This past December I posted a piece entitled canes, caves, and casseroles. It was received with measured approval by the male segment of those that follow me but virtually ignored or met with open disdain by most of the women. I’m told that I “lack sensitivity.”
In all of the darkness that surrounded these reviews there was, however, a tiny candle of encouragement. One of the few ladies that responded favorably to this particular writing did so in a manor that was not only heart warming and sincere, but revealing and candid beyond belief. I won’t be giving you her name because she has asked me not to. In fact, I shall go to great lengths to shield her from all inquisitive minds.
Although never admitting she had ever approached a man with a casserole–she did, over a period of three or four days, open her heart and attempt to demonstrate for me the difference between, in her words, “alone” and “lonely.” She made no pretense as to the model for her characterization–it was herself. I’ve given her the name of “Beheld Assuch” and the reasoning will become obvious as her story unfolds.
Beheld’s husband has been dead for … let’s just call it “a proper amount of time for grieving”. Like the rest of us in the “Class of 58”, she is searching for relevance and motivation. She is an avid reader that tries to expand the quality of her personal interactions, all while the number of those she can interact with is constantly in decline. At increasingly regular intervals, the local newspaper obituaries, a regretful letter from a friend or relative, or one of Ruthie’s thoughtful “sad news” updates inevitably takes another away.
Beheld recently decided to start seeing men again and, sensing that by virtue of my remoteness, harmonious marital status, and ill-perceived father-confessor demeanor, she could find a sympathetic ear for the new turns her life was beginning to take … she emailed her story to me.
Beheld began by describing two men she has dated since her husband’s death and her feelings in the aftermath. They were referred to only as Gentlemen #1 and #2 and it appears she has already decided to scrap the first one. Gentleman #2 is however, if he persists, still very much in the picture. According to what I’m told, he has demonstrated that losing ones horns may be the accepted norm for Reindeer stags but #2 has “never been to Scotland” and shows “no signs of molting anytime soon.” That’s as risque as Beheld’s written confession ever got and, respecting her wishes, I shan’t replicate her words to me except those that are germane to the point I want to make. The next few paragraphs are taken (almost in context) from my email reply to Beheld:
There are a variety of motives behind every action we take but the driving essence in most of our endeavors is “we are seeking love and adoration.” In writing about Gentleman #2, you said “he brought my confidence back. Made me feel beautiful and loved.” Later, again in your words,–” He still makes me feel beautiful and loved.”
“ beauty is in the eye of the beholder” … according to reliable sources: first used by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book Molly Brown.
“beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but a greater beauty is in the eye of the one beheld as beautiful” … a concept first postulated by Jim Powell in an email to (Beheld Assuch) dated in 2020.
When another person gives us a compliment in any form, they are expressing their adoration. Your detailed remembrance of something so insignificant as my ceremonial entrance into a classroom (on the first day of our junior year at PBHS) may never have occurred (I certainly don’t remember it) but the fact that you say it did, and spoke of it sixty-three years later, is telling. Even as an old man, ancient adoration means that I was, albeit years ago, beheld as beautiful … by at least one person.
Based on what you tell me, Gentleman #2 was, and still is the Star of the Show. Don’t let him get away. He may, as you say, be a little too Group oriented when it comes to his social interactions with other women but that shouldn’t disqualify him. My wife and I have been married fifty-seven years. This relationship has not endured because I was the ideal husband, but because she realized from the very beginning that … although she didn’t want to be part of a Group (again your words), to one extent or another, her husband always would be. No elaboration is required or offered. The woods are full of resentful and lonely divorced women that got tired of ‘keeping their marriage together’. My mother put up with a highly flawed man until the day she died and I’ll be eternally grateful because of it.
(Beheld), you are beautiful. You and I know you are because you are beheld as being so by a gentleman named only with a number and another that, as a young girl, you once shared (an English class) with. It can’t get any better than that.
That ended my email to Beheld. Today, as Valentine’s Day is upon us, I want to make a very special someone feel beautiful and loved. All you guys out there can do the same if you’ll only take the task to heart (pun intended) and put in the effort. If you woke up this morning and thought only of taking another pee, opening the sports page, and that first cup of coffee–you qualify for … well you just qualify. If you were lucky enough to have had a woman in your bed last night, or you aspire to getting one you’ve long sought in there tonight, let’s figure out a way to make today special. Let’s make it happen. Let’s carve out the hours to make another human being feel a glow of self worth and beauty.
I’ve searched my memory bank for the best way to make it happen and I think I need to go back in time. I need to go back to an era when innocence came not only with my age but also with the world we lived in. I need to go back to when, unlike the years since, the Group I was part of included numerous unattached members of the fairer sex. Not just included, but was filled with them and I could freely offer love and adoration to each and every one. I could make them all feel beautiful! And maybe, just maybe if I was lucky, at least one of them would decide to accept my overtures and return my ardor.
It was February 14, 1951 … Mrs. Clemon’s fifth grade class … Southboro Elem. School … West Palm Beach, FL. My mother had told me: “If you hand out one, you have to have one for each girl in the class.” This was going to cramp my style–but where there’s a will, there’s a way. I knew I would need twenty or so messages of endearment but I also knew, with proper subterfuge, the messages didn’t need to be exactly the same.
I had made them myself with a fountain pen, a red crayon, the big scissors, and some pieces of that thin cardboard that came inside my father’s white dress shirts when they were new from the store. On most of the heart shaped cards I cut out, my message would be simple … “Be My Valentine”, and I might not even sign it. But for one of the girls (okay, maybe a few more than one) I needed a romantic written orchestration that would sweep her off her feet. I needed a collection of words that would convey a message of sophistication and amorous maturity unlike any she had ever witnessed before. Yes, this is what I needed and the night before the big day arrived I drug out the World Book Encyclopedias to read up on antiquity’s greatest lovers. They were laid out on the bed in front of me and if I was to compose the perfect romantic enticement to reproduce on these specially selected Valentine’s Day cards … surely Orpheus, Zeus, or Aphrodite could give me inspiration.
In the wee hours of the morning on that memorable day, I finished my handy-work. No need for envelopes–just fold’em in half, write a dear name on the outside of only the selected few, and head off to school with a shoe box full of entreaties under my arm. After getting into the classroom just as the bell rang, … nothing left to do but swagger down each of the aisles handing out masterfully crafted invitations to my rendition of grade school romance.