What does it mean to be “real”?

Published 2:21 pm Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yesterday an old high school friend told me that he has always enjoyed my company because I was so “real.”

What does that mean? Is it a put-down or a come-on?

I don’t have a clue, but I batted my false eyelashes sweetly, straightened my hair piece, checked my make up in his rear view mirror and replied “Why, thank you!”

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My inner voice was shouting “Real WHAT.”  Real ugly, real pretty, real phony – real what, pray tell?  Exactly what does it mean to be real?

If truth be told, the only “real” time of my day is when I wake up in the morning.  Now that’s “real,” and trust me, it’s not pretty.

I have Choctaw blood coursing through my veins (from my great great grandmother on my Daddy’s side), and I’m never really comfortable without my “war paint.”  I paint on my eyebrows before going out to pick up the newspaper, and keep a lipstick in my pocket for regular touch-ups.

The older I get, the longer it takes to look “real,” and it galls me that men get by with so little effort.

But I’m wondering.  Is anyone really “real” these days.  Non-stop advertising assaults us with all kinds of options to cover our blemishes and present a more attractive package to the world.  There are treatments to diminish our flaws, and surgeries to augment our “deficiencies.” 

Brave is the soul who slogs through life without enhancement of some sort.  I think we should declare a national holiday called “Get Real Day” where everyone presents their true selves to the world – warts, halos, and all.  On second thought, that could be pretty scary.

So, what does it really mean to be real? Are our instincts dulled from years of trying to mold ourselves into a package acceptable to our human culture?

Learning to play more, being more open and less pretentious, re-discovering and cultivating a sense of awe and wonder about life, and losing a little self-importance might be the keys to becoming “real.”  I typically wander through life in a constant state of confusion and bumfuzzlement which I guess my friend interpreted as “awestruck.”

So next time you want to compliment someone and can’t find a single thing to admire – just tell them that they are “real.”  It’ll make them feel good until they try to figure out what it means.

  Emily Jones is a retired journalist who lives in Starkville, Mississippi.  She edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at  HYPERLINK “http://www.deludeddiva.com/” t “_blank” www.deludeddiva.com.