This morning on the way to the train station for her weekly once-weekly commute, my wife pulled an item out of her purse and opened it up. “I have new lipstick,” she told me. She applied it by memory, checked it in the mirror, then turned to show me the shade. “I like it,” she told me.
I liked it too. a mellow shade of pink that complimented her skin. She takes good care of her skin. And her hair. All that hair. I love it both straight and curly, which is how it looks when it dries naturally.
So many women shift their appearance from one look to another that way. Years ago I complimented a co-worker that her hair looked nice and she told me, “I didn’t do anything to it today.” She had wavy blondish hair that looked lovely. I said, “Well you can nothing more often and it will still look great.” She thanked me.
I’ve always sought to be careful with my compliments. Not go over the line or make a woman feel uncomfortable. I actively believe that issuing compliments, when it it is done with consideration for the person to whom you’re speaking, is a still appreciated art. Thus I’ve complimented women my age on the beauty of their silver or gray hair. I’ve also looked down at a man’s feet and said, “Nice shoes.” In general, people appreciate the words.
The process of being
I have this theory now that if you want to engage in the act of actually seeing a woman, to see who she is and what she values, you must legitimately think about the process of conditions and actions that led to her appearance. The routine for many women in this world is by definition of gender quite time-consuming. Just the process from morning shower to drying hair to doing makeup to choosing clothes and accessories for the day takes time that men typically don’t have to spend. Then there are purses to wrangle, and dealing with feminine needs at progressive stages of life. I’ll say it plainly: Being a woman is not easy.
Yet women have actually chosen to expand the range of their endeavors in this world. This has taken place over the last thirty years in particular. Now I look around at running or triathlon races and there are typically as many or more women out there competing as their are men.
One capable female triathlete friend always shows up at the starting line looking like a fashion model. Her makeup is done and even her hair is coiffed. And yes, she can swim and ride and run like a badass. She’s flown past me on her tri-bike going 26mph and trust me, it’s not about the makeup at that point. The women that know her marvel that she always looks so put-together, but those are her values and she does not piss around.
At least not that anyone would notice. Because the whole world of feminine anatomy and pelvic floor integrity is something few men can understand. The worst thing we sometimes experience is a numb package from a poor seat position. Women deal with their menstrual cycle until the age of 50-55 or so, and if they have children, they might have to deal with challenges like a tear of the perineum, a C-section or any number of other birth-oriented disruptions that can last years or a lifetime. My own mother almost died from latent complications twenty years after a breach birth with my large younger brother. Events like those can disrupt the whole workings of the reproductive or urinary system in the long term. And yet, women learn to deal with it.
And then, have to deal the impacts of jerkish male politicians trying to legislate their access to women’s health care, birth control or other reproductive rights. That’s because those men don’t spend time actually seeing women for who they are. They only view them in context of their own selfish male perspectives or receptacles for sperm. And that’s the most disgustingly shallow of all problems faced by women in this world.
Yet they deal with it
I’ve talked with so many women over the years about issues such as these. I’ve also helped women get legal representation when they face sexual harassment in the workplace. I’ve sat talking with women going through bitter relationships and listened to women longing for love or lamenting the loss of their life partners. In every case they are doing their best to deal with it. Not all of them do this perfectly. That is the point here. We’re all trying to deal with life’s challenges. Women simply have more of them in many respects than men.
So I’d suggest that if you actually want to “see” a woman in this world, you have to factor in the “deal with it” portion of their lives, because that’s one of the remarkable things that so many women do in this world. Despite lots of obligations and stresses that range from making a living to support themselves (in many circumstances) to raising a family the best they can, women “deal with it.”
Speed of life
Which is why it is perhaps so inspiring to see women out there choosing to “deal with it” in sports like triathlon, where the burdens and challenges are their own choice, not the circumstance of their gender or society’s expectations of them. Sure, some show up in full makeup and that’s their show.
Others show up with hair pulled back in a somewhat tangled pony tail, or stuffed inside a swim cap, bike helmet or running hat and off they go. And if they don’t look perfect out there making it happen, then it’s up to you to “deal with it.”
Actually seeing women
Here’s to actually seeing all you women. I’ve told my wife many times that I appreciate her. I also appreciate all the women I’ve encountered and watched train or compete all the way back to those gals in high school track and in college cross country who got out there in really poor-fitting gear, yet cared enough about what they were doing to see a future where the world would finally catch up with their commitment.
My respect for them was admittedly sometimes confused with a bit of desire. But again, that’s a compliment too. You women are amazing people.
And it’s a lifelong pledge that all of us should make to enjoy that company.