“This store,” asked the diminutive Filipino woman as I reached for the door at my local Dress Barn, “do they only sell clothes for you, or do they also sell clothes for thin women like me?”
What would you have done? Gotten angry or hurt or insulted? Laughed it off?
I blinked in amazement as the little woman, completely oblivious to her faux pas, waited for my answer. Then I helped her— explaining that this store is divided in two by a wall. She would shop on one side of that wall, I on the other.
I played it serious at the time, but after I got home I thought about that wall which compartmentalizes every Dress Barn shop. That, I realized, was the Great Wall of Pretending. Dress Barn had effectively lobotomized their customer base, severing the visual ties between their skinny customers and their heavier ones. I could shop in relative comfort—trying on clothes and standing in front of mirrors with women who are just as lumpy as I, but never troubled that this dress or that sweater looked better on the lanky blonde than it did on me.
In psychological safety behind the Pretending Wall, I could imagine that everyone had put on a few pounds, just as I had.
Or, let’s take it one further: I could imagine that my short hair, with its hint of gray at the roots, was just as rich and full and sexy as everyone else’s hair. Or that my 60-year-old eyes, hidden behind trifocals, were as keen as a 20-year-old’s.The imagination soars at the possibilities! Used properly, the Wall of Pretending can obscure a trick knee, obliterate a surgical scar, vanquish eczema! Why, we can all look like this!
* * * * *
Don’t we use a Wall of Pretending when looking at what’s on the inside, too? Not satisfied to be ordinary sinners, we imagine ourselves to be kind when we’re really elusive and self-serving; we think our jokes are merely clever when they’re downright caustic. We hold onto the misconception that we love with the love of Christ; but in our self-delusion, we sometimes fail to see that what parades as charity is actually a desire for personal aggrandizement.
That’s what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for. Through a good examination of conscience, God—like Ty Pennington on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—calls your name, shouts out, “Tear Down That Wall!!”
And the Wall of Pretending crashes around us, exposing the lumps and bumps, giving us the impetus to fix what needs fixing.