A Fading Glory

fading glory

Standards of beauty change from time to time and country to country, but when I was a young man, much younger than I am today, I was considered good-looking for my time and place.

I remember the heads of female employees turning as I walked the length of the office to my destination. On more than one occasion, women driving by whistled and catcalled as I walked on busy city streets. All these things I found very amusing and gratifying on some level.

Because I have been objectified—I have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention, been hit on by both men and women and made to feel very uncomfortable—I understand and sympathize with women when this happens to them. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Growing up, I never considered myself good-looking; instead, I was self-conscious about my looks. As I grew older and had more success with girls and women, I began to gain confidence. This boost led to success in other areas in my life—man’s greatest adrenaline rush is a beautiful woman. Many doors opened for me because of my good looks. I have always attributed it all to good luck. It is a matter of good luck, I suppose, to be blessed with the beauty gene.

But beauty can be a double-edged sword. Plain women are jealous of beautiful women and don’t trust their men around them. In the same way, men often feel insecure in the presence of a good-looking man.

Recently, a younger man worked at the same dealership with me. Every time I saw him, I felt uncomfortable and didn’t really know why. He was extremely handsome and moved with grace, literally dancing around the dealership. I got jealous every time he attended to an attractive customer or even one of our young female associates. I knew it was foolish to feel this way, as if I was in competition with him, even though I am much older and in a fulfilling relationship. When he quit and moved to Miami, I was very happy to see him go.

There is a downside to beauty. To be consumed by it, to waste away like Narcissus from Greek Mythology, is a mistake. Beauty fades and as I age, I sometimes feel like the invisible man. However, the words of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez are poignant, “Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” To reincarnate beauty, it must be tempered by grace, compassion, and love for others.

 

© Benn Bell 2015

Benn blogs at Ghost Dog
He wrote this piece as a rejoinder to my post, Beauty A First Class Ticket.

 

Photo credit: Pezibear/ http://pixabay.com/en/journal-leaves-brown-road-kahl-636462/

 

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The One-Night Stand Conversation

conversations

 

Emma introduced us, but fate made us exchange phone numbers. Although I liked you and felt drawn to you—tenderness accompanied my memories of you—I did not expect to hear from you soon. When my phone rang at 10:33 p.m. and I saw your name, warmth tickled my face into a smile. To my “hello,” you responded with sobs and to “what is it?” with, “I’m leaving him.”

I knew who him was.

Two weeks prior to your call, you and I chatted that evening, as we stood near the balcony sliding doors. Bunched-up voile curtains escaped their brass holders, lilting whenever the breeze beckoned. Behind us, opinions on politics and football clamoured for superiority. If I had to pick a winner, it would have been the music, a persistent fusion of hip-hop and jazz. Fear of losing our voices propelled us outside.

It was as if we knew time was short. We dispensed with pleasantries and raced to your heart. The story you told had many holes and so I averted my eyes so you would not need to avoid mine. Did you know that I had once been fragile too?

When him came to check on you, you replaced your shadow with sunshine. You introduced us, listing my credentials first, and I saw what his approval meant to you. Him was impressed, just as you had hoped, and then he whisked you away to the music we feared.

I knew who him was.

That day, your sobs unleashed mine. But, I put ice in my voice and said sensible things like, are you alone? What about the kids? Don’t make decisions while emotions are high. Should I come over? I had my hair in huge rollers under a net and two white spots on my face marked my struggle with acne.

You did not want me to come over. Instead, we sampled the height, depth, and breadth of your anxieties until 1 a.m., when exhausted from reasoning, you let me go. But not before agreeing to check in later in the day.

I did not sleep. I turned your problems over in my mind. I prayed. All day long, I waited. I debated whether to reach out. I sent a couple of texts. I called. You didn’t respond. Later never came, not that day or the next or the next month.

 

I am watching you and him in the supermarket. He leans so you can whisper in his ear. His eyes light up and you both laugh at your secret. I choose this moment to bump into you and him, and I wear my surprise well. The three of us make small talk but you overcompensate for lull with details. Your voice is on display, bouncing off the shelves and rolling down the aisle. When him leaves us girls to catch up, awkwardness settles over us and silences you.

“How are you?” I ask.

“Everything is fine, very fine, and you?”

I believe you because you radiate sunshine. I wait for your explanation so I can stop editing your manuscript in my head, no in my heart. I have been reading it since that night. Question marks and ellipsis muddle its chapters.

Nothing.

Him bursts in and whisks you to even greater sunshine and I am left with the music I fear, strains of bewildered happiness.

Perhaps I was to escort you around your shadow and no further. Did I assume a role that wasn’t mine? Was shame the unintended consequence of our sudden intimacy? Or did you need to find your way yourself? No matter, every book deserves an ending, and you cheated me of my slice of the sun.

