Whilst waiting at the car dealer the other day my wife commented on my t-shirt. She bought the t-shirt when she was on holiday in consultation with my eldest kids and I know she likes seeing me wear it which in fact was one of the reasons I put it on. This however is the second time that she has spoken about this particular piece of red clothing and I react to the comment. What am I feeling? I am feeling self-conscious. I am feeling embarrassment perhaps; am I feeling annoyed that she notices? I say to her that I would rather she didn’t comment on the t-shirt again because I feel uncomfortable when she does. I know this puzzles her, which she then tells me and explains that she is just sharing her enjoyment of seeing me in it. I know this too but I am unable to articulate why I feel awkward. I mention that I felt the same when she commented on the state of my elbow the other day. She said my psoriasis was looking better which in fact it was, but I still didn’t like her observations on me.
What is going on here? I think there is something about having the spot light shined on me that I am uncomfortable with. This seems like a contradiction to me. I do not tend to dress like most people, currently I am in a pair of black mountain bike shorts with a black t-shirt with a line of skeletons riding bicycles a present from a Mexican friend. I have been rebelling a bit against dark colours recently and have brought some primary coloured t-shirts and electric blue cycle shorts. Shorts and t-shirts are my standard in the spring/summer/autumn period; in fact I try to stay in shorts until the end of October. I like the air on my hairy legs I suppose. The point is that I don’t look like a normal fifty year old guy (I go to work dressed like this by the way). This has always been the case. As a kid I loved wearing a sports jacket when we went out on Saturday to the shops. As I got older this turned into a double breasted maroon linen jacket with particularly looked good with jeans I thought. At university I would wear cowboy boots and a trilby like hat or sometimes my sports gear which included bright red short shorts and a yellow singlet to class; bare feet was not unusual. Thankfully my first work was at a university so dress code didn’t matter there either. When I did finally have to conform to a dress code I would still wear brightly coloured sometimes “amusing” ties and brightly patterned socks.
It seems obvious to me that I have always wanted people to look at me, and I have always wanted to be considered different (I suspect a desire to be noticed by parents perhaps). At the same time I don’t want to know people are looking at me. I think the problem is one of judgement. If my wife is noticing when my psoriasis is getting better then she is noticing when it is getting worse too and in my head at least therefore she knows when I am not caring for myself. I think I maybe transferring my feeling bad about not looking after myself as well as I could, onto to my wife whose is in fact trying to support me. My wife gets the rough end of the stick; if a friend comments on something about me I would have just said an awkward “thank you” and try to appreciate it for a compliment; often though I will discount the comment; that automatic reaction is hard to avoid.
There was an incident at a school concert once which haunts me I think. I must have been less than ten years old at the time and as part of the concert in which I played recorder, we played and sang “Shalom my friend” at the end. The deputy head told the parents to ask their children what shalom meant. For some reason I think due to do with clarinet lessons, my parents were talking to the deputy head and they brought me into the conversation. My mum then asked me what shalom meant and for the life of me I couldn’t remember and stood there silently. My mum was furious with me for embarrassing her in front of the head teacher; her clever client had failure to perform at the right moment and she let me know if afterwards. I think it is telling that I couldn’t say I didn’t know; I had learnt that it was safer to stay silent.
Does my body recall the “shalom” moment whenever somebody draws attention to me? Perhaps; I think there is also an inability to accept that I deserve praise but I think the real challenge is knowing that people are appreciating me. I try to appreciate the moments I spend with people and try to let them know I appreciate them for spending those times with me and for helping to create those times. I need to learn to be appreciated too.
I do wonder if all this is about love. Am I associating love with being seen? Do people love me when they notice me? Am I able to let people love me then? My brain hurts perhaps this is a case of over thinking something; what do you think?