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My New Normal

Is it a dubious compliment or a new normal?

My younger sister, Ellen, was an incredibly beautiful child.  Aware of the sensitivity of her older ugly duckling, our Mother took great care to compliment me, constantly stressing I had perfect posture.  It took a few years before I realized it was the only positive critique she could give me.  Until that moment I truly believed good posture was as wonderful as being beautiful.  I was wrong, but still I was happy with the dubious praise.

As I grew older, her compliments changed to studious, well read and even sometimes intelligent, but never beautiful.  And I was still happy.  My Mother was a wise woman.

Then one miraculous day, as all ugly ducklings do, I seemed to change.  Certainly never to become as beautiful as my sister, but also able to attract some attention from the opposite sex.  Suddenly, there were a few more compliments from those interested in currying my favor, pretty and tall were two of my favorites.  And I was quite content.  It truly was better than good posture.  However, almost anything was, if I wished to be honest with myself.

As both I and the young men in my life grew older, the descriptions changed.  Sometimes even the coveted word, sexy, was whispered, but not often.  Once again I was happy.

The days marched by as effortlessly as I seemed to age.  A quick blink and soon, I, too, was a Mother worrying about her own offspring and their self-esteem.  There wasn't time to listen for compliments, but when they came, they were incredibly welcome.

Occasionally, I would hear the words well-dressed, or good neighbor, and that made me happy.  On one rare occasion I was even told after a memorable dinner that I was a good cook.  That was really lovely news because it wasn't always valid.

Again I blinked and once more found my world had changed.  This time dramatically, and compliments meant little if anything.  In reality, they seldom came.  Of if they did, I wasn't listening.  There were far more important things to think about.

Once during those frantic years I was described as a loyal wife  Odd, I remember thinking, don't the two words mean the same.  It was irrelevant then because I was far too busy with other more complicated concerns.  During the next four years, I could probably only be described as distant or remote, and I truly didn't care.  Then I blinked once more, and this time my life had changed permanently.

Yesterday after reading a routine questionnaire I had completed in a medical facility, the receptionist gave me a new and rather dubious compliment.  For the first time I wondered about an evocative word applied to me   Independent?  Is that an accolade?  It almost falls into the category of good posture, I thought.  Perhaps I considered is it the lesser of two evils.  If I weren't independent, then what would I be.  Dependent, an albatross, clinging?  Suddenly I recalled my Mother desperately trying to give her older daughter some self-esteem and confidence, and I wondered about this new language.  Was it meant to lessen the obvious reality of age?  Certainly there were other valid metaphors.  Should I be flattered?

Then I paused and thought, so what?  I have survived other words.  I can surely learn to smile appropriately when the new-normal compliment to a woman of my vintage is applied.  I realize I could have been described as aged or wrinkled (all valid) or perhaps even unpleasant, so I have decided once again to be happy.  And smile thankfully, as any lady should when she received a well intentioned compliment.

C'est la vie!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jason Molinet January 28, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Amazingly introspective. Thanks for sharing.
Edward Robinson (Editor) January 28, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Wonderful post and that is absolutely meant to be a compliment.
Susan Gill January 28, 2013 at 04:01 PM
In many ways, I felt sad at your posting. You seem to have been driven by what others attribute to you, particularly in the adjectives they apply. If we are imprisoned by the perception of others , it is often a self made one. What is often called introspection , is sometimes just self indulgence, a state of being that always leaves us coming up empty handed in the end.

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