It’s no trick loving someone at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.
You’re really beautiful, the stranger writes.
Honey, I know that you think so, and while I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn’t stake my house on it. Or anything, really.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s really sweet that you think I’m beautiful and very kind of you to say so.
But you’ve never seen me in ratty pajamas with my face red from tears. How I look when I’ve been up all night fighting. How I bring up minor details as inaccuracies. Getting calmer by the minute as you rant and rave.
You haven’t seen me going into what others have called my “therapist” or “lawyer mode.” Where you can tell I’m holding back. Sense the suspicious disconnect between what I’m likely feeling and how I’m acting. My self-control in the face of conflict. An old reflex. One that saved me as a kid from the wrath of a mercurial mother who always needed to be the center of attention. But as an adult, it just infuriates people. Makes them explode.
I’ve never been the reason you drag ass into work the next morning, sleep deprived, still reeling from how little I said compared to how much I clearly felt. And all the things you regret saying to me.
You might think I’m beautiful now, but I haven’t yet spent any time as the villain in your story.
So while it’s a very lovely thing for you to say and one that likely comes from a sincere place of admiration, there’s no way you can know if I’m beautiful yet.
Because you haven’t seen me at my worst.
There’s no way for you to know if I’m really beautiful until you’ve seen me up close. When I’ve been the problem in your path. An obstacle. The thing that pushed you to the edge of your sanity for one terrible moment.
If you’ve been there before, and you can still tell me I’m beautiful after all that, then, sure, I believe you.
But not a moment sooner.
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