If you met her for yourself, Anna's feet would be the last thing to draw your attention.The thing you'd notice about her, if you bumped into her at the market or the coffee shop, is her spirit -- her I'm-laughing-at-you-in-the-nicest-way, mischievous, determination. She's uncommonly comfortable in her own lovely skin. Perfectly blond and naturally curly hair plays around her freckled cheeks. Her petite, feminine frame carries her soon-coming babe with strength, energy.
But we're not talking about spark, we're talking about feet, she and I. Anna's first pedicure has resulted in perfect daisies painted on fluorescent green nails. "So, you know how whenever you go into something like this you always self-consciously apologize for what you imagine must be the worst feet they've ever seen? Well, it turns out mine really are some of the worst!" Her gently self-deprecating laugh assures her listener that she's really okay with whatever criticism may have been leveled at her to establish the nastiness of her callous-riddled toes.
I laugh in turn and press for detail. "It's true! They brought out a special cream! 'Just for you,' they said. Who knew?"
I'm generally uncomfortable with salons, spa's, perfume departments -- anyplace where aggressive women threaten to try to "make something" of my "challenging" appearance. I need to wax more regularly, but the fifteen dollars required is elusive (and most often being spent on slurpees, rather than beauty enhancements); the last time I visited an esthetician she, as I lay prostrate on my back in a dingy back room in a strangely decorated salon, perkily chirruped: "Oh my gosh! You're eyebrows are, like, completely uneven!" That eyebrows grow in all manner of raggedy slashes across the faces of women 'round the globe had, clearly, not occurred to her until that moment. I'm so glad I could be the one to demonstrate that imperfection.
My nail beds are too flat to handle the beautiful manicure's I love so much. My hair's natural s-curve co-operates with no one. I've started sprouting hairs in odd places ~ obvious places ~ places front and center where all the world can enjoy an excellent view (I am not exaggerating when I say that there is one that springs forth from the middle of my left cheek that can grow to the incredible length of one centimeter overnight!).
So, when Anna and I, busily setting up a picnic supper for the kids' youth group, talk about the grotesque deformity of feet, I can relate. The really glorious thing about being a few years into living is that our oddities and various uglies are becoming amusing. The youthful sting of fear and uncertainty that comes with the realization of imperfections is falling away and being replaced by growing (and sometimes grim) understanding that our callouses and sproingy hairs are not what the world is watching anyway.
If you met her for yourself, Anna's feet would be the last thing to draw your attention. Because she is clever and very funny. She catches your imagination, quickly, with engaging ideas and thoughts for the future. She is kind. She rejects no one. She is beautiful.
With a toddler straddling her right hip (Only occasionally directing a "Could you please help me?" at her distracted husband.) and a babybelly sticking out to forever, she wins her audience. She facilitates the picnic, now well underway. She organizes and executes appropriately sloppy and energetic games, the kind that only thirteen year old's can fully appreciate. She laughs. She draws in. She loves.
Bumpy feet. Flat nailbeds. Hair too-straight, too-curly. Moles. Unimportant, all. We are so much more than the sum of our imperfect features. We bring to the world. We give to the world. We share, love, offer, build in our worlds. Like Anna's feet, our flaws will go largely unnoticed, while the bits of grace and humor we offer will leave lasting, healing, motivating impressions. Now, would you please stop staring at my eyebrows?