I have tried hard to encourage my kids to use good judgment. As teenagers, they still wrestle the difference between doing the right thing or going with the crowd. And while this inner battle may peak in the teen years, I still see its’ vestiges amongst my senior friends.
One, in her 80’s still dyes her hair because she’s afraid, ‘no one will recognize me if I let it go natural.’ Problem is, the dye has caused her severe scalp, skin, and now eye problems, which she continues to endure in order to keep up appearances. Another still wears heels despite severe arthritis that has deformed her toes. A 70-something guy I chat with says he’ll, “never discuss politics or religion,” because he’s afraid to let people know where he stands in case they don’t agree with him. So, we muse about the weather or his aches and pains. Another, in his 90’s says it takes him, “an extra half hour to get ready every morning, just to put on my pants and get my arm in my shirt.” When I ask if it wouldn’t be easier to buy his clothes one size larger, he looks horrified. “What would people think?” he scoffs.
Indeed. What would people think if you actually did the right thing for you? How horrified would they be if you made the happier choice for your own health? How bruised would their egos be if you said, ‘No’ to that second drink you really don’t want? What’s so wrong about talking politics and religion? Aren’t you more likely to get in lively discussions and discover yourself and others more deeply?
It’s easy to look at your kids and say to yourself, ‘Why on earth are they so worried about pleasing that young crowd?’ It’s quite another to see those very same qualities in people decades older. And for what? An even more debilitating old age? I figure if you want unconditional love and acceptance in this life, get a dog. If you’re looking for it in the next, find God. Frankly, I think a dog is God’s way of showing us we don’t have to be ‘all that’ to be accepted. We just have to be us.
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now on Kindle.
Always love your beautiful, thoughtful writing, Helen. . . and really touched by this one!
Reminds me of the old joke, “Did you hear about the agnostic dyslexic insomniac? He spent the night pacing back and forth, asking himself if there was a dog.” Yeah, sorry to be silly after reading your wonderful essay, but hoping you won’t mind! Knowing you, you’ll just erupt with that insane laughter of yours… Love you.
Helen–I’ve never cared much what people thought, especially about my forlorn appearance. Still don’t, though now I do wish putting my pants and shoes on didn’t seem to be such an aerobic exercise.
P.S.For a showbiz girl, you are remarkably aware of the difference between style and substance