Saturday, October 14, 2006


Over 25 years ago I put tooth picks in an avocado pit and suspended it over a glass full of water. It sprouted. When I moved away Dad adopted the plant and tells me from time to time how it is doing. Ohio isn't the best place to grow avocados but wherever Dad lives is. The little plant I left 25+ years ago is a tree taller than me or my father or even my brother.

Yesterday at the bus terminal Mom noticed a tree and asked me what it was. "That's like your tree. What is it?"

"An avocado tree."

"You should see how big it is. Your elephant ears and schefflera are huge," she said showing how big with her hands. I had seen how big they were. Beanie brought pictures.

In some small way, even though I am missing from family get-togethers I am still there in spirit in the reality of my plants and tree that Dad tends and keeps growing. I wasn't noticed when I lived closer but we seldom notice something unless it is missing and we always looking for it, not content with what we have. The missing factor extends parasitic tendrils to every part of our lives and how we view ourselves.

Seldom happy with what we have or what we are we search for the missing ingredient that will make our lives better, happier, more fulfilled.

In China the standard of beauty was small feet. Baby girls' feet were bound tightly to achieve the ideal of beauty. Pain and beauty were inextricably linked. We think we have evolved beyond such barbaric practices but we haven't. Look around. Women are having their feet surgically altered to fit into Manolo Blahniks. Putting your best foot forward takes on a whole new meaning. Women searching for that ever changing and always elusive perfect beauty are having ribs removed for a slimmer torso, liposuction, tummy tucks and all manner of plastic surgery to get what they're missing--perfection, a perfection defined by advertising campaigns. We buy the next miracle fluid, treatment, cosmetic to bring us closer to perfection while inside we stop growing and maturing. Women have borne the brunt of the pursuit of perfect beauty, but men are following closely behind.

Women like my mother, and female friends I have known, refuse to be seen without makeup, their best clothes and shoes or acrylic nails, even to the point of turning people away from the door or hiding until the unannounced guest is gone, unless they're lucky enough to have someone answer the door for them and offer their apologies for being indisposed. After all, who would want them as they are sans improvements? In some cases they are right.

There is nothing inside them. They have about as much depth as a drying rain puddle. While they spend all their time and money on the latest miracle product or procedure their personality and emotional depth stagnate. To cover for what is really missing they learn to mimic real emotions, keeping the surface calm and serene with occasional emotional outbursts that have more to do with guilt and manipulation than any actual emotional sensibility and feelings. S/he has such a lovely personality and is intelligent have become curses instead of compliments. It all comes down to surface appeal and faking the rest as realistically as possible without ruining makeup and hair. Don't look beneath the surface. There isn't anything there and there is a strong vested interest in keeping the facade intact.

I am reminded of Flavor of the Month by Olivia Goldsmith. The book detailed three women who hide their real identities behind surgical alterations and makeup and costume, something Ms. Goldsmith knew intimately. She died on the table while undergoing a face lift.

One of my cousins, a very beautiful woman, died a week after having liposuction when she threw a blood clot, all in the pursuit of someone else's idea of beauty. We all have our idiosyncrasies and feelings of inadequacy, allowing others' opinions determine our self worth.

In an over exposed, reality TV, tell-all world there is no room for anonymity or for letting our intelligence and words and abilities speak for themselves. We may no longer bind baby girls' feet. Instead we bind their psyches and souls, their intellects and personalities, forcing them into a painful and constricting mold of an ever changing acceptable form determined by those who do not know us and do not care, when what we should strive to achieve is growth.

That is all. Disperse.

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