I had the misfortune of walking into a store one day and encountering the woman behind the make-up counter. No, she did not have the shampoo I was looking for. No, she was very sorry, but wasn't I interested in some new make-up? After all, said the seller, I was looking very pale.
Pale? Moi? "But I'm wearing blush!" I protested. "And bronzer!" A quick glance in the mirror revealed my burnished face looking, at least in my sometimes humble opinion, just fine.
"Oh my!" exclaimed my self-appointed alter-ego. "Look at you! Your hair is blonde, your skin is pale--you can't wear THAT bronzer! You look positively washed out. Don't you see? You need a blush that's purpleish, like THIS!"
I took another long look in the mirror. And wilted. She was right--my skin looked sallow, almost yellow. How could I have been so misguided, wearing a terracotta bronzer when all this time I should have been wearing purpley blush? She quickly brushed on the wonder product.
"So I'll ring it up for you!" she said cheerily. "It's gorgeous!"
I mumbled weakly something about thinking it over and left the store, disheartened. A pause is a wonderful thing, a balm for the distressed soul. At least that's what I've found millions of times in my life. A few blocks away from the store, I suddenly had a little reality check: my blush was fine! I didn't need anything purple! In fact, I've gotten lots of compliments on my natural-looking bronzer. And yet the pressure to convert me into a purple person had swayed my whole worldview, if for a brief, blushing moment.
I could go lots of ways with this thought. I could look at peer pressure, at the influence of society, at the fragility of the human ego, or the importance of staying away from shopping. But I think the lesson I'd like to focus on is the critical need to surround myself with people whose perspectives and attitudes enhance and complement my own. Because otherwise my own ground is in danger of shifting and beauty can fast become monstrous in the eyes of the beholder.
My daughter is a born leader. Some kids just are. Thankfully, she is one of those benevolent dictators, and she knows just how to step into a situation and take control. I knew all this, of course. In fact, I have alternately marveled over this, talked to her about this, and spoken to my husband about this "Handle With Care" gift of hers for many years now. On the one hand, it makes her Queen Bee, at the top of the heap. On the other hand, it's painful when she's upended, which happens every once in awhile.
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.