One spring morning in 2005, I was out enjoying the post-winter warmth on a run. I was feeling terrific. My friend, with her five year-old in the back seat, stopped her car to chat. She mentioned how she had read an article in the paper about an upcoming show I was performing locally. We had some laughs about some of the details, as well as laughed about the picture of me making one of my usual facial expressions.
Suddenly her son leaned forward in his car seat and said with a big grin, “You look like Snape!” My friend’s smile disappeared and her eyes widened as she attempted to shush him to sit back in his car seat. I burst out laughing, and told him he was right. The picture of me in the Valley News with my arms above my head making a long face looked a lot like Snape, the evil professor and Harry Potter’s nemesis. I love the honest feedback of children.
Imagine the horror and embarrassment my friend was feeling as she scrambled to find words. Howling with genuine laughter, I pointed out my Snape-like features to her son. Reminding her that I am the perfect person for this situation, I could see she wasn’t recovering from the cringe-worthy moment. I felt badly for her as she drove away knowing their conversation was about filtering thoughts before you blurt them out because they might hurt someone’s feelings. By the time she reached the end of our road, I am sure she came to her senses and realized that they had averted disaster by having Ole Snape Pierce be the catalyst for the talk about what you say and don’t say, even if it is true. We have all been there with our kids pointing out the pregnant person in the crowd who is clearly not pregnant because the person is elderly or a man.
The most fortunate thing is that I was compared to Snape because most women I know would have a hard time getting over that. As the Low Maintenance Queen, the Conscious Fashion Enemy, and the Righteous Imperfectionist, I can take it and spin it into material. Receiving feedback on my low maintenance style has been going for most of my life.. Droves of girls and women have given me hairstyle opinions, make-up suggestions and fashion tips. I trained under my mother who got the same tips her whole life. She and I joke about how we kindly refrain from giving these women our perspective and suggestions. In my world, when you get behind what you are, life is a lot more fun wearing less constricting clothes, letting my face breathe and understanding that I am too old NOT to have gray hair. Snape was almost the perfect call for me, but he doesn’t have gray hair.
Years have gone by since the initial Snape comment, and I am getting more Snape-like with age. People tell me I look just like my brothers all the time. This should be a compliment, being that they are all handsome guys. However, my brothers don’t have a hint of femininity in their appearance. I keep right up with them as feature creatures– bushy eyebrows, very present nose, beady eyes and a masculine jaw. Over the years, people have said to me, “You look just like your brother. If you were a man, you would be so handsome.” I always thank them with a chuckle to myself. The decades of unsolicited feedback helped me develop tough skin, get darn comfortable with myself and prepare for the next level of feedback from my own kid.
My kids have been feasting on the Snape story for years and share it with their friends regularly. A poor visiting friend is often asked, “Don’t you think my mom looks like Snape?” Even the most outgoing kid goes instantly mute and nervous in such a situation. Sometimes I wonder if I am too resilient to feedback, and fear that my kids won’t develop a sense of limit for what can be said to others outside our family.
One summer day while in the thick of a busy innkeeping stretch, I took a break to slouch on the couch. My 11 year-old daughter was sitting across the room scrutinizing me. “Mom, you look like an old….” There was a pause during which I was getting ready to hear “old woman” but had a flash of wisdom realizing she might just say “old man,” which would be right in line with the way my life had rolled up until that point. My daughter tilted her head, scrunched her eyes and said, “…like an old gorilla.” Just call me Snape. Please.