I was walking into the corner cafe to get coffee a few months ago. In the flurry of ripping off my gloves and hat in the sudden heated indoors, I nearly bumped into a beautiful woman.
This was New York City, where an acquaintance advised me upon my arrival with, “The people here are beautiful. A 10 anywhere else? That’s a 7 in New York City. And a 10 in New York City? 13 anywhere else.”
“Okay,” I said.
“No seriously. The people here are gorgeous. So gorgeous you think this is what people are supposed to look like.”
When you are surrounded by beauty, you can become blinded by its prevalence, take it for granted. When friends come over to visit me in Berkeley, they often ask me, “Do you even notice how pretty it is here?”
I always pause before replying, because I never like my answer. I see the landscape around me come into focus–the hills lush with greenery, the Bay Bridge looming in the distance, the light glinting off the pewter water, the sky blue and maybe misted with fog. The faint smell of jasmine. My answer is, “Most of the time I don’t.”
Someone I know has a ritual–at the end of each day this person says, “Another beautiful day.”
My reaction at first was, “Did you doubt it would be beautiful?”
“No, I didn’t doubt it. I just wanted to say it was a beautiful day.”
Huh. But then there was this woman in front of me. Tall, even though tall doesn’t mean beauty to me. Slim, even though slim doesn’t mean beauty to me. Alabaster skin. Raven hair. The most serene of facial expressions. Cheekbones that would cut my finger. Lips like cherries. The combination of her features were Snow White, incarnate. But still–it wasn’t just her appearance–it was something deep inside her psyche that struck me, made me stop peeling off my gloves.
“You’re beautiful,” I blurted.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“Oh!” And then she blushed. She really blushed. I was shocked at her reaction, and it made her all the more beautiful. That she could be thrown off by such a compliment. That she wasn’t jaded by her beauty.
Acknowledging beauty is a powerful act. Do it. Tell someone beautiful that you think they are. Acknowledge a beautiful day. Acknowledge landscape. Acknowledge feeling. Acknowledge sensation. Acknowledge.