Watching the girls go by…

England is hot at the moment… by our standards, at least… and any inkling of summer in our temperate land is always greeted by the hopeful baring of pale flesh. It also seems to be greeted with traffic jams and, twiddling my thumbs in the latest, I turned to people watching. There was plenty to see.

Men, it must be said, are at a distinct sartorial disadvantage in summer. While trousers may get shorter and shirts brighter, there is little change in the basic shape of their apparel. Not so the female of the species. Hemlines sweep the floor or go up to dangerous heights. Unexpected, and occasionally inappropriate areas of anatomy are bared and what is left covered sports every shade of the rainbow in every conceivable combination, from the casually elegant to the downright startling.

As I melted in traffic, I observed the various ladies walking and thus moving far faster than me. There was the teenage girl, dressed with meticulous care and obviously feeling very grown up. She had spent a good deal of time on her hair, dress and make-up and must have known, on some level at least, how pretty she looked.

I watched her watching, covertly glancing to see which, if any, of the male motorists were watching her, seeking in their eyes some validation of her attractiveness.  I recognised that… remembered that uncertainty and need for approval in other eyes than my own.

There were many who walked with heavy feet and slumped shoulders. They seemed to be dressed in whatever had come to hand, with no care or thought for their appearance. Not because they do not care, but because they do not value themselves and as society has given them no reason to think they have any value, self-esteem is a victim of its own vicious circle.

There was the young woman whose outfit would have seemed more at home at a beach party than the town centre. A big girl, wearing the shortest of shorts over thighs that made mine look like matchsticks. A bikini-type top dripped cowboy fringes across the generous expanse of bared curves. She should have looked ridiculous… and she looked magnificent, walking with an unconscious grace and confidence that required no approval from anyone.

Next was the precision-dressed, beautifully coiffed lady who looked, in spite of the heat, as if she had walked straight out of a fashion magazine. She too walked with confidence, yet it seemed to me that her confidence was conscious and assumed… an assertion that this vision of poised elegance really was her. Honest.  Yet, behind the painted mask, I had the impression that she was the most fragile of them all, choosing her attire as a disguise and shield behind which she could hide.

And then there was me, heading for the supermarket still soggy from cleaning and recommissioning my son’s hot-tub, with hair like an overused Brillo pad, devoid of make-up and wearing mismatched and, by now, distinctly grubby clothes. I wondered what the observed would make of the observer and decided I really didn’t care.

When I finally arrived at the supermarket to buy deck shoes for my son, I followed another woman. No taller than me, she was eighty if she was a day. A mass of soft grey curls clustered round her shoulders and she walked with a comfortable assurance. She was wearing a gypsy dress, floor length, with elasticated waist and neckline… the kind of thing we wore in the early seventies and fairly inappropriate for a great-granny, at least within society’s hidebound perceptions. She didn’t care… she shone… and looked amazing. Wholly at ease, comfortable, confident and beautiful. I smiled and met her eyes, she twinkled back at me, sharing a moment of wordless understanding that left me feeling privileged to have encountered her.

The girl in rainbow harem pants and dreadlocks was wearing her uniform, just as much a badge of identity as the business suit or the mini skirt and designer heels. The ones who has squeezed themselves into uncomfortable fashions looked far less attractive than those who were comfortable in their skins. I thought about it as I drove home.

Unless we are as confident as the girl in shorts or as comfortable as the little old lady, the image we project will have little to do with who we are, and much to do with how we hope others will see us. Or how we would like to see ourselves. The trouble is that although we may be able to fool our surface minds when we look in the mirror on the wall, while ever we seek validation in the eyes of others, we won’t fool anyone for very long, least of all ourselves.

When I arrived back at his home, my son and I talked over a cuppa about how he has managed to do so many amazing things since he was left with so many physical challenges. “It’s a state of mind,” he said. “You have to accept yourself as you are. Believe you are enough as you are… and still believe there are no boundaries. Believe in yourself. ” I told him about the people I had been watching. It is the same principle in a different guise. Their beauty did not come from painted masks or fashionable attire. It came from who they are. They are enough.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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43 Responses to Watching the girls go by…

  1. Ritu says:

    I do love these thoughts Sue 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Summertime here is a grab-bag of utterly mad clothing. Gigantic woman wear the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen and sylphlike goddesses are dressed from ankle to earlobe.

    The men here DO change clothing. Shorts. Sandles. Tank tops or — bare chests. Summer is so short. Everyone just grabs hold of it and tries to make it a celebration. Before we have time to catch our breaths, autumn will be here and the days will grow short and winter will come. Summer is plumage on people!

    You need to keep your sense of humor!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jenanita01 says:

    I am a people watcher, always have been and this is something you don’t get to do on the internet! (I loved sharing yours though)

    Like

  4. I enjoy seeing a nice pair of legs on a dude & I LOVE a good set of arms!

    Like

  5. Here in the States, when it gets warm & sunny & the men wear “wife-beater” tops, it’s called “sun & guns” … showing off the muscles in your arms. It was my son who told me that a few years ago. I thought that was a good laugh.

