Being seen behind the shades (or how to fall in love with yourself)
“Those are it. She likes those.” He said it quite definitively.
She squinted at him behind the Versace shades.
“But she’ll need a few more minutes to admit it herself.”
The sunglasses sales rep laughed and handed her a different pair. “These are polarized. They’re a bit more classic in style…” the rep went on describing the benefits of sunglasses no. 2, but she wasn’t listening. She was stuck on his comments.
How did he know?
She had been putting the same two pairs on and off her face for the past seven minutes. She went outside to compare how they blocked the sun rays and colorized the outdoor plaza’s water fountain. She stared at different mirrors inside the store, thinking the lighting might make a difference (which is ridiculous given that you don’t often wear your sunglasses inside retail outlets). And yet… the very first moment she put on pair no. 1, she knew they were the ones. But something in her felt that she ought to like pair no. 2 better. Were they more practical? No. More conservative? A bit. Less money? Nope. There was no definable reason she kept holding on to pair no. 2. And so she continued putting each one on and staring at her reflection while the sales rep prattled on, hoping to close a deal.
How did he know? The sales rep, who had been following her every move and watching every facial twitch, didn’t know. She didn’t utter a word of preference for one over the other. She couldn’t single out a particular action or comment that would have given him a hint. But he knew.
“Let’s see… you’ve had a long day of phone calls, your car is back in the shop and you had hummus and a salad for lunch. So it’s clearly a comfort food night. I’m calling tilapia stuffed with crab, risotto and asparagus… OR… roasted chicken, fingerling potatoes and spinach.”
It’s a game they play. They’re sitting at one of the many patio’d restaurants downtown. Outdoor dining and people watching is a favorite evening activity, especially after a long work day. The brilliant gold and pink hues of the setting sun are reflected in his Maui Jim’s.
It’s a silly game that they play, but it fascinates her. The thing is, he’s never wrong.
She pulls the Versace’s down her nose. “Why do I bother opening a menu? Just order for me.”
“Something’s going on in there. What is it?” His hands are on the steering wheel and he’s glancing at her sideways through his Maui Jim’s.
“Not a thing.” She’s not exactly lying, but it’s not an honest answer. The fact is, she’s mulling over an issue that she could not change or control. So nothing is “wrong” because there is nothing to be fixed. She just didn’t like the situation. And she is soaking in it.
He changes tactics. “How can I help?”
“You can’t. And neither can I.” Finally. An honest answer.
“I know. He will come round. Just give it time. He’s young.” He has seen exactly what she’s mired in.
And tears well up behind the Versace’s.
Moments that make you fall in love.
It’s not about your favorite color or flower, a fancy dinner or beautiful jewelry. It’s not about remembering an anniversary or that it’s trash day. It’s not about knowing that that you like the dishwasher loaded a certain way, or that you always have two cups of coffee with two teaspoons of raw sugar – or else you can’t function. You can know that they love ramen, cry at cat food commercials and will insist that Oreos are more addictive than heroin. You can know that they are always looking for “something light” for lunch, will only eat oysters from the Northern Atlantic and believes Merlot to be the wimpiest of the red wines.
You can know all that. And you still just know things about them. You know habits and preferences. But do you see them? Do they see you?
Being seen. Behind your shades. In what you think is your ugly.
Being heard. In your silence as well as in your words.
Being understood. In your uncertainty and in your passion. When you don’t understand yourself.
When someone truly sees you, you are given the gift of being able to see them, too. When someone sees you, their response to you exposes their own soul – what they find magnetic and interesting and meaningful. You can see what pierces them, what pulls them in, what overwhelms and what comforts them. And when you see them, you see that you can love them.
The real beauty of being seen is that we don’t just fall in love with that other person. When you are seen, you are given the added gift of seeing yourself through that person’s eyes. You see what is unique and arresting about you, what is lovable in you, what is compelling in your thoughts and ideas. You have the opportunity to fall in love with yourself. To appreciate who you are uniquely and what you mean to another. You gain vision into your value – not just in relation to another person, but in relation to yourself.
The best way to know and fall in love with yourself? Let someone love you.
And you don’t even have to take off your sunglasses for it.
Natalie Hahn is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, focused on helping men and women tackle the challenges of communication and life transitions. We redefine the “midlife crisis” to accomplish professional and personal goals, creating an authentic, fully loving life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here.