You know what I mean. That old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s right up there for me with “time heals all wounds.” Words can and do hurt people, just as the psychic wounds we experience leave behind scars that never quite go away.
In between working on other projects and watching GOT and Sherlock, I’ve been reading some of your comments and discussion about Armitage and quotes in which he has expressed discomfort with his physical appearance and voice.
So much sticks with us from our formative years, including a lot we’d just as soon leave well behind. As a shy, sensitive child who wore glasses, and glasses that grew thicker and thicker with each passing year, I know what it is like to be the person on the outside looking in, feeling like an oddball, thinking that virtually everything about my appearance was less than it should be.
A photo of a young RA showing how wide he can open that mouth, an ability that has come in handy in his acting career. (courtesy of RAnet)
I was too pale, my nose was distressingly wide, lips, too thin, teeth, not white enough, lashes long but too fair, forehead too high . . . every year I wanted to hide my schoolday photo and every year my mom would put it on display anyway. I wonder if Richard every wanted to do that with some of his photos from back in the day?
I wanted to fit in, to belong. So did Richard, the tall beanpole with the big nose, who had to bend down to be part of hte conversation, who felt like the odd man out. Don’t we all want that, to belong? And often we prove to be our own harshest critics as well. In the midst of our self consciousness, all our perceived faults leap out at us.
(courtesy of RANet)
Over the years I was teased and bullied, called “four eyes” and “ugly” and a crybaby because I was too sensitive at times and I was wounded by their words. But thank goodness there were also people who loved me and believed in me and encouraged me along the way–family members and family friends and teachers and others. Thank goodness for the people in Richard’s life who saw all the potential in this bright, bookish, shy, sensitive, sweet-natured lad.
Obviously, I didn’t grow up to be a supermodel but I turned out OK, looks-wise ( having discovered the wonders of eyeliner, mascara and lippie). And I like to think I have other worthy qualities. Once more I thank God I wasn’t brainwashed as a child a la Toddlers & Tiaras to believe my physical appearance was the single most important thing in my life. I was encouraged to develop my mind and talents and imagination, as Richard seems to have been encouraged to do.
Richard, of course, turned out to be far, far more than OK, as he grew into those distinctive good looks that seemed odd to him compared with other blokes. That deep voice with its equally distinctive qualities is now one of his greatest assets as an actor.
Still, the hurtful words from so long ago still stick with me, tucked into the recesses of my psyche. I have dreams from time to time that take me back to those painful days. Words do hurt; they wound us in ways physical blows do not. I am well into middle age and yet, sometimes, I still feel like the awkward adolescent with her thick-lensed glasses, fearful of saying or doing the wrong thing. And I suspect that Richard still has his moments when he feels like that giraffe in the room, stuck with an over-sized hooter that leads to lots of teasing. That decade of struggle before things really began to happen for him in his career can’t have helped his self-image at times.
Another old saying: “Living well is the best revenge.” Richard is pursuing his dreams and achieving them; he grows steadily in his acting abilities and remains a modest and grounded gentleman as his star ascends. And he certainly grew into a beautiful swan, didn’t he? I would call that living well. What’s that other saying? He who laughs last laughs best?
I’m thinking Richard will have the last laugh. And I hope it’s a deep, rich, lovely belly laugh, joyous and yet, never mean-spirited. The laugh of a wise, witty and wonderful man.
Because the pain others put us through can be channeled in ways that make us better. Better actors. Better writers. Better teachers, friends, neighbors. Better human beings.
He’s said he tries to make his heroic characters the better man he himself would like to be.
However, I think aspiring to be a man like Richard Armitage himself is a pretty worthwhile goal.