The Most Interesting Person in the Room
By: Allison Kugel
“Who you were, who you are, and who you will be are three different people.”
In my early twenties I transitioned from self-avowed tomboy to ultra-feminine girly girl, seemingly overnight, thanks to nature taking its course and queuing in to the fact that my appearance brought me attention. My visage not only brought compliments, but also some much-needed pocket money, both during and after college, when I found work as a model. I can even recall on one occasion, literally stopping traffic. No, I’m not kidding. A gentleman stopped his car in the middle of a busy street in Brooklyn to attempt to flirt with me as I was crossing the bustling thoroughfare, bringing the traffic behind him to a mid-afternoon crawl. That was twenty-three years ago. I was twenty-one years old.
When I look back on those years that seem like a lifetime ago, the shell may have been spectacular, but inside, I’m afraid, things were not. Had you asked me who I was back then, I likely would have struggled to answer. Had you asked if I could write, I would have shrugged my shoulders and given you an “I dunno” glance. Younger women in our culture are often conditioned to believe that our value lies in youth and beauty. It’s an unfortunate societal ill that keeps so many young women from developing a richness of character, a boldness of spirit, and from nurturing our most precious abilities.
Shortly after turning thirty, I conducted one of my first interviews as an entertainment journalist, with The View co-host, Joy Behar. Here I was, thinking I was a mature adult, when Joy said to me, “You know, your thirties is a great time to be honest with yourself so that your forties can be wonderful.” I realized that, to her, I was but a child. I was perplexed by her statement then, but I understand it now. It was in my thirties that I began to write professionally, I began to delve into reading, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I started keeping a journal, and I set about the business of getting to know myself, because I had been a virtual stranger to myself in my twenties. It was also in my thirties that I got married, had my son, lost my grandparents, got divorced, and had to pick myself up and dust myself off. Life happened, and it stripped away the varnish and revealed character, humor, creativity, compassion and depth.
In my twenties I gleaned satisfaction from being considered the hottest person in the room. In my mid-thirties, I began to experience a feeling of insecurity at the realization that I will never be twenty-one again and will most likely never be the hottest one in the room. Now, when I enter a room, I am aware that my skin is not quite as flawless, my waist not quite as tiny, and I have a few wrinkles under my belt; not to mention my broken nose (Long story! It involves a six-year old, a Shih Tzu and a toy).
But if you were to ask me how I feel now, my feeling is that I would much rather be the most interesting person in the room.