You look well

Over the past week or so I have had people saying “You look well” which people have been saying all year, and then they go on to say “better than the last time I saw you“. This threw me a bit. Had I not looked well when they last said I looked well (so do I really look well now or are they just being nice)? Or is it just different shades of looking well?

In fact I had used “You’re looking well, you can’t be ill.” as the title of a piece I had been asked to write for The Griffen, my old school old boys magazine. They only wanted a short piece so I thought that if I gave them every seventieth word from this blog that would be about the right length – readers could then have fun re-arranging the words to make meaningful sentences.

So how did I look in the summer? I guess that after chemo and before we went off on our northern excursion  I may have been looking somewhat tired and of course I was thinner on top and around the chin but now my beard has started to return (not quite enough to need a trim, but getting there). While quite a few people said that being relatively beardless made me look younger, that might not have been the whole picture (I didn’t believe them anyway). I think I prefer to look