Good artists, I’m told, know what  perspective is. I don’t know much about horizons and lines doing the right things on a page, even though I had my first acrylics painting lesson recently and found it completely exhilarating. But back to perspective: I know that everyone needs it, more than only graphic artists.

Last week one day, spring finally, finally arriving, I happily wore my new shoes that Michelle had talked me into buying. It was liberation to put away the winter boots and wear something light. As I walked down the sidewalk, I noticed a woman scowling at my shoes. My cute, brown shoes didn’t deserve a look like that. In a flash, I decided that she was narrowing her eyes at them because she was jealous, not because she thought they were ugly or unseasonable. Perspective.

The next day a mother interrupted my English lesson by knocking and handing a huge orange to us, her two children and me. A single orange, in the middle of doing a worksheet.   I found a knife to peel it, and the children and I ate the segments, dripping and squirting, between questions about spring. I remembered the stories of women who got one orange for Christmas when they were girls in communist Poland. They savored just the fragrance for several days before peeling it.

Perspective. Contrast. Color.

An artist needs an accurate way of seeing things. Not only for a project on a canvas, but for the whole of life.

I’m learning, slowly. That crooked lines and dark colors aren’t the whole picture. That the person next to me sees something differently from me because of where she’s standing, not because her eyes don’t work.  That failure and coloring outside the lines is not fatal but a sign of life.

To the Women I Saw Yesterday

Dear Women on the Street,

I walked past you this morning, sun shining and snow glittering. I was wearing my long down-filled coat, with the hood up, practically wrapped up in a blanket. I want to ask you why you scowled at me, raking me over with your eyes–eyes filled with what seemed to be contempt and disdain and disapproval.

I don’t get it.

Was it the tall hood that looks sort of like an astronaut? But lots of other ladies use their hoods too.

No, mine isn’t fur or even fur-lined. Was it the unfashionable tan color you disapproved of?

And I don’t wear mascara or lip-stick, but surely I wasn’t so haggard-looking that my un-painted face shocked you into scowling.

I was smiling. Was that it? The sun was shining, and I was happy thinking about the day and what I had to do before hosting my sister’s baby shower. Was it the smile that shocked you?

Would it be too much to ask for you to smile back? Yeah, I thought so.

You know, some days it gets to be Too Much. Some days I think I’ve had it with women who obsess about their hair and skin and nails and figure and I want to say CAN WE PLEASE JUST BE? Can we just relax and say I’m ok–you’re ok. You’re ok, just the way God made you, and I don’t have to prove anything, and you don’t either.

This class-consciousness, this taboo list of what you can wear or not wear because of what year it was fashionable, this caste system that has untouchables and upper-caste, I’m sick of it. Sick of the favoritism and elitism and snobbery. Sick of the capriciousness and pressure to perform. Is that why you can’t smile–you’re worn out from it?

So I opt out of it, and I’m happy to be out of the race. I probably don’t care enough about clothes and how I look, but I aim to be clean, smell nice, and dress modestly. Which is a whole other subject, and we won’t get into that here.

But please, please, please, if the sun shines and the snow is like glitter, please smile. Just try to eek out a little pleasure from the spires stretching into the sky and children on sleds.

I know it’s a sad world, and we cry when we see the news about children being shot, and our friends are ill, and our hearts are smashed into bits for reasons that no one knows. I know, I know, and it’s ok to cry.

And I know it’s different in this country, when you used to be able to curry favor from the police if you told them about an insurrectionist like me who didn’t do everything that everyone else did.

But today is today! The sun is shining! I’m walking past you and I’m not SO ugly!

I beg you, ladies, please smile back at me! It would make me so happy.