey hair”, “what’s that mark on your thigh?”, “you look younger than you are”, “that colour suits you”…etc, etc, etcetera…
None of these comments deserved legs. They meant a lot less than “you look well“, and therefore had a lot less power than I was granting them.
All these years I had tweaked my image in search of, or in fear of these comments. When all the while, I had that one comment there in my mind that could have saved me all the worry, if I had only known what it meant.
Striving to ‘look well’ is what I do now.
The way to look well, is to be well.
And the way to be well?
Be healthy, stay happy and on top of things, do what you love, smile.
A much harder image to see in a mirror, but a much more rewarding image to strive for.
**And what I’d say to the gentleman now, who told me I looked well, many moons ago:
Thank you, and I hope you are well.