My younger son called round, all in his leathers, booted, gloved and helmeted. Dogs, like many people, are not usually very good with that kind of attire, but Ani heard the bike coming through the village and was waiting. She sees straight through the all-encompassing biker gear to her boy underneath. She looks on him with such love and joy. I grabbed a camera. Of course, she wasn’t still long enough to get a decent picture. But you get the idea. It struck me how far from the preconception of a biker my son is, with the warmth he emanates and his gentleness. And suddenly a song was running through my mind and it took me back to once upon a time and long, long ago.
When I was a teenager there was a boyfriend. He had come into my world in all his glory a few years earlier, a friend of one of my closest friends. He was three or four years older than I, so barely noticed me then. He was drop dead gorgeous, as the saying goes, and rejoiced in the name of Tom Jones. I never found the Welsh singer of that name to my taste. He was of an older generation. But my Tom was almost the spitting image of David Cassidy, though rather more masculine and stronger featured. He even had the hair. It mattered not that I was, at that point, far more interested in Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Back then, Cassidy was undeniably cute.
Now, ladies of my particular vintage, admit it… many of us who were teenagers back in the 70’s thought so too. Forget the Partridge Family .. I never watched it. Not my style at all and nor was the music. But you couldn’t miss the guy; he was all over everything at that time.
Which was quite handy, really, as my mother, who had seen but never met Tom, took a dislike to him. So I plastered my bedroom walls with Cassidy’s face instead and dreamed of Tom. He was, without a doubt, the first time the emotions went deep enough to say I really fell in love. With hindsight, of course, things look a little different, and greater understanding tells a different tale, but he was the first to make my heart leap at the mere thought of him.
But my mother said no. It may possibly have had something to do with a dance we had gone to, and from which I came home late. This was slightly unfair in my eyes. It was New Year’s Eve, even Cinderella had made it to midnight and there was never any question of me having to leave before the clock struck. I was just a little later than anticipated.
Okay, a lot later.
Sort of breakfast time.
There were no cell phones in those days and the last bus had long since left. Mum was understandably worried and the punishment suitably severe. I didn’t really care. I had seen in my first ‘grown up’ New Year with my friends at the Mecca ballroom, wearing a fabulous red silky dress with huge circular sleeves, then watched the dawn from the rug in front of the fire with Tom.
Of course, it didn’t last. We were both very young. But it was beautiful.
Oddly enough, my mother approved of Jimmy, a flick-knife wielding skinhead who helped heal the teenage heartache. Jimmy defied skinhead image and was, behind the facade, a true gentleman. He brought me flowers; the first I was ever given as a romantic gesture. And took me to Belle Vue zoo in Manchester, halfway across the country. A long way for a date in those days!
But it got me thinking, after my son had left. We often take first impressions to heart and our expectations evolve accordingly. It takes both attention and a desire to know, to go deeper, beyond the fashion or the face, the manners or the words. Much of the time opportunity may be lacking, often we just never bother and stick with that first impression. It made me wonder how much we miss.
If we go back to Cassidy for a moment, he illustrates that in a rather tragic manner. So many thousands of young girls imagined themselves in love with an illusory image of him that they and the media created between them. The emotion was so strong, though based on a synthetic impression, that it brought tragedy in its wake both for Cassidy himself and for the young girls crushed in the stampede.
But there was a Gene Pitney song he released, ‘Looking through the Eyes of Love’. Back then, I liked the lyrics. It is true, if you think about it. While it is easy to let being ‘in love’ blind us, we see differently when we really love. Others may see only the surface layers, yet we can see behind them. Others may see the good side or the flaws… when we Love, we see both, and often deeper still to the reasons behind them. It does not matter if we see a weakness. We no longer judge. We can see the hurts and the damage, the cracked feet of clay and we love right past all of that to the shining central core. We Love.
Love makes them beautiful in all their fragility and humanity. We even see their faces differently and they become more beautiful in our eyes… and something in that may reflect itself in the mirror of the heart and changes in them too… they feel that beauty for themselves and in themselves. Both inwardly and outwardly. And it seems to me that it grows as they grow into being Loved.
By loving someone simply, wholly, as they are, we give them freedom to be who they are and grow into themselves.
There are a lot of books and articles out there about loving oneself at present. Maybe they are not so far wrong. To truly love means to love all, asking nothing in return. To love is, in itself, enough, but as Ghandi said, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” Perhaps that applies even more when we are learning to love ourselves whole and without castigating ourselves for the flaws that are part of an unfinished being.
We ask an awful lot of ourselves in the innermost corners of our minds and hearts. We blame ourselves, often agonisingly, for every fault and flaw and seldom admit the things that are good. Or we gloss over the bad and hide in the good, trying to pretend. To love ourselves means having the courage to look and see who we really are, faults, flaws, gifts and talents and accept that whole. It doesn’t let us off the hook or mean we cannot learn and grow. But perhaps we can learn to see ourselves as a work in progress. Unfinished, for now maybe, but part of the completed work we will become, the true inner beauty still lying hidden under the rough edges and unpolished lines, waiting to be revealed.
Maybe if we can do that, we too can see ourselves through the eyes of love and become, “a hero, a giant, a man who’s as tall as can be…”