I was showing someone in Zambia my ‘tan’ line.
(For me, a tan line just means that I have some small area of skin which has a little less chance of blinding someone with its brightness).
She asked me if many people in America try to get darker skin.
Her: Because here, many people bleach their skin to make it more white.
Human nature. We all think we need to change to be more beautiful. To be lighter. To be darker. To be thinner. To be more muscular.
But there was something about Zambians. In the very low income/village areas I was working, the people don’t wear eyeliner. They don’t have expensive face creams. This girl literally had clumps of dirt in her hair and a few rips in her dress.
But they were beautiful. Entirely beautiful.
We don’t need the tans. Or the bleach.
We need the confidence.
And then, last night, she turned to me and said, “I don’t know what you have or haven’t been eating, but have you lost weight? You’re looking really good.”
The scale at this point would tend to disagree.
Rather vehemently, in fact.
Because my few weeks abroad were filled with many things, but exercise was not one of them. Nor, surprisingly, was a low-carb diet.
And that’s fine. Really it is. Because I’ve also been eating a steady diet of stars. Of the laughter of children. Of the sniffles of the same ones.
I’ve been feasting on thoughts examining my life choices. On reevaluation and recalibration. Of sleeping too little and pushing myself too hard.
I’ve been satiated by the sound of closing chapters that have remained open for too long.
I’ve been snacking on time spent alone. Of sitting and drinking fruit juice and tea and diet coke and black coffee. (Because eating kosher means always asking for the Drink Menu).
I told her that I didn’t think I’d lost weight.
But I thought I’d lost a tightness.
And we spoke about what ‘looking really good’ is determined by.
Because ‘Looking really good’ can definitely correlate with weight or diet or what you have or haven’t been eating.
But it can also correlate with a certain glow you get when you breathe what life is really about.
Because you’d forgotten how good it feels to breathe.
It can correlate with a certain ease you get when you finally see what’s important.
Because you’d forgotten how good it feels to see.
People don’t have to loose weight to look really good. People can be beautiful because of the curve of their hips or the curve of their smile or the curve of their thought processes.
Or the straightness and the honesty with which they speak.
Cheers to all of you really really ridiculously good looking people.
Photography by Rochel Spangenthal