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Paying attention (01/19/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

After I wrote about how dry things get in the winter — especially skin — I came to work to find that one of my coworkers had given me a tube of hand cream and a tube of lip balm. Great! I thought.

Then the winter really hit, and my hands were dry from handling paper, and my lips were chapped from the brutal winds. I took out my trusty tube of hand cream and lathered up. Then I gave my lips a liberal application, extending my area of attention well outside the lip line.

John came into my office a little while later, talked to me about business for a bit, and as he was leaving asked, “What’s wrong with your lips?”

“What do you mean?” I asked back.

“They are kind of big…and red,” he said.

I quickly grabbed for my purse, but the little compact I carry that has a mirror was stuck shut. I took a tissue from the box on my desk and wiped around the outside of my lips, you know, up towards my nose and down towards my chin. To my horror, the tissue came away red. I thought briefly of Nicole Kidman in “Moulin Rouge” (not that I have delusions about any resemblance other than red-stained handkerchiefs).

I walked quickly to the restroom, where I could see that yes, I had repeated the trick I first tried at age 3, when I smeared my mother’s lipstick (Fire Engine Red) all over my face. How embarrassing! I returned to my desk and found the tube of lip balm. It came with no warning (Watch where you put this, it’s very red!) but sure enough, the stuff in the tube is red, red, red. Now that I know, I like that it gives my lips a little color. Live and learn at any age, I guess.

Thinking over the incident, I found it remarkable that not only have I learned a lesson, but John seems to have, also. It ‘s not an easy thing to tell people that there is something potentially embarrassing about their appearance (fly open, spinach in teeth, something in nose), but if you are married, you do expect that your partner will do so.

Women have an easier time of alerting their husbands that there is a physical aberration needing attention. Could it be in their nature to pay more attention? Could it be being on a constant outlook to make sure your toddlers have their clothes on, or your ten-year-old doesn’t have toilet paper trailing behind him, or your teenage daughter isn’t revealing more than she should?

Men don’t seem to take such things in their partners quite as seriously. “Why didn’t you tell me that shoulder pad was hanging down my back from the neck of my dress?” “I thought it was supposed to look like that?” “Why didn’t you tell me I had two different colored shoes on?” “I thought it was supposed to look like that.” “Why didn’t you tell me I have baby barf all over my shoulder?” “I didn’t want to upset you.”

So I guess I should be happy that John was paying attention. But on the other hand, it does upset my theory that when God gave women wrinkles and saggy skin, He compensated by giving our husbands diminished eyesight. 


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