A couple of young art collectors recently visited my studio and bought one of my paintings. While the husband helped me package up the painting for transport to their chi-chi abode on the other side of town, the wife strolled around my loft looking at stuff on the walls. Eventually she spotted a small photo of me in my late 20's, posing for a publicity shot for an art show.
"Is that you?" she said.
"Yes," I said.
"You were beautiful when you were young!" she said. "You used to look like a model!"
Were? Used to?
The high spirits I'd been enjoying due to selling the painting crashed and burned in my head. But I knew the young art collector didn't mean to be unkind. She was merely stating the facts as she saw them. Plus, these people were adoring fans who would probably buy more of my paintings. So I put on a happy smile and said "Thank you!"
The next day I went out and bought some very-expensive face cream and makeup.
A few days later I was at an art opening and a young artist walked up to me and said, "I admire the way you way you wear so much makeup for an older woman."
I thought about replying, "Listen, sweetheart, that kind of 'compliment' falls into the same category as 'Only you can pull off wearing that color' and 'You look really good for someone in your condition.' "
I considered barking, "Babycakes, here's a news flash: I don't wear so much makeup in order to be admirable. If I wanted to be admirable I'd run for President of the United States or devote my life to discovering a cure for cancer."
I considered murmuring, "Child, I don't wear so much makeup to be admirable. I wear so much makeup because I want to look like the memory of someone young and beautiful."
But as I gazed at the young artist's upturned face, I decided to respond the way a heroic and pragmatic former supermodel would respond.
I said, "Thank you."