I’ve always been fascinated by women who carry themselves with a seemingly effortless grace and elegance. As a little girl I would be drawn to these classy, not overly done up, but not just thrown together type women. Whether at church on a Sunday morning, walking through the grocery store with my mom, or on vacation somewhere hot and sunny with my family, my eyes were always drawn to these women as they passed by. They seemed confident, yet approachable and friendly. They took care of themselves, but weren’t over-the-top done up. To be honest, even to this day women like this capture my attention.
My husband, Jeff, and I started dating the summer of 1997 when I was 17 years old. He was 22, and had just returned from 3 years away at school in Portland, Oregon. He was charming, handsome, worked at a bank, and was full of self-assurance about the man he wanted to become. I was insecure, socially awkward and, to be honest, was still a rather immature high-school student. I went with him one Sunday afternoon to a backyard BBQ that one of his co-workers was having. It was one of a small handful of times in my life that I was entering into a social situation where I didn’t know anybody.
Intimidated, and totally awkward, I arrived, hoping to ride the arm of my boyfriend the whole time, hiding behind his outgoing, social personality. A few minutes after arriving, we got separated in the crowd, and I was left alone, surrounded by men and women in their 20s and 30s, who seemed to all know each other. (Uugh, I can feel the panic even as I remember this experience).
I was totally out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t even graduated high school yet, and here I was surrounded by bankers. People were really friendly towards me, smiling and introducing themselves, offering me something to eat or drink, but I still felt like such a dork!
And then I spotted her… this beautiful woman, with a smile that lit up the whole room, and gorgeous chestnut brown hair (you know, the kind that can be swept up into a pile on the top of your head and held in place with a pencil, and still look stunning). She had something that I didn’t, and I wanted to be like her.
Have you ever felt like that? I mean, not knowing anything about someone, other than what you see from a distance, and without knowing their story, their issues, their insecurities, or anything about them at all, you recognize a quality they possess that is lacking in your own life, and instantly you identify with them? It’s as if my soul leaps and says, “Pay attention Marisa. That’s it! That’s what that quality looks like in real life! You can learn from this person.”
Perhaps I was less discreet in studying her than I realized, or perhaps she’s just a wonderful woman who sensed that I felt a little out of my league standing alone in the sea of people. Whatever the case, she caught my eye from across the room and motioned for me to come join them.
Smiling, she introduced herself, “You must be Jeff’s girlfriend. It’s so nice to meet you! He talks about you often.” she said, with a wink. It wasn’t just her words, it was her presence – the space she took up in that room – that instantly put me at ease. Here she was, a beautiful, well put-together woman, complimenting me before I even had a chance to say a word.
And yes, I remember her outfit. She wore loose-fitting khaki pants with a fitted, black tee shirt, tucked in revealing a thin, black, patent leather belt with a gold buckle, and black, ballet flats. Three, thin, gold bangles dangled on her wrist, and her ears were embellished with simple, pearl studs. Her makeup was minimal and her eyes twinkled when she spoke. She was one of those women I had seen many times, but now she was here, in person, talking to me.
For all I know she was lonely, rejected, hurt, abandoned, felt unloved, or didn’t like her appearance. I’ll never know. But what I do know is that she left a mark on my life forever, of the type of woman I want to be when I grow up. One that considers others, navigates social situations with grace, and puts people at ease, all while looking effortlessly beautiful.
Remembering her makes me wonder how many women in the years since then, did I miss out on being inspired by, because I was too busy judging them. Thankfully I’m back to being inspired, instead of intimidated, by beautiful women, and am so thankful for each person that God has used to contribute to shaping my sense of style, individuality and who, even if for a moment, displayed authenticity in real life.