I tend to agree with the majority of people that Lady Gaga’s Halftime Show during Superbowl 51 on February 5, 2017, was outstanding. Her dancing was unshakable, and her voice was robust even as she ran and flipped around the stage. The woman had endless energy and performed at a peak level without hitting pause for one second of her thirteen-minute performance.
I knew that there was going to be a lot of arguments about her presentation afterwards just simply because so many people love to hate. Some people immediately began to criticize her performance. Other people praised her. Many people debated what type of political message she was trying to send or if she even sent one at all. I had expected to read all of these various comments, and I imagine that Lady Gaga probably did, too.
But there were some comments that actually took me by surprise. I was shocked that there were people who were body-shaming this lovely woman. (But then again….why should I be surprised?) There were many uncalled-for comments about her facial features and her body shape. I can’t help but wonder why that even mattered. What does her face and body have to do with her amazing talent? And when can we stop judging people by how they look and appreciate the amazing gifts they share with us? Why do we keep taking everything down to the lowest common denominator?
Okay, maybe I am just being overly sensitive to the matter. Like most people, I have had unusual comments made to me about my appearance, too. The strangest comment happened several years ago when I first started teaching massage and bodywork at a school in Nashville, Tennessee. During a break between classes one day, I walked into the front office to speak with the director, Karen, about upcoming classes and events. I stepped through the open door of her office and found an older man sitting in a chair in front of her desk.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I stated. “I didn’t realize you were busy.”
“Oh, Jamie, it’s fine, come in,” the director answered. Then she nodded towards the man who was sitting in her office and said, “This is John. John, tell Jamie what you do for a living?”
John pulled his large form a little straighter in his chair and said, “I’m a mortician.”
“Oh,” I answered with a nod of my head, “that’s…that’s really…nice.” Nice? Seriously, I actually said that being a mortician is nice. But I didn’t know what to say. I was at a loss for words because I wasn’t sure why the director had prompted John to reveal this information to me.
Then John suddenly said, “Yes, I’ve been a mortician for over thirty years and I’ve been watching you.”
At John’s confession to stalking, I shuddered for a moment and choked out, “Really?”
“Yes,” the mortician answered, “I keep looking at you with your long, slender neck and thinking, wow, she would be easy to embalm!”
I stared at the man in surprise as Karen and John both laughed. Then, I smiled nervously, nodded my head, and slowly backed out of the office. I ran down the hallway to my classroom, stepped inside, and locked the door. The whole disturbing situation caused a lot of random ideas to rush through my head.
Man, how is this even fair? Many women are told they are beautiful. I am told I would be easy to embalm! But, maybe I shouldn’t have let the situation upset me. Maybe I should have pursued a relationship with John. Here’s a man who would probably appreciate my unusually cold hands and my pure white skin.
It was interesting, though, that instead of being mad at John’s rude words, I was ashamed of myself for not being beautiful. I cursed myself for having a long scrawny neck, poor circulation, and skin that never tans. Several years later, now, I wonder why I blamed myself for John’s comments and the laughter of the mortician and school director.
That reminds me of the day my friend, Stacy, told me that she was serving a customer at work. Suddenly, the man looked at her and commented, “You know, you are way too young to have hands that look that old.”
I was horrified and outraged when Stacy told me about this. “He actually said that to you?! How could he say that?!”
“No, no, it’s alright,” Stacy responded. “Look at my hands. They are all dry and scaly. He was right.”
I remember staring at Becky in surprise while wondering, even then, at what point all of these rude comments had become acceptable. The comments are bad enough but when did we buy into a standard of beauty that ignores the divinity of our spirits? It’s really sad, but true. We lose our true sense of beauty when we become adults.
Some of the best compliments I have ever received in my life have come from children. For example, one day, I had dyed my hair a bright red and put in extension. The comments I received from adults were not positive. I heard people murmuring, “God, that’s such a brassy color.” “I would never go that red.” “What was she thinking?”
But suddenly there was my co-worker’s 6-year-old daughter dancing around me and screaming excitedly, “Momma, Momma, look…she has Little Mermaid hair! She has Little Mermaid hair!” I never worried again what other people thought about my red hair. And it’s been some shade of red ever since!
And I will never forget a situation that happened when I was in Malaysia. I had been backpacking around Malaysia for two weeks. One afternoon, after walking several miles, I climbed onto one of the town buses. I lugged my backpack over to one of the tattered, stained, green vinyl benches and sat down wearily. As the bus began to make its slow, rickety progress down the potholed street, I suddenly felt something swat at the back of my head. I put my hand up and brushed it over my hair. A few seconds later, it happened again. Again, I brushed my hair back. When I felt something pull my hair for the third time, I turned around in my seat to find a beautiful, 2-year-old little girl sitting on her mother’s lap. Now, as I looked at the child, she reached her hand out to me again, picked up a strand of my hair, and tangled it up in her small fingers while she repeatedly murmured, “OOOOHHHH! OOOOHHH!” I smiled at the girl’s mother and suddenly realized that the majority of people in Malaysia are dark-haired and dark-eyed. And there I was with my green eyes and long reddish blond hair. It was unusual for this child to see something so different. But instead of being afraid, instead of shying away, the girl found beauty within our differences.
And it used to be those differences that embarrassed me. As I was growing up, I tended to focus on my physical flaws and could very easily turn a tiny pimple, scar, vein, or bulge into a major trauma.
It’s too bad we lose our true sense of splendor as we grow older. Is it conditioning, hormones, cynicism, beauty blindness, or just pure insanity? There has to be some reason people look for ugliness. There has to be some reason people think it is their right to humiliate and criticize others just for their appearance.
Or maybe, it just comes down to a choice.
I am choosing to know beauty, to see beauty. I am choosing to be a BEHOLDER. And I am choosing to say positive things to other people. I don’t know of any other way to live.
So, yes, Lady Gaga was talented and beautiful and amazing last night….
But then again, aren’t we all?!