You are something broken that needs to be fixed.
At least, that’s what you’d think if you believed the messages in ads and entertainment without question. Those fantastical images show you a world supposedly far superior to your un-enhanced life, a personal utopia you can attain by credit card.
And well, look at you. Your wallet is unstylish. Your phone is out of date. Your car doesn’t have heated seats. Your hair is not volumized. Your eyelashes are not lifted and separated. Your britches don’t fit correctly. Your dream girl would reject any man who owned that ugly couch.
Life in a big, glossy ad is life as no one knows it. Kids don’t vomit on your suit in an ad. Hair is always windblown, even indoors. Potato chip bags are never crumpled. Nobody gets eczema. There’s no dog snot on the sleek car’s sparkling windows. The cat’s food is a mound of perfectly-placed kibble, not the weird doughnut of food your cat forms when she refuses to eat the food at the sides. Under-eye circles do the required disappearing act, even if they were earned by studying for the Stats final or staying up with a loved-one who vomited all night.
You know what’s more beautiful than any computer rendering of a human being?
The people in your neighborhood.
That’s right, the everyday, imperfect, flesh-and-blood human beings who shout with you at football games, and wait with you in traffic, and slip twenties to you in church when ends don’t meet, and paint your kids’ faces at the Halloween festival, and have water gun fights with you in the dorm… they are beautiful people.
You can strive and strive to achieve the ideals laid out in magazines, on TV, and throughout the internets, but a new car won’t hold your hand in a dying hour. The perfect lipstick won’t give you a terrific marriage. Your bed won’t be any warmer when you finally have thin thighs.
Things like that are found in true community.
True community is found by turning off the TV, putting down the magazines, letting go of our ideas of perfection, and investing in a brave life among our fellow humans in real time.
If you don’t know what to say to another human, this is a good start:
“I believe in you.”
“Your ideas are good.”
“You are smart.”
“Your work is so important.”
“I love you.”
“Let me help you with that.”
You can do it. I believe in you.
Inspired by Sarah Harmeyer and the Neighbors’ Table Project, on Twitter: @NeighborsTable