"Hey buddy, can I have a hug?"
He wrapped his arms around my neck, and his shoulder dug into my throat a little. He does that a lot--it's uncomfortable, but I like that he hugs me tightly.
I looked down at him, and for the millionth time I'm struck by what a beautiful child my son is. "You're a handsome boy, you know that?"
"Yeah," he said, "I know that."
I remember being a child and having my parents or their friends tell me that I was good-looking. I think I must have had the same casual confidence about my appearance when I was his age, but, for the life of me, I can't remember it.
When I was eleven a bully told me that I was ugly, and that's how I've seen myself ever since.
It's odd: I can't even find it in me to be angry about it anymore. I mean, what eleven-year-old has the perspective to see how devastating he can be to someone else's self-image, or how long-lasting the effects can be? I can't believe that any of them knew what they were doing.
And I have a good life. I have a wonderful family who I love and who love me. I'm successful at my job. I have a nice home filled with nice things, and I have the wherewithal to fill my spare time obsessing about things like single-malt Scotch, or visual art, or finding out which kinds of oolong teas suit my preferences the best. That I never feel sexy is a fairly minor inconvenience, all things considered.
But still, it's not something that anybody should have to go through. And when I chuckle at the conceit in my four-year-old son's voice when he says he knows he's handsome, I also can't help but think: he really is a beautiful boy, and it would break my heart if some day he couldn't believe it when someone told him so.
It's silly, I suppose, to worry about something that probably won't happen, but that's parenthood for you.
Another trip through the archives tonight as I'm gearing up for Jason's birthday. This one was from our trip to Virginia to visit my parents this spring. I was testing out my medium format camera a lot during that trip, but, sadly, it turned out to be busted--only one shot in three was exposed properly. I really miss the experience of medium format; it was a lot of fun.
(I miss my parents, too, just so you know.)
I wondered, as I was walking past the man in the bow tie, what his tickets were for. A concert, I suppose, or maybe a comedy or magic show. But I didn't stop to ask, I broke my stride only long enough to snap this picture. He noticed me, then looked away when it was clear I wasn't stopping to inquire. Then I moved on, toward the barbecue booth a short ways down where Juliette and her sister had decided we'd eat. I suppose he went on standing there.
The paint was cold, and he shivered when the brush touched his skin. The woman holding his head, the painter, felt him tense up and backed away, thinking he was afraid.
"Are you OK, buddy?" we asked.
"Yeah," he said.
Less than a minute later I handed him a fistful of bills and he turned and handed it to her. Then we walked on, a purple unicorn adorning his left cheek.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting that afternoon, but it wasn't a corral full of people getting makeovers from sailors, next to a stage where other, more scantily clad sailors were tap-dancing. I'm not sure if the DJ was expecting to have his picture taken by a shlubby-looking guy in worn-out jeans and scuffed New Balance sneakers, but I guess it was a day of surprises for everyone.