Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Mistrust of Praise (1)

Marcie was proud. She was proud of her independence and her grit, her will and her self-supported status. She was proud of her red hair and beautiful skin, her near-unflappable happiness and her indomitability. She was strong and she knew her own worth.

But she was internally driven, and the outside world’s positive attention was not always comforting to her. In fact, quite to the contrary, it often made her uneasy to receive praise outside the context of our relationship and our families.

Despite her pride and occasional vanity, Marcie was always hard on herself. What self-praise she allowed for in her life was always tempered by internal doubt, much of it due to an esteem-punishing childhood.

Marcie overcame receiving less recognition for her successes and wonderful qualities than she deserved while she was with me, and soon she was letting my compliments in, becoming quite fond of hearing them. But she was still suspicious of any doting treatises anyone else might offer.

The day she turned that corner with me I remember quite well. It was several months into our relationship. Heretofore, any plaudits or approbations had been met with rolling eyes or a narrow-eyed, wary countenance and a knowing nod, dismissed as blandishments and blarney.

“Suuuuure,” I remember her saying one day as I showered her with my adoration. “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

But her tune changed abruptly one Sunday morning after a hearty breakfast and a very, very rare bottle of Mo√ęt Chandon doled out over several mnimosas.

“Oooph,” I said, smiling down at her as she lay in my lap and looked at the ceiling with her mouth open, licking her lips. She set her flute of mimosa down and grabbed my hand and held it in both of hers, putting it between her breasts and squeezing, wringing it.

“Tell me again,” she said, her eyes wide but still locked on the ceiling, waiting with a smile, her mouth a little open. “Why do you love me so much?”

I chuckled and she looked up in a very stern way, and then pretended she was going to bite my hand, looking wild-eyed at me, tipsy and playful. I got the picture.

“Okay, okay!” I said, leaning down and kissing her lips. “I like you…”

She squealed a little. “Hee heeeeee…”

I proceeded to detail her virtues and delicious vices from her toes to her top, her mind to her mien, her muff to her mop, and everything in between. She listened, sometimes covering her face and kicking her legs, laughing her silent laugh and only meeting my eyes when I paused. I could have continued, but she suddenly stopped me.

“Okay, mister. That’s enough for now,” she said, shutting my mouth with a big, wet kiss. ”I need to get ready for my parents, and you need to get out of the house.”

I may have won the right to shower her with love and sweet nothings, but Marcie was not completely open to glory. When she received little bits and trickles of external appreciation, she became uncomfortable. She never quite accepted public adulation.

When her work environment decided to chime in, lauding her for years of wonderful work and service beyond the call of her position, it could not have come at a worse time.