a rare light


It’s a funny thing you notice when you stop listening to the words of what people say, and instead listen only to the sound. Maybe it’s that you see people for what they really are, with that clarity that lets a complete stranger, detached in their interests, instantly understand us better than anyone we’ve known for years.

You notice the woman who’s a little too quick to laugh, and exclaim, “That’s too funny!”, trying to show herself–for the benefit of men–to be that playful, fun ideal. Easy-going, endlessly spontaneous. You notice the girl who is soft-spoken and deliberate in her words, careful not to misstep and to only say what she means; she wants to be taken seriously, but without bold moves, only secure steps.

Because no matter how honest someone’s words are, their behaviors are always acting for them, spinning a web unconsciously around them. And it’s only when you forget whatever impression you’re trying to make yourself, and really watch them, that you get a sense of who the people around you truly are.

There’s the young man who’s a consummate politician-in-training, sure to say hello and goodbye to everyone he meets individually before heading home. When he talks to you he’s intensely present (“like you’re the only one in the room”), and you have to ask yourself if maybe there’s something there between you? But of course this is just how he is with everyone, and so you wonder how he doesn’t get exhausted with it; and how you would know if you actually were close to him? Maybe he gets nervous then, the veneer cracks. But while this all might seem calculated, you can tell that in him it’s genuine; it stems from a genuine desire to be respectful to everyone in turn, and from having been taught impeccable manners and how to get along from a very young age.  The honesty of it maybe makes you wish you could be that very good, well-meaning girl he’ll end up with, though you know of course you never could be.

It’s a rare light to see other people in, but rarer still to catch a glimpse of yourself. I think it only comes around when there’s nothing you’re trying to maneuver in the moment, nothing you want that you don’t have, no anxiety or self-consciousness creeping into your actions. When you date someone new, once you’re sure you have them, before you worry about losing them. When you have those fantastic conversations that you can’t remember a word from, only the gesture, the feeling of it, like an image from outside of yourself. When you can see yourself really happy, with no insecurities weighing you down. And you can distill yourself down to a few adjectives. And you  wonder – is it possible this is how everyone else sees me?

Photo from greygoose.com . Because it’s totally appropriate to illustrate a point with a vodka ad….

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