I should not have left things unsaid.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo credit: longleanna/ http://pixabay.com/en/talking-phone-mobile-telephone-560318/

 

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Beauty, A First-Class Ticket

beauty

I knew I was intelligent before I knew I was beautiful, for I won academic prizes throughout my primary school years from the time I was five up ‘til ten. This external validation, reinforced by the circle of people who shaped me, became my inner truth.

My mother was the first yardstick I used to measure beauty by. When people called me little Gina, alluding to our resemblance, I realized I was beautiful. But what did that mean?

At my girls-only boarding school, we giggled and bit our nails when boys from the nearby school attended our social events. Being beautiful meant that I was asked to dance and not forgotten on the bench. It meant my classmates said I looked like Yinka, a girl two years older, whom everyone called Black Beauty. Much later, it meant that I tweezed my eyebrows and applied mascara like the models in Vogue.

My mother told me hard work and a good education would secure success. She did not tell me beauty could be a first-class ticket. You see, once when I tried to register a business campaign, my efforts stalled under the weight of bureaucracy. Then a friend scolded me, “How can? A beautiful woman like you? Don’t you know what to do?” Appalled, I went back and talked my way through.

But her seed grew. I studied how people, men, responded to me; after all, they saw me before they heard me. I remember being singled out from a long line of tired and impatient passengers at an airport. As I crossed the gate having passed Security, the officer said, “You’re very pretty.”
I would be naïve to assume that any preferential treatment I receive is because of beauty alone. It would be naïve of you to assume that I don’t receive unwanted attention or worse still, endure suspicion or dismissal on account of my looks.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video about the changing face of beauty, with a friend. “I wish I were born in a different century,” she said touching her generous hips and rubbing her round belly. I just happen to live in an era where my features coincide with what some consider attractive. I’ve come to know that beauty is leverage and the temptation to abuse it, real.

To me, my looks are secondary. But here’s what I know. A beautiful woman on a man’s arm makes him feel taller. In a world of selfies, people soon forget how you look because they are consumed with how you make them look.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. ~ Anais Nin

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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Setting Forth at Dawn

L I G H T H O U S E

 

The first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise is called dawn. The forecast says sunny day; the clouds are undecided. One passenger is standing in the middle of the bus that rides past me and the rows of empty seats around him make alone seem like loneliness. The air is crisp and breathing is bliss, interrupted occasionally by the draft from the black garbage bags left on the pavement the night before. It will be at least two hours before the garbage trucks arrive. The thumpthump of my footfalls and swishswish of my sports jacket provide comfort and company. Although every joint protests and reminds me of how old I am, I jog because spring is here.

Like writing, jogging requires discipline and perseverance for results to show. If I work hard now, my dresses will flatter me in summer. After reading one of my blog posts, someone commented that writers lead very interesting lives. Hmmm, if they are anything like me, they do not, not by a long shot, not by most people’s standards anyway. Wise writers know: I am not, in and of myself, interesting to a reader. If I want to seem interesting, work has to be done in order to make myself interesting.

Four hundred metres into my jog, my body submits to my will and my mind takes over. I dissect my life, paring flesh from bone, rolling things over this way and that. Then, I tell myself the truth, crying, laughing, hoping, praying. I run through an article in my head, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Satisfied, I think about what to write today, tomorrow, next week, next year and with whom I may write it. In the newness of day, untainted by doubt, every idea seems plausible, even past mistakes, redeemable.

Ideas are running over me thick and fast. I don’t jog with pen and paper, phone, or voice recorder because the temptation to stop and write would be unbearable. I have learnt to park beautiful sentences in my brain and trust that memory would reward my fidelity. Moreover, to pause would force me to rationalize and logic would provoke miscarriage or stillbirth. It’s been said that all readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.  It is easy for me to tell lies before the sun comes out.

As I turn around the corner, a new Indian restaurant reminds me of curries and naan bread, and my stomach rumbles. “Too early,” I mumble. Further down boats dot the harbour like swans. In summer, sailors will wave from boat decks and people lounging on rattan chairs in waterfront restaurants will raise beer glasses in return. Ahead a dozen men with buckets, rods, lines, and hooks, queue to board a boat sporting the signs sport vissen and rond vaarten. Such is the allure of the sea at dawn.

In the end, I quit two kilometres short of my goal, but it doesn’t matter. I jog to not only make the numbers on the scale decrease, but also for these moments of lucidity where I dethrone my giants before I face them.

Before the sun rouses
Ideas play hopscotch in my head
Flushing sleep from my eyes

What do you do or where do you go to find clarity? Are you a morning person or an owl?

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo credit: Unsplash/ http://pixabay.com/en/pier-dock-quay-ocean-sea-calm-336717/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.