Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Style as Therapy: Looking Fabulous in Adversity

So I showed up at one of my city's largest and busiest medical buildings today -- exactly one week to the minute too early for my appointment. It's not easy for me to get around with my disability and I'd come all the way across town for nothing. What a drag.

As I sat in the lobby, wondering how to redeem the trip, I saw this beautifully dressed woman sitting across from me. I decided to be brave and ask if I could take photographs of her for Sublime Mercies. Once she was assured that I was not going to blast her with scam email, she happily complied.

But she was confused. "I'm not beautiful," she said. I assured her that she was. I brought a smile to her face and, when I learned more about her story, I was really glad I did.

One of my pet peeves is when young people look at elderly women and say things like, "She must have been beautiful once." Once? Once? How about right now? How about, "She is beautiful," here, now, in this blasted medical building waiting for a blasted medical appointment.

She warmed up to me quickly and told me about herself. She came here from Barbados in 1964 and still has a quite noticeable, musical accent. 

She was used to doing advanced office work when she moved to Canada and found herself using some of the very first computers for her job. I wish I'd asked her how large they were but I wouldn't be surprised if they'd filled a room

She is now divorced and hasn't married again. She tried dating, she said, but she didn't like going to bars. 

But her appreciation of a beautiful man has not dissipated. She showed me her family photos in her wallet. Nestled amongst them was a photo of George Clooney, a young George Clooney. "He's my favourite," she said. Mine too.

What impressed me most about this beautiful woman was that she had put this much time into her appearance even though she's enduring chemotherapy! She had breast cancer fourteen years ago and beat it, but now it's back, in her lung and in her liver, and she was here for an appointment with her oncologist. The worst of the chemotherapy, she says, is the exhaustion.

Yet this didn't stop her from looking fabulous. Nobody would blame her if she didn't, but, for some of us, it somehow helps with the pain. I think there's a kind of hope and bravery in having the pride and self-love to look wonderful even in one's struggles. It's something I try to do, despite my chronic pain and disability. And I could see it was important to her too.

She was impeccably dressed, from the tips of her fingers to the tips of her toes. When I complimented her manicure she told me "Oh everybody likes that."

That wonderful emerald ring? "I bought this as a present to myself," she told me. Ah, she and I are kindred spirits! As for the crucifix, well, she's not Catholic, but she bought it in Rome, another present to herself. Again: kindred spirit. I didn't get the story on her opal ring.

I also love her shoes, probably because I'm always on the lookout for shoes that I can wear without hurting my back. I might even be able to wear these ones! 

I'd stopped taking photos for a bit and was just chatting for a while, when I decided I just had to have a photo of her earring as well.

"I feel like a movie star," she exclaimed.


Well good. She deserves it.

(I'm linking this lovely lady up with The Citizen Rosebud's Shoe Shine and Seeker's Tres Chic Style Bits.)


  1. Thank you so much dear for linking with Très Chic Style Bits this such inspirational post.
    Indeed she deserves it!!
    You're so right about the saying "She must have been beautiful once", what about now??!!!!!

  2. You're pretty freaking fabulous, you know? Lovely story, and it is a kind a thing as can be done to tell her when you notice a woman's beauty.
    Such a great way to salvage a screw-up. Did you manage to convince them to squeeze you in?

    1. No, they couldn't fit me in. The mistake was entirely my fault. It was actually a trauma therapy session; I didn't think of the irony when I came up with the title for this one.

      "Freaking fabulous"? Gee, thanks.

  3. That's really nice of you to dare interview strangers. I love the way that woman poses and the details like her beautiful color of nail. A detail of tenderness :)