Dear Annie: I am 77 years old and have known for most of my life that I’m not beautiful. I have a sharp chin and nose and have actually had a few warts removed. I realized when I was a child that I was not cute — a fact that was reinforced through my teen and young adult years. In my late teens, I was thrilled to marry a handsome “bad boy” type. You can imagine how that turned out!
I persevered and developed a successful career, plenty of friends and a church family. I gained a level of self-confidence. Then I married the most kind, gentle, caring man. We raised a family, and I felt we had a very successful marriage. He encouraged me in many endeavors such as returning to school and finding a more suitable career.
One problem is that my husband is so kind that he would never criticize anything about me, especially my appearance.
And now, since the pandemic, I’ve been stuck at home, with no weekly visit to the beauty salon and no makeup or fashionable clothes. These past few months have made me painfully aware that I’m “ugly”!
Recently, a neighbor came to call (admittedly, not a very smart person) and related how when she first met me, I looked just like a friend of hers who she said looked “just like a witch” as she got older.
That was all it took! I now doubt why my husband married someone who looks like me. Does everyone I meet immediately also think I resemble a witch? I feel all of my qualities as an empathetic, successful person are of no avail. — Witchy Woman
This is the sort of question Annie Lane chooses to field because she can’t handle anything more complicated. I’d wager anything that her answer is some sort of psychological mumbo-jumbo about feeling good about yourself. I’m almost afraid to read it.
Dear WW: I know it’s been said so many times that the words practically have no meaning, but it still bears repeating: Real beauty is on the inside. A loving heart means infinitely more than a pretty face. And when you exude warmth and empathy, there’s no way anyone would mistake you for a witch. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others: Start each morning and end each night by looking in the mirror and saying, “I love you.” (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Oh geez, that was painful. Yeah, I called it.
To get technical, someone did mistake her for a witch. Did Annie Lane miss that?
Here’s some real advice: indulge in beauty products that can be used at home. Order online, for crying out loud, or put on a mask and go to the store. It’s not hard. Consider cosmetic surgery if you’re that preoccupied with one or two specific body parts. If I hated my nose, I’d do it. it’s never too late, but I feel sad that this letter writer didn’t have a few things done when she was younger.
In further advice, this so-called friend was being grossly insensitive.
I know the feeling. Looks are a weird issue for me. I think I’m stunningly gorgeous, but my whole life, I’ve picked up on messages from guys that I’m not sexy. Maybe I don’t have a sexy, feminine attitude? No clue. But I can tell that guys don’t go for me. It’s always been that way. But unlike the letter writer, there’s no action to take because I’m fine with my looks, for the most part.
See, the problem with Annie Lane’s advice is that:
- The letter writer’s not going to follow it.
- Even if she were to follow it, telling your reflection that you love yourself does nothing to improve your appearance.
- There’s no practical advice given about beauty products or cosmetic surgery, for example.
She always tackles easy pitches. Her other question today, in a column titled “Say it, don’t spray it,” was about how to avoid it when your friends spew bits of food at you over coffee. The better advice columnists tackle real-life issues involving relationships and complexities, but not Annie Lane.
Let’s see what Ask Amy is up to!
Dear Amy: My husband of 29 years recently died after a long illness.
“Marlene” has been my friend for almost 40 years. I called her to tell her about my husband’s death, and she offered me no words of sympathy. After that call — and to this day — she has not called, texted, emailed, or sent a condolence card.
I have been blessed with a group of friends who are kind and have been very supportive during my bereavement. Marlene is the only one who has not.
I feel like telling her off in an email, but I really have no interest in continuing a friendship with her.
Should I just let it go?
Grieving: I’m very sorry for your loss.
Yes, you should let this go. The best way for you to let it go, however, might be to express yourself in an email. Your motivation should not be to punish “Marlene,” but to tell her how you feel. She may respond by apologizing, by becoming defensive, or by blaming you for some ancient slight or a time of inattention that you have long forgotten. She might not respond at all.
Illness and bereavement are huge life challenges that can sometimes offer insight and clarity in their wake.
Among other large life lessons, when you’ve suffered a great loss, you do learn who your friends are. (c) Ask Amy
So many possibilities here. One is that Marlene misheard what the letter writer said on the phone. For all we know, Marlene hasn’t figured out that the letter writer’s husband is dead. (This seems unlikely, given that time has passed and her other friends know, but who knows?)
Another more obvious possibility is that Marlene was having an affair with the letter writer’s husband. Or perhaps she had a crush on him.
But here’s where I’m putting my money: the letter writer overwhelmed Marlene with the sadness of dealing with his long illness, and Marlene flatlined, unable to keep dealing with the situation.
Of course, we all need support during difficult times, but imagine if you overburden a friend with the same issue every day for six months (or however long). It’s possible that the letter writer made no attempt to rein it in and pestered Marlene all the time over every little aspect of her husband’s illness.
Marlene’s inner reaction to the death of the letter writer’s husband might have been, oh, God, I can’t handle anymore of this. Now he’s dead, and she hasn’t even begun to grieve yet. Deep breath, Marlene, be a good friend here. You can do it!
But she was sapped. You can only overtax people so far. And I’d call it a weakness of the letter writer’s because she has a wide circle of friends, so she could’ve “distributed” the sadness amongst them without overtaxing any of them individually. I.e., talk to friend 1 on Monday, and friend 2 on Tuesday, and so forth.
That said, I like Ask Amy’s email advice. Yes! If she sends a letter to Marlene, then Marlene can respond with a somewhat tactful explanation of her own. I’m sorry! I couldn’t cope with it anymore! It was too much for me! You know my own husband died three months ago, and I’ve tried to be there for you, but it was just too much! Day in and day out, this and this and this.
It sounds as if Marlene has checked out of the relationship anyway. The letter writer makes it sound like she hasn’t heard from Marlene at all, but I can’t tell if she means in general or if she means in sympathy-card form. The sentence reads ambiguously.
What I’d alternatively recommend would be for the letter writer to discuss Marlene with a hospice counselor. The hospice counselor could figure out what went wrong there, and if it was on Marlene’s end or the letter writer’s.