I was having a business dinner with a new associate at a popular restaurant in Ottawa. As we got up to leave I excused myself to go to the washroom. When I came out of the cubicle I joined two extremely beautiful young women who were chatting as they washed their hands. One of them said, “I love your shoes.” I told them they were handmade Jesus sandals. That I had gotten them years ago from a shoemaker in Victoria. I said he used to be an old hippy with blond hair down to his waist and that I had bought a leather purse from him when I was a teenager.
The three of us got talking. They said they loved the pendant I was wearing. I said it was made from trade beads a west coast friend had given me. They loved my earrings. I told them about Stevie Kittleson a jewellery artist from Hornby Island. After about 15 minutes of me telling stories about the things I was wearing and a lot more they said they loved my life. They wanted to be like me when they got old; I was much younger than I am now but much older than them.
When we emerged from the washroom one of them asked, “Can I hug you?” This was before COVID so we had a wonderful hug session. My businessman-date watched in awe as I kissed the women goodbye. “What did you three do in there?” he asked. Of course. What was a man to think?
I apologized for keeping him waiting and then told him about our short washroom love fest of appreciation. I explained to him just a little about the richness of being a woman. The connections we make that are often demeaned and belittled. How we can be immediately intimate with each other without the sexual overlay men attach to intimacy. We talked about the richness of getting older and the freedom it brings to women, if only they could embrace it.
He listened but he got stuck on “Wow, if only I could have that effect on women.” I was pretty sure he didn’t understand when he said, “Wow, just 15 minutes in a public bathroom and they were asking for your number.” “Wow, and there were two of them.”
That tiny 15-minute interlude was one of my life’s priceless lessons. Those two giggling, partying young women were my teachers.
I don’t hesitate to tell someone I love their earrings. I don’t feel frivolous when I acknowledge something that catches my eye. I am not embarrassed to share my feelings of enjoyment when I see something that pleases me. Current social etiquette would have it that we need to “be careful” when we talk to people. Society wants us constrained by the significant, god forbid that we should appear trivial.
But we need each other and I’m not going to stop valuing the incidental. I am going to connect with whoever and on whatever level life provides. “I like your shoes,” means I see you. “I like your earrings,” means I have picked you out of my crowded, busy, important day and I acknowledge you and the beauty you bring to my world.
Sure, you might say, that’s all there is on social media. Narcissism gone wild. Everyone loving every insignificant thing about each other from what they ate for breakfast to their glorified face, airbrushed to perfection…their very own personalized Barbie.
But you are talking about a sad and very different thing. The bonus lesson the young women taught is that I am not going to give it all away to social media. We don’t need to diminish the importance of reaching out, in real life, person-to-person because something much less is happening on another level. I would say that the “likes” and “loves” on social media make encounters like the one I had in the Ottawa restaurant bathroom even more important.
Donna Ashworth, in her book of poetry, I wish I knew says it all and says it better.
I LOVE YOUR SHOES
I said your hair looked amazing but what I really wanted to say was…
“Your energy sparks a little bit of something in mine, your smile warms my heart, and when you laugh, I just have to laugh too, it’s like a bubbling stream of fresh water running through my soul.
I feel like the sun is shining on me when you’re near
and when I leave you, sad as it is, I feel like I’ve been charged, plugged into the mains for an infusion of fizz and life.”
But I said, “I love your shoes”, instead.
I hope you heard, what I really meant.