There are loads of things I’d probably change about myself if given half a chance. Longer, fuller hair…a quieter voice…lose the wrinkles. I don’t think I’m alone, either. Frankly, I’d be shocked if I found one person in twenty who said they didn’t at least have a few items they’d elect to change in their emotional or physical makeup.
I’m smart enough to know that none of these tiny things are all that important in the bigger scheme of life, but there’s one thing I’d really, really, really like to at least find a way to successfully reduce. Namely, the ever present phrase, “What will people think?”
I’m in my mid-forties. This is the time of my life that this particular phrase is supposed to be on the downhill slide. And yet, it still blasts through my head like one of those irritating sport horns!
I could name countless episodes where concern for public perception has limited my actions. Hell, it’s probably nagged me ten times since I got up this morning in some form or fashion. But the most recent episode to catch my attention was this weekend when the family and I headed out to the Blue Dome Arts Festival in Tulsa.
My youngest–a flower child in the making which thrills me to no end–decided to get her face painted. The lady was really good. I mean, it WAS an arts festival right? And as my baby walked away decked out with butterfly and glitter, I found myself envious. I posted this pic on Facebook along with the statement, “Wish I could still get away with face painting.”
Always quick on the draw, one of my writer pals, Kim Cleary, hit me back with, “You’re never too old, Rhenna.” Then another one, USA Today Best-Seller Marilyn Pappano, said, “It’s not age; it’s whether you mind what other people think.”
Hello, nail! My name’s hammer.
The face painting wasn’t the only thing I wanted to dive into. There were bright colored belly dancer outfits with outrageous sparkles and a too-long line for Henna Tattoos–and I wouldn’t have minded trying on either one.
Then my little one tugged me over to a vendor selling medieval looking flowery halos with streaming ribbons down the back. She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and I caved like a ten-foot tall Jenga stack on a seesaw. I’d always wanted one of those when I was a little girl, so I waited in line while she changed her mind five times until she got the right flower/color combination.
No, I didn’t buy one for myself, but I did wear hers around the house for a few minutes the next morning. The girls thought that was pretty damned funny. Hubby thought I’d started drinking before noon.
The only reason I didn’t dive in while we were there? What will people think? I couldn’t possibly…
I gauge damn near every step I take based on the perceived judgements of other people. Doesn’t matter what the topic is–tattoos to childcare–it’s all fair game.
Would I want to erase this cautionary mantra from my repetoir altogether? Probably not. I think God gave it to me to balance out my inner flower child. I figure he took one look at me and said, “Oh, boy. We’d better put an anchor on this one,” then slapped me with an overlarge helping of concern for public opinion to keep
my clothes on me out of jail.
Still, a little dilution would be nice. Kind of like a magic eraser that didn’t quiet get the job done.
What about you? What are your quirks? Do you have one you wished you could tone down or eradicate altogether? What are the tools you use to cope and balance the scales. Do you even want to?
MarilynMay 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm
Don’t take behavioral advice from me, lol. Remember, I could live in aloha shirts and yoga pants. I think makeup and combing your hair are optional upon leaving the house. I have been known to walk through the Tulsa airport wearing giant pink flamingo sunglasses plus a bobbly flamingo headband. And I wouldn’t change a thing about that.
I was always very shy. Couldn’t talk to a stranger. Took months to make a friend. Sat in the corners with books hoping no one noticed me. When I was somewhere around your age, I thought of all the things I’d like to have done but didn’t have the nerve — all the snotty clerks I’d wanted to verbally smack, all the people I’d wanted to know about, all the confidence I’d never had — and decided what the hell. Let’s face it, most people we run into are strangers. They might laugh at the flamingo glasses or the Hawaiian shirts, but after a few minutes, they’re not going to give me another thought. And I haven’t yet met someone who said, “Hey, didn’t I see you dancing in the restaurant lobby/dressed in purple & blue plaid/playing Queen and the royal guard with some kid in public?”
And I wouldn’t care if they did. It’s my life, and as long as I keep my clothes on and my mouth under some measure of control, I’m going to live the rest of it the way that makes me happy.
RhennaMay 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm
Ok, that does it. Next year I’m taking you with me to Blue Dome. We’ll get face painting AND the flowery halo thingies.
MarilynMay 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm
It’s a date. It’s always easier to have an accompanying free spirit/lunatic/oddball. 🙂
Christine AshworthMay 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm
Oh dear Rhenna! I think to a certain extent a filter is a good thing – I have a friend who’s currently being ripped apart in the blogosphere because she wasn’t – um – delicate about the way she said some things, and people got pissed.
I think, go for the glitter and the tiaras and the gypsy clothes. Go with what makes your spirit shine. And be grateful that there’s enough of a filter on your tongue to not get you into a sticky, gooey internet mess.
Hugs honey! We seriously gotta spend some girl time together!
RhennaMay 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm
Oh, no! That doesn’t sound like a good place to be at all! Are you going to RWA this year? I am, so let’s hook up if you make it too! I can demonstrate my exceptionally cheap taste in red wine. 🙂
SusanMay 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm
Aw, Rhenna. You’d be cute with a blue face and sparkles. Or a tu-tu with bright layers. (Okay, yeah. That’s what I’m hoping to find soon.) I might look like one of the dancing hippos in a Disney cartoon, but it’ll be fun!
BTW: I haven’t notice you being TOO shy and retiring.
RhennaMay 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm
That’s only because I let a little more of my hang out around you guys. I figure you’ll just chalk it up to me being one of those “artsy” writer types. 😛
CJ BurrightMay 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm
I usually don’t care what people think of me…unless I’m dancing. Then, I feel like all eyes are on me and my dorky is-she-having-a-stroke dance moves. I avoid it at all costs, but there’s always that persistent enemy, er, fellow party-goer who hauls me onto the dance floor, intent on torturing me. I’d much rather paint my face, wear a circlet of flowers in my hair, and happily skip through a mob.
RhennaMay 22, 2013 at 5:04 am
Well, you could always sweep anyone who looks at your wrong with a round-house, right?
kim clearyMay 22, 2013 at 3:17 am
I’m not sure that I think directly about what other people think – but I am yet to grow out of a dread of being embarrassed in public! I’d wear the flower halo thingy 🙂 your daughter looks gorgeous in hers.
RhennaMay 22, 2013 at 5:03 am
Hubby and I are headed to Eureka Springs this weekend. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find an extra dose of courage while I’m there. No one will know me anyway, right?