Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

Each morning, on my “power walk” route, I pass an older gentleman, standing in the same spot, looking out over the city. Perhaps this is his morning ritual. Each morning he tells me I look beautiful as I trudge by him. Recently he added that my nails looked pretty too.

I dismiss these compliments somewhat automatically. Is he kidding? I’m sweaty. I haven’t washed my face. Or showered. I do not resemble the young women that pass me on the left in their color coordinated Lycra. I wear an old sweat shirt from the kids high school sports teams  — a politically incorrect Native American’s profile plastered on the front. I did recently buy some pretty snazzy sneakers though…although I don’t think they are called sneakers anymore.

I easily decide he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Today on my way back past him he added, “You look like a movie star.” I smiled. “Lily Tomlin, that’s it, you look like Lily Tomlin.”

Really?

Now…I think Lily Tomlin is funny as hell, but I don’t think she is pretty. I actually think she is a bit homely, in an Edith Ann kind-of way.

For as much as I thought I had disregarded his compliment, I noticed the impact his comparison had on me. My feet felt heavier.

Almost home, my front steps in the distance, I realized I had “done it again.” I had dismissed a compliment but readily believed a slight — even though I knew he hadn’t meant it as such. Why was being compared to someone I didn’t think was particularly attractive a perfect fit, while being told I looked pretty rolled off my back?

Do you do this?

I remember many years ago speaking at a conference for therapists. I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference. Not a great placement.

I did my talk. I saw heads nodding which I took as a good sign. People were a bit ansi to get on their way, but I thought I held their attention.

At the end of the presentation I read through the participants evaluations. They were filled with good to excellence scores and comments. Except for one person, who clearly HATED me and everything I said. She, I assume it was a ‘she’ from her floral penmanship, wrote that my presentation was not based in the real world of addictions, that my ideas were pompous and that I should park my Mercedes at the door.

Ouch. The air left my lungs.

“But I don’t own a Mercedes,” I countered to myself as I read her responses. “I once had a Oldsmobile Bravada but got rid of it because I felt pretentious driving it.” I wanted her to know this.

I drove home hunched over the wheel, replaying her assessment of me. Not one of other kind, positive, complimentary comments, from the other 100 evaluations, made it into my long term memory.

I was told as a kid, more often than I needed to hear, “Don’t get too big for Scanyour britches.” Or worse yet, “You’re getting to big for your britches.” I had been caught thinking well of myself. I had the audacity to consider myself, even for a moment, special, smart, funny, or cute. If my mom got the faintest whiff of my ego’s presence she would escort it quickly out of the room.

I didn’t learn to believe well of myself.

My mentor in grad school told me that 50% of the people were always going to like me and 50% would not. He suggested, for me to have a happy life, I might want to stand with the 50% that liked me.

Huh. Novel idea in my world. What if I did?

So I will take the compliment. I chose to believe I look pretty — just like Lily Tomlin. My nails look pretty too. Not bad for a Thursday morning. I will take all the positive comments that come my way until I begin to believe them.

It takes 7 compliments to undo 1 criticism.

But whose counting?

XO

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I will ask, I will, I will, I will…

A couple of months ago I went with my friend Babs to hear Linda Babcock, the Carnegie Melon author of Ask For It.

Ask For It is about how women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. It explains that we don’t get raises, promotions, or parley good employment packages because we don’t ask. Men do. The book provides story after story of women not asking and therefore not receiving.

I read most of the book and practiced some of the exercises strengthening this asking muscle in myself. As a result, I negotiated a higher rate of reimbursement with an insurance company, Tom and I bargained $2700 off our new car, and I sold some items on Craig’s list getting my asking price.

I was proud of myself and my new skill. I had asked and It had paid off. But it hadn’t come naturally.

Two weeks ago I went shopping with my future daughter-in-law for my mother-of-the-groom dress. Now you must know, there is an etiquette, generations old, to consider in the selection of this one dress. I will save the details for another post.

Today I want to tell you a different story.

While Lauren and I were shopping for my dress, I spotted an adorable, white sequined dress, that reminded me of her–she loves sparkle. I didn’t show it to her since we were on a mission involving me and I didn’t want to derail the process. As we walked to the next store we talked about the rehearsal dinner. She mentioned she wanted to wear white and she wanted it to be sparkly. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps to the store we had just left. I knew this was her dress.

She tried it on and it was one of those OMG moments. She looked beautiful, sexy, and very happy in this sweet, little (very little) dress. She turned to look at herself from every angle in the full length mirror, her smile getting bigger and broader. It was her dress. We both knew it.

Then she looked at the price tag. Her face fell. $320.00.

“I can’t spend that much on a dress just for the rehearsal dinner.”

I became one of those dangerous women to shop with. “You could also wear it on your honeymoon and on New Year’s Eve, you could even wear it out on the town. It will never go out of style.” I worked to convince her.

Her smile returned slightly, but I could tell she wasn’t sold. I admired her sense of fiscal responsibility, but I really wanted her to have this dress. I offered to give her $100.00 toward it. She said no, she couldn’t do that.

She continued to argue the pros and cons of spending too much on something she really wanted. I knew this place in myself and did not envy her. As she took off the dress it seemed she had reached her decision.

Then, from my seat in the dressing room, I watched her drape her dream dress over her arm and walk up to the sales girl that had been helping her. “I really love this dress, it is my dress, but I can’t pay $320.00 for a dress right now. Is there anyway I can have a discount?” she asked.

I sat in awe. There was no sale rack or discount sign in the window, this was clearly a this-season dress and Lauren still thought to, was comfortable enough to, ask for a price reduction. My mouth hung open. Wow.

The young women cheerfully explained that if it was Lauren’s birthday month she could have 20% off. Lauren shook her head slowly, “My birthday is in July,” she confessed. The sales girl looked at me, “December,” I reluctantly admitted.  “My fiancee’s birthday is in March,” Lauren offered, hope laced through every word. I confirmed this, saying it was true, I knew because he’s my son. I guess I thought a mom in the mix might help…I really wanted to help her get this dress.

“Okay, have him come in before the end of the month and we can give you 20% off the dress.”

It was March 31st.

My mind was racing. There had to be a way. Finally, I suggested we call him and he could send a picture of his drivers license with proof of his March birth — the perks of modern technology. The now weary looking sales girl said she would need to ask her manager.

She came back with a bounce in her step. The manager had approved the discount without evidence of someone in our family tree having a March birthday.

Lauren paid for and walked out of the store with her dress. All because she asked.

And she didn’t even read the book.

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The Queen of England

Today I got a massage and facial. As I relaxed; steam opening my pores, Audra’s fairy fingers making gentle circles around my eyes; I began to count my blessings. When I left the house this morning our housekeeper was pulling into the driveway. Last night I ordered a great pair of shoes from the Travel Smith catalogue. Tomorrow I have an acupuncture appointment. Next week I have a manicure and pedicure scheduled. I am the luckiest woman alive!

 

Then it hit. My gratitude turned to shame, “Who do I think I am? Really? Who? The Queen of England? I don’t dare tell anyone about all this.” I felt terrible, indulgent, spoiled, after all, there are children starving in Africa. Continue reading

Was it just a Fashion Show?

The other night as I watched the Victoria Secrets Fashion Show I noticed I began feeling insecure and sad about myself, my body, my “look”, (not to mention my inability to walk like that in high heels.) I felt badly, because at my age, it is no longer possible for me to have the body or the “look” of a VS “angel” and, truth be told, it wasn’t possible when I was younger either. I can never compare to those models nor could I ever. So I began to wonder what other women-especially young women- felt as they watched the exotically de cored, minimally dressed, winged women strut their stuff down the runway. I wondered about those of you that watched with male friends and/or boyfriends/partners- how was that for you, how did you feel about yourself, your body, your potential? I would love to hear from all of you and have a conversation about this. Did watching the Victoria Secrets Fashion Show impact you, did you like it, not like, feel better or worse about yourself, think it was supportive, good for women or unsupportive of women? Or maybe it was just a show and you feel nothing…..