Betty once called me outrageous. We had been wise-cracking, and I said something funny and off-the-cuff, and she laughed, and looked at me with warm, happy eyes, and said, “Jackie, you are outrageous.”
It set me back at the time. To me, “outrageous” was a terrible insult. It was one of those words that described the parts of me I’ve always tried very hard to suffocate. My artsy-fartsy traits. My “head in the clouds” and wearing pajama pants to go grocery shopping, and raising my Millennials with birthday parties where everybody got a prize just for playing games and there was no “winning”. As a kid, I was weird and hugged trees (literally) and wrote stories with happy endings, and loved shoes with strange colors I never saw anyone else wear–without realizing the reason no one else wore them was because they were ugly.
I was not appreciated for my weirdness. I was mocked. Relentlessly teased. Violently bullied.
And so, when Betty, a woman I enduringly admired, looked at me with such a light in her eyes, and called me outrageous, I was shocked. I just tucked the moment away behind a little door in my soul, and left it there, puzzled and a little sad.
It has taken me all this time to realize she wasn’t teasing me. She was loving me. That was the expression on her face at the time, but I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know she could think I’m outrageous, and at the same time, love me for it.
I honestly didn’t know.
That’s another lesson I can add to all the things I’ve learned from Betty.