Moving beyond our own, as well as other’s, standards of beauty may take a little more effort than we think. Originally published online December 22, 2015.
Love by numbers or blind trust?
Story by Faye Bayko
Photos by Christopher Bayko & Devi Hite
I’ve never considered myself a 10 but when I was described as not being one I became angry.
It was a silly, this-will-get-you-nowhere anger but I felt it nonetheless and was surprised at myself for feeling it. At the time I wasn’t sure who I was angrier at, the guy who said I wasn’t a 10 or myself for wanting to be one.
Part of the anger came from the timing of the comment. I had just started dating Robert, who would eventually become my husband, and was firmly in the early stages of trying to impress him. I knew he was legally blind but had no idea of what that meant. He did not use a cane or wear dark glasses and seemed to move about his environment easily, although, when he read I had noticed he brought the book or newspaper quite close to his one eye.
So, when he returned from an outing with his best friend and told me he had asked that friend to describe me I was a little confused as I had thought he knew what I looked like. When I asked Robert what his friend had answered, he quoted simply, ‘She’s not a 10.’
I must admit my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe his friend would say that, and, secondly, I couldn’t believe Robert would be so mean as to tell me. But this was to be one of those lessons you learn when dating a special-needs person. If they’ve been special all their lives, then chances are they have not been taught basic relationship skills because their parents never thought they’d be in one. So, I closed my mouth, gathered what was left of my self-esteem and walked into the kitchen for a glass of wine.
Robert went on to explain that his sight allowed for only a rough idea of what I looked like, and no, he wasn’t about to do the Hellen Keller touchy-feely thing. He would not have understood what his fingers were telling him even if he tried as he’d never gone to a school for the blind, therefore had never learned to use tools or techniques taught there.
So just as the wine and his obvious discomfort were helping me to understand his point of view, he told me the other reason he wanted to know what I looked like; it was a guy thing.
Because he was different he felt he had to win the competition for having the prettiest girl on his arm. And, while he had not been successful in high school, he had been after leaving those hormone-stressed times. He told me his previous long-term relationship had been with a 10.
Gosh, golly, gee, that made me feel so much better.
It took him a while to figure out why I was suddenly too busy to answer his calls. When he did, he sputtered out an apology, explaining that he may have paraphrased what his friend had said.
Apparently, his friend had expressed his happiness that Robert was no longer going after plastic girls and had finally focused on those who had more depth. Which, basically, was saying the very same thing as the paraphrasing but Robert looked so innocently clueless when he said it that I decided to continue dating him.
Fast-forward four years and I’m slipping a wedding gown over my head and letting it slide down my imperfect, not-a-10 body. I’m in a rented cottage on the west coast of Vancouver Island with close to 50 friends and family standing on the beach out front, braced against the cold spring wind coming in off the Pacific Ocean, waiting for me so the ceremony could begin.
I turned away from the mirror where I’d been looking for any sign of a 10 in my reflection and faced my two attendants: my best friend and my future sister-in-law. They both smiled, seeming to understand what I’d been looking for, and offered to top up my wine glass.
This was my fourth marriage but the first white-dress-and-guests wedding. I was waiting for the magic to happen. After all wasn’t the expectation that wedding dresses transform ugly ducklings into swans? Then my tiny, soon-to-be mother-in-law came in and handed me her mother’s wedding band.
I looked down at the simple gold band placed gently in the palm of my hand and thought of the woman who had worn it; a woman I had never met and knew nothing about. “Something old,” whispered my future mother-in-law in case I didn’t understand.
I nodded. There would have been strength in the marriage the ring represented because the daughter it produced personified the word dynamo. She had the strength of character that had allowed her to survive being advanced through grade school at a speed she should not have been, as well as being shoved into a teacher’s role way before she had the experience or maturity to handle it. But she had toughed it out and the results showed in the stiffness of her back. I doubted if she had ever worried about being considered a 10.
I closed my hand around the gold circle representing someone else’s eternity commitment and for a moment I panicked. I didn’t know what to do with it. My friend seemed to sense my distress and stepped forward. I looked at her and suddenly knew how I’d use it. I told her to tie it in my laces at the back of my dress. “That way she’ll always have my back,” I explained.
I had never been a wedding-dress girl. Heck, except for when I was too young to know better, I was never really any sort of a dress girl. I had the wrong body shape for most off-the-shelf dresses; they usually ended up emphasizing that fact and made me feel uglier than I already did. So, the expectation that a white dress would somehow transform me into a 10, I realized, was ridiculous.
At $350 the dress I’d chosen for my wedding was not an expensive one. I had kept my dress budget low deliberately knowing that I’d be walking into the Pacific Ocean at the end of the ceremony and the salt would not be kind. But as I walked out of that room and down the steps to meet Robert I started to feel different.
Whether it was the gentle caress of the dress against my legs as I walked through a forest alive with sound or the ring that now rested at the small of my back I wasn’t sure, but when I stepped out onto the beach and saw everyone turn to look at me I no longer cared if they saw a 10. I only felt joy of the journey I was about to begin.