    Like

  6. kph52013 says:

    Just wonderful! –“Unless we are as confident as the girl in shorts or as comfortable as the little old lady, the image we project will have little to do with who we are, and much to do with how we hope others will see us. Or how we would like to see ourselves. The trouble is that although we may be able to fool our surface minds when we look in the mirror on the wall, while ever we seek validation in the eyes of others, we won’t fool anyone for very long, least of all ourselves.”

    Like

  7. Jennie says:

    An excellent view, and then finding the right perspective.

    Like

  8. Lyn Horner says:

    Summer is long and hot here in North Texas – in the 90s to 100s every day. Most of us dress for comfort as we dash from air conditioned cars to the market, bank, doctor’s office, etc. However, the younger set do like to show off what they’ve got, way too much in some cases. They may pay for their blatant baring later in life with leathery skin, ugly dark spots and possibly skin cancer. Not a pretty picture!

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I envy the Asian ladies here who wear traditional dress, covering everything in colourful, flowing fabrics and always looking cool, elegant and feminine whatever the weather.

      Like

  9. Adele Marie says:

    Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
    A wonderful post on believing in yourself and how others opinions make our choices. From Sue Vincent

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Some fascinating people-watching, Sue. And a wonderful message about the source of beauty. 🙂

    Like

  11. dgkaye says:

    Bang on Sue. It doesn’t matter what our style, if we’re comfortable and can carry it off, kudos! 🙂 xx

    Like

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    The most important thing for sure is to be comfortable in one’s own skin. If someone disapproves, it is more about the observer, than the observed.

    Like

  13. I love to people watch. I learn so much from them and they don’t even know it. Your son has a great attitude. I wonder where he got it from 😉

    Like

  14. robbiecheadle says:

    Some very good observations here, Sue. I am usually pretty comfortable in my skin and clothes but this week has been a huge strain and I felt out of sorts and place in every way.

    Like

  15. Anne Copeland says:

    I’ve always been a people watcher too, and I thoroughly enjoy it. On Saturdays, it is fun to watch the families as they are clearly out for the day to do things they don’t get to do during the week, and everyone seems so excited and happy. I love it!

    These days I do watch some really humorous or way overkill costumes, but a lot of the times when I am in a doctor’s office, esp., I look at the faces of the ladies and men. The other day, I saw probably an 80-year-old lady and her husband, and her face just absolutely shone with joy and laughter, even though our loved ones were in there for a procedure. I looked right at her and told her that she was just beautiful and had the most wonderful smile, and her hubby just beamed. She was just glorious with that wonderful sense of knowing who she was and being so in love with her hubby. And when I turned back the other way, an elderly man was waving to me, trying to catch my attention to talk too. I often find this in the doctors’ offices. When I went to the oncologist, I began to talk to another lady who was dressed so prettily and groomed and confident despite where she was. I of course complemented her and we began a conversation. She has a more terminal type of cancer, but her joy and her sense of life said, “I am going to be ok,” and I knew that she meant it. All the other ladies there began to talk too and despite what we all have or have had, there was such a sense of good nature, hope and joy in everyday living. We laughed, we shared without any shame or sense of sadness, and it was all just wonderful. I came away from that office thinking that what we need in this world is to be able to look strangers in the eyes and talk to them about anything. See them as human beings who have been magnificently created by whatever powers might have created them. Everyone needs to know that they matter in this sea of humankind.

    What I love is when I go to a swapmeet, farmer’s market, garage sale, etc., I find people of every race, every culture, every language, every belief system, and they will be sitting under the shade sharing their lunches next to each other peacefully, and they are mutually laughing at the antics of their children, showing each other their bargains, or talking about their special food, and somehow all managing to communicate despite all the barriers. I just love it! Perhaps away from these open markets, people become aware of all their barriers again, but for this one time, we are all one.

    One of the most inspiring women I know who is in our book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating, Elizabeth Jameson, has MS, and it is advancing very rapidly. Elizabeth was a Civil Rights attorney, and handled some major cases before becoming ill. She used to make art quilts, but when she could no longer manage that, she turned to her X-rays, etc. in colors and turned those into art. And over the years, every time she can no longer manage another art form, she turns to something new that she can do. She can no longer vocalize, but she started another art project recently called “The Waiting Room.” Via her electronic assistance, she was able to get permission to put up pages in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices where she must go for treatments. People put their thoughts as they wait down on the papers, and then the papers are displayed throughout the waiting rooms. Other patients can go and read them, and people are becoming pretty creative with their experiences of the waiting rooms. She is just one of many of the physically challenged women I have worked with thru the years, and most of them have critical physical challenges, but all of them have their own form of alchemy as they keep changing the ways they create to fit their changing physical challenges.

    I feel so honored to have worked with these women for so many years, and also to have witnessed humankind being creative in so many other different ways as they overcome not only things such as this, but also language, belief system, cultural, racial, etc. barriers and manage to connect with one another in a most life-enhancing way. I hope everyone on this site will reach out to others everywhere and every day. Thank you Sue for such a great thought-provoking post; you always manage to come up with new ways of looking at everything in life.

    Like

  16. I really enjoyed that. thank you.

    Like

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