So I was out for a walk with my other half the other day, and a young woman leaned out from a passing car and yelled at us. It took me a few moments to parse what she'd said, but her words were 'You are so beautiful'.
Now, I can say with no false modesty, I'm not. Especially not from behind when tramping up a hill. But the way she called it out, I believe she meant it sincerely. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that this is what she meant – The universe is beautiful. You are part of the universe. So you are beautiful.
And a total stranger's expression of love and wonder at the universe kept me buoyant for several days.
But it made me think back a few decades, walking with the same other half in the city one day and a guy leaned out of his car and yelled 'Your girlfriend's a dog.' And at the time I didn't think 'what he means is life sucks and I'm part of life therefore...' I wrote him off as a jerk and I didn't take it too much to heart (except I still remember it all these years later) although I definitely thought it was directly aimed at me.
Why is that? Why do we interpret the stinging words literally and the soothing ones generically?
Maybe I was, for a moment, beautiful. Maybe the afternoon sun lit us up and made haloes of our hair. I'll never know.