Missed Connection: The Beauty of Mediterra, at Valentine’s Day Dinner

I just have to say it. Not only are you beautiful, but you’re worth more. Your face is round like the setting moon, and glows, too. You would be called “yellow” by my grandpa’s dad, but it looks creamy on you. Your hair hung down from the perfect part, and it said, “I don’t care, but I’m cared for. See where I started? How straight it is? That’s why I hang loose.”

We both wore black last night at Mediterra restaurant where we met on Valentine’s Night. I had just finished draping my scarves the way I had them in the living room mirror at home, and was washing my hands. A lady had just come in; my color, but in a muted red dress. I wouldn’t look at her after the first glance, and really, I never saw her. Just her mirror image.

The mirror showed a flabless, middle-aged behind, and a dress being smoothed down over it by hands that worked with all the efficiency of a mother combing her six-year-old son’s wet hair just before the bus comes to pick him up for the White House Tour field trip. When she left, I mentally exhaled. She was my mother’s age. I wondered who the president could be that made those hands so serious.

Then, you came in. I don’t remember seeing you come in, because I was in an American bathroom stall which puts you in mind of a dairy cow, with all its brushed stainless steel, and no privacy. The door was between us. When I came out, I was aware of another figure at the leftmost sink in the sink part of the three-stall bathroom, but I was there to fix my hijab. Not to make conversation with people my mom’s age who will never greet me as my mom greets strangers.

I continued to the sink, and after I had washed my hands, I had a good look at my hijab. The layers of silver-sequined sun-yellow were lining up as well as could be expected, making concentric revolutions like a snail’s shell over the rhinestoned white lycra under scarf. After all, it was Valentine’s Day, and I was out to dinner with my valentine. Out of the corner of my eye, standing in the place where she of the red dress had stood, a new energy was also moving. Also fixing, but more slowly. When I saw in my peripheral vision as I looked at myself a pretty young woman, I then looked at you in real time, investigating and verifying what I had seen in the mirror, turning away from your mirror image, and mine, too. I was taken aback.

The first thought from my mind came to my lips unchecked. “You are beautiful.”

The silence that hung in the air pulled me around to face you, to look again. To re-spect. For a moment, when you were quiet, but your face was searching, I wondered if I had embarrassed myself. But yours is not the first face I’ve seen, so I knew that you were not searching me, but yourself. You didn’t know what to say, so I said, “I saw your reflection when I looked up from washing my hands, and for a second, I didn’t realize that there was a real person there — I had to look again!”

I didn’t feel the need to validate, qualify. But I know that facts about we, the young, female people, are not stated unless someone wants something from us. I am 26. I am also new to truth in beauty. I wanted you to know that you’re not on the spot, you don’t have to throw out a blurb. If I surprised myself by taking a chance in speaking positivity to a stranger, you surprised me.

“That is so kind. Thank you. I- That is so kind.”

“Of course,” I said gently, happy to be back at the sink, my hands moving again under the water, and you moving toward the stalls. I had not wanted to make you feel still, so at a loss, even for words.