It was only recently that I learned my first-ever, heavy-duty girlfriend had died of lung cancer last year. Like all deaths of contemporaries, there was the irrational jolt of thinking that, since she was part of my historical fabric, things had gotten out of whack ... I should die first because she was part of my fabric. It was fitting that I should die first. Irrational, as I say. Our romance, come and gone, occurred over 50 years ago.
But stumbling across this event that had passed my by made me recall that I had once asked a mutual acquaintance what it was about me that this young woman liked. And the acquaintance replied without further explication, "your back."
The answer had struck me as curious then and continues to strike me as somehow strange. I never did verify the information, ask my romantic partner if it were true.
How could someone like me for my back when I spent so much of my time trying to improve my front -- my looks, words, actions ... all that stuff I could see and assess in a mirror. I couldn't see my back, but someone else could. How could I take credit or preen or feel proud of myself for what was unseen? Answer: I couldn't.
And since I have had a hard enough time being satisfied or proud of what was in front of me during my life, it was all doubly-confounding ... what the hell was back there that was magnetic or admirable or worth praising? No matter how fast I spun around, I would never be able to see and assess and perhaps feel better about myself. Maybe if I knew, I would be more at ease, more self-confident, more 'happy like everyone else.'
And then I wondered if everyone didn't have the same difficulty -- being in possession, so to speak, of what could never be possessed. It was like having money, but you couldn't put your hands on it or put it to any use.
Working so hard to manufacture and manicure a good front only to find that it is your back that excites applause and a welcome mat ... how weird.