The Good Ones Think You Are Beautiful
Especially those times when you are not
“Okay, Mom, you can come in now!”
Peggy checked her side view one more time in the full-length bedroom mirror, twisting her body back and forth to make her prom dress swish. Her mother opened the door and gave an audible gasp. “Oh sweetie! You are so… grown up! Oh, that dress is gorgeous on you, I should never have doubted you.” Her mom examined Peggy’s face with a critical gaze. “Okay, now, I know what you’ll say, but please just indulge me, just this once.”
Picking up a makeup kit, the older woman proceeded to make adjustments to Peggy’s eyes, cheeks, and chin, finishing with some light brushwork on her forehead. Peggy kept her eyes tightly closed the whole time.
“Okay, open your eyes. Blink. Blink again. Okay, now look in the mirror.”
Peggy turned to look, and it was her turn to gasp. “Oh, Mom, that is wonderful! When did you learn to do that?”
Her mother smiled in triumph. “I was in charge of makeup and hair in our college drama club, but more importantly your Aunt Sarah taught me a few things about how to look good for boys. Speaking of which, your date is here. If he hasn’t fled from interrogation by your Dad.”
“Mom! You can’t just leave Bill alone with Dad! Why didn’t you tell me?” She gave herself one last look in the mirror before stepping out the bedroom door, then stepped back in quickly, grabbed her purse, and headed for the top of the stairs.
“Peggy! Slow down!” her mother whispered. “Stand at the top of the steps, let me call down! You only get one chance for that first impression.” After making sure Peggy was stopped, her mom called down, “Oh Bill! Your date is ready!”
A teenage male in a tuxedo appeared in the hallway below from the living room — perhaps a bit too quickly—and looked up. The amazement on his face was obvious. “Wow! Peggy! You… I mean, I know my cousin said you were pretty, but… wow!”
“Not bad for a last-minute blind date for the prom?” Peggy felt her face grinning like a crazy person. She had never had a boy look at her like Bill was looking up at her now.
“Bill and I have been chatting while you two ladies were finishing up,” her father announced as he ambled after Bill. “Turns out I know his father. So I know you two kids will have a fun time tonight, and be back at the hour Bill and I agreed on. Right, Bill?”
“Um, yes sir, Mr. Ogden, sir, yes. Um, c’mon, Peggy, we should get going?”
“Hey, Bill!” Peggy was just leaving English after the bell rang, and spotted Bill almost in front of her.
Bill looked around, confused.
Peggy waved, and repeated, “Hey!”
Bill blinked. “Um…” Suddenly his face flashed recognition. “Oh! Peggy! You, um, hi, um, I didn’t… you look… I mean, you aren’t pretty like you were…” Peggy’s expression changed the direction of his speech. “Um, no, I didn’t mean not pretty, I just meant you’re different, you… your face is…” Panicked, Bill managed, “I need to get to Chem!” before bolting down the hallway.
Peggy felt like she’d been punched in the gut. Light-headed, she worked on her breathing as she headed toward the cafeteria.
Peggy’s roommate glared at her. “Peggy, I did your face before we posted that profile photo, all I’m asking is to touch you up before you go out on an actual date with this guy—”
“Ray, Sue, his name is Ray!”
“My point is, for a first impression he should see you at your best. Not that you’re bad now, but you are dressed casual and your makeup is casual. You aren’t cheating or anything, you just are putting a thumb on the scale to tip it in your favor.” Sue continued to glare; Peggy looked stubborn. Sue sighed, and gestured at Peggy to go on.
“Look, it’s not like he only has my profile pic to go by. We’ve been messaging back and forth for a couple weeks now, it’s not just a physical thing, he’s a really nice guy. I’ve been open and honest with him online, I want him to see the real me when we meet for the first time. It’ll be fine. Trust me, I’ve really gotten to know Ray.”
Sue shrugged in surrender. “Fine. Go meet Ray. Have a good time. Oh, and if you two are having a really good time, just know that Clay is coming over tonight. We’re cooking dinner together.”
“Ohhhh, is that what you kids are calling it these days?” Peggy gave an exaggerated wink. “Fine, I’ll give you warning before I bring Ray home so that you two can, um, clean up the kitchen. Or whatever.”
“You! Outa here!” Sue turned Peggy around, gave her a gentle push in the direction of the front door, and added a swat on her butt. “Have fun!”
“Was that the door?” Sue moved hair off her forehead with the back of her hand, her fingers being covered with soft dough. “Honey, it’s way too early, but can you check if that’s Peg?”
Clay continued to stir filling in the mixing bowl he was holding as he exited the kitchen to check the front hallway. “Hey, Peggy!” Sue heard him say. “Hey! You okay? Come into the kitchen. No, c’mon, that was not a request, that was an order. Hey, Sue! It’s Peggy, I think you need to talk to her.”
Peggy dolefully walked into the kitchen, followed by Clay, still stirring. Peggy’s expression told Sue all she needed to know.
“Oh, Peggy, honey, it went bad, didn’t it! You need a hug, honey!” There followed an unspoken conversation between Sue and Clay, carried out with gestures and looks, which translated came to:
Sue — Hug her!
Clay — What? I have (holding up bowl) this stuff!
Sue — Put it down NOW! Hug her!
Clay — Why can’t you?
Sue — I have this crap (holding up hands) all over my hands! Hug her RIGHT NOW!
Clay put down the mixing bowl and put his arms around Peggy. She buried her face in his shoulder and started sobbing. Clay looked at his girlfriend helplessly; Sue washed her hands off in the sink, dried them, and joined the two in a group hug.
Peggy eventually got enough control to whisper, “He didn’t even want to have dinner. He looked at me, told me I had some nerve using a phoney profile pic, and walked out of the restaurant. He just…” She started sobbing again.
“Oh, honey!” Sue gave her an extra squeeze. “Clay will beat him up tomorrow.”
Clay—What?! How is this my problem all of a sudden?
Sue — Because she’s my best friend, so it is! UNDERSTOOD?
Clay — Yes, dear!
Sue greeted Peggy at the door with a hug. “Thank you so much, Peg! I owe you big time for giving up your Saturday for us!”
“No worries, girl friend, if me helping you paint makes life easier for you two love birds, I am here to help. Just please tell me you and Clay agreed on what colors go where!” Peggy surveyed the newlyweds’ new apartment. “Wow! This is nice!” She toed one of the many drop cloths covering the floors of the otherwise empty rooms. “Although I wouldn’t submit this to the HG Channel just yet.”
“Yeah, yeah, make fun, whatever. You and Paul are doing the dining room, Clay and I are starting with the bed room.”
Peggy stopped dead, and looked around to see if anyone else was in the apartment yet. She hissed at her friend, “Paul? Clay’s friend Paul? Paul from the wedding Paul? Paul who sat next to me at the reception Paul? Paul the cute engineer Paul? Paul to talked to me all night Paul? That Paul?”
“See, I worried if I told you ahead of time you’d be all you about it—”
“I am dressed in a dirty t-shirt and skanky overalls and shitty sneakers! I have not even showered today!” Peggy looked at her friend with rage. “I swear, if you have messed this up, your husband will never even find your body!”
“Hey! Peggy! Look over here!”
Peggy turned her head toward Paul, tossing her hair slightly to get it away from her face. “Wha — ” was as far as she got before she heard the simulated camera click and saw Paul’s phone pointed at her. “No! You asshole, you did NOT just take my picture!” She gestured her paint roller at him. “I have got paint on my face, paint on my hands, I smell like shit—”
“The camera can’t tell!”
“Shut up! You do not get to take my picture when I look like this so you can… I have no idea. Why would you do this, you jerk?” She paused, got no answer, and continued. “Let me see that picture, jerk-face! The only thing that could make it worse is if I have paint in my hair!”
Paul looked over the top of the phone at her. “Oh. Well, then you probably won’t want to see this.”
“I will take my paint-covered hands and rub them all over your face and your phone!”
“Daddy! Why do you have a picture of Mommy looking awful on your phone?”
Paul looked like a guilty person caught in the act. “Sweetie pie, this was a photo I took a long, long time ago, before you were born. This was when I first realized how beautiful your mommy really, really is.”
His three-year-old daughter appeared unconvinced. She appealed to a higher authority. “Mommy! Daddy has a picture of you on his phone and you look like doggie poo poo!”
Peggy walked into the room. “That, honey, is a picture your daddy took of me when we were helping Uncle Clay and Aunt Sue. It was when he realized he loved me as I was, and when he decided he wanted to be married to me—”
“And then you had me!”
“You were a surprise, honey. Yes, that was when he thought that even as awful as I looked—”
“You were beautiful!” Paul protested.
“Hush! Anyway, pumpkin, some day, you will meet somebody, and they will think you are the most beautiful person ever, and they will completely believe it. And you will think you are not pretty, and not at all attractive, and somehow they will convince you otherwise, and—”
At this point Paul grabbed her ears, pulled her face close to his, and kissed her is a long and loving smooch.
“Ewwww!” their daughter exclaimed.