The cosmetic dermatologist sat down on the stool across from me and asked, “So what are you here for?”
“I want you to fix my face.”
“What exactly do you think needs fixing?”
“My face. It’s time. I’m looking old and my aesthetician agrees that it’s time for needles. So even though needles terrify me, I’m more scared of what I see in the mirror, so I want you to poke needles in my face and make it look better.”
“Well, I don’t see any fine lines on your face. So Botox may not be the solution you’re looking for,” she took a satin nickel rimmed vanity mirror off the countertop and handed it to me, “So, here, why don’t you look in this mirror and tell me what’s bothering you.”
I accepted the mirror and without looking in and it replied, “Oh. My face.” I swept my hand around my head and said, “The whole thing, really . . . well the puppet lines bug me.”
“Can I tell you what bothers me?”
She indicated where I could use some filler and I asked about Botox used prophylactically and that’s how one ordinary Wednesday I came to have a 31 gauge needle inserted into my face in seven places.
This experience helped bring me fully to the fact that I have no idea what I look like. None of us does. What I see in the mirror isn’t the same as what other people see when they look at me. I see dark spots and bags and big pores. My husband sees my bright eyes and straight teeth. I see bumps and divots on the backs of my thighs. He sees the pert shape of my butt. I see that my thighs are massive. He sees that they’re muscular.
I’ve gone through my life just assuming that the world I see is the same one everyone else is looking at. But no. We don’t even take in the same vistas.
Since the early stages of our relationship Jim and I have played a game—What Do You See? It occurred to me as I was getting to know him that we weren’t focusing on the same things when we looked at the world. I’d comment on signage and he’d ask, “What sign?” How did he not see that? “So what were you looking at if not that font?” “The power lines strung by the road. They’re old here. They aren’t buried.”
When we were driving through the area around Lake Michigan a few months ago—easily one of the most beautiful drives I’ve even been on, and I was raised on the Wasatch front, went to college in Hawaii, and now live adjacent to Lake Tahoe and am therefore not easily impressed—we played our game a lot.
Me: That is the most amazing blue!
Him: What? The sky?
Me: No. The nursery back there.
Him: What nursery?
Me: Uh, the one that was deep blue and surrounded by flowers and flagstones. What where you looking at?
Him: There was a tractor for sale.
Him: When you see machinery like that in the backs of trucks do you wonder what the guy uses it for?
Me: What machinery? What truck?
Jim sees industrial things. Construction things and wood. What I see is driven by color, scale, and alignment. Just last night we were sitting on a restaurant patio for dinner and he asked what I see. I couldn’t get past the mustard-colored blouse on another diner. It was clearly new and bought online. Because it still had the fold marks in it. “Why doesn’t she steam those out?” I asked, “It’s a really cute shirt and she ruined it. What were you looking at?”
“The curved roof over there. It was well done and has nice design elements.”
I’ve driven past that building thousands of times and never once given a thought to the windows below the arched roof. I’ve never noticed the roof is arched.
Right now, through the sliding glass doors, I can see Jim outside on his hands and knees sanding the deck. (Yes, I offered to help and he said I could bring him a glass of water.)
When he said that he was looking forward to getting that done this weekend and that the deck will look great when it’s refinished I told him, “You know, my list of things we need to do to the house is long and that wasn’t even on my radar.”
“I didn’t really even see that it needed work.”
“It’s good that we see different things.”
“So you’re telling me that you haven’t been losing sleep over the ottoman downstairs?”