A friend once told me I have a "sandpapery" personality.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sandpaper is "stiff paper with a rough surface." It's used to make something smooth, to polish a rough surface.
I could take her personality assessment as an insult, but I chose to interpret it as a compliment. In light of our friendship, I'm confident in her choice of words. Sandpapery is definitely a good characteristic.
I asked her to expand her statement, to flesh out her idea.
She told me I was direct; I asked hard questions and told hard truths. I wasn't afraid of honesty, but I communicated with grace. Yet, somehow, I remained abrasive.
Perhaps it is my aura as a whole.
This same friend once gave me a book of erotic poetry entitled Dirty Pretty Things. She claims she didn't know the contents of the book, but she thought the title described me.
I couldn't agree more.
When I think about myself, I think of stylistic details. I think of the cigar box sitting on my desk, holding several ounces of black cherry pipe tobacco. I think of the thrift store flannels and hand-me-down tee-shirts in my closet. I think of the beads and the braids and the matted locks of hair.
I think of the dirty things about me.
Sometimes, when looking in the mirror, I see the pretty things in me. I can see why people would define me as "pretty." But, to me, there is more to beauty than the smoothness of your hair or the curl of your lips.
Beauty is found in the depths of a person. Beauty is wrapped around their core, and it takes time to unravel the masterpiece from within.
There is beauty in my abrasiveness. And part of my rough front is my desire to file away the outward shell so I can get to the meat of a person, so I can see the beauty.
Not everyone will agree with my methods, but I long for the meshing of souls. I long for friendships over piping cups of coffee and deep drags of tobacco. I long for the exchange of ideas and the conflict of interests- the catalyst for new experiences.
The more I think of myself as being sandpapery, the more I realize this characteristic isn't about me. Sandpaper itself is stiff, rough, yet it makes other things smooth, polished. Much like sandpaper, I polish other people, I rough them up to make them smooth.
I make them smooth because I can see their potential for beauty.
When I look in the mirror, I don't see something dirty, and I don't see something pretty; I see a dirty pretty thing.
When I see myself, I see sharp edges and a soft center. I see a flushed face framed by a forest of curls and locks and beads. I see eyes in search of depth and truth and life. I see an individual searching to find beauty in the world, in others, and in herself.
I see sandpaper.