It may have been meant as a compliment, but it failed to register as a positive sign for a woman on her way to her first blind date in years.
"You look good," my friend said, peering at me through her car window as we dropped our kids off at school. "You're wearing makeup!"
Not exactly music to the ears of a woman trying hard to pull off that natural beauty thing . . . to convince a guy who's never seen her before that she rolls out of bed looking like Tyra Banks each day; that he's getting the pure, unadorned package, rather than the version that took two hours to assemble that morning.
I'm not exactly an expert on blind dates, having had only a handful in the five years since I landed among the ranks of middle-aged singles. But that's enough to understand why so many folks regard blind dates with about as much enthusiasm as they look forward to root canal surgery.
There's the primping and prepping that's required to live up to whatever advance billing you've received.
"She's gorgeous. Trust me," I once heard a friend promise my prospective date over the phone. I glanced in the mirror and noticed gray hairs I'd never seen, lines in my face that hadn't been there before and the beginnings of a double chin. And I knew that "gorgeous" would require a trip to the hairdresser, a shopping spree and skin care treatments too torturous to describe.
There's the uncertainty over whether your date will be worth the trouble at all . . . whether the "good sense of humor" that your friend raved about will be accompanied by a laugh that sounds like a snorting pig, or if his "strong moral values" will rule out a glass of wine with your meal.
There's the potential for blunders, like the time I approached a handsome fellow in a restaurant lobby, sure he fit the description my friend had provided. I introduced myself brightly and took his hand--just as his wife emerged from the restroom and shot me a look mean enough to curl my painstakingly straightened hair.
Turns out my date was the disheveled-looking guy sitting nearby, hunched over one of those books from the "Men Are From Mars . . . " series.
And then there's the possibility that even the best preparations will fall flat, as they did for me that day I was upstaged by a legendary beauty queen.
I'd spent hours trying on clothes and fussing over my hair, and I felt like a million bucks when I showed up at the restaurant for Sunday brunch. My date was handsome and charming and our conversation was picking up steam when I glanced over his shoulder and noticed, a table away, the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.
Her face looked familiar, and whispers among the waiters told me why: It was Vanessa Williams, singer, dancer, actress and a Miss America we'll never forget.
My date was polite enough not to gawk (unlike every other man in the place), but he couldn't help stealing glances at her from time to time. And neither could I. She was stunningly, mesmerizingly beautiful, so pretty that she made every other woman in the place look plain.
Suddenly my million bucks of appeal felt as paltry as if I'd stacked my money up next to Bill Gates'.
I threw in the towel. What's the point? I get as gorgeous as I'll ever be, and Miss America waltzes in to steal the day.
I know people who love the blind-dating routine--who trust their friends to pick winners, who aim for a good time and even enjoy the buildup and anticipation involved.
Maybe it's a skill that experience helps you develop . . . do enough blind dates and you learn to relax; the pressure comes off.
Or maybe it's like skydiving or mountain climbing, and appeals to the risk-takers among us, those attracted by the lure of the unknown, while folks like me are destined to blunder through arranged dates feeling witless and afraid.
I suppose the key is to be comfortable enough with who you are that you can resist the lure to re-create yourself as the person you'd like to be. But then how often do we get that chance? What a waste it seems to opt for truth over beauty.
Just think of yourself, a friend told me, as the floor model he's getting to see. All assembled, properly adorned, polished and gleaming, like on the showroom floor.
The version he might wind up taking home will require a little work. But if all goes well, he'll like it too much--even when the newness wears off--to even think of taking it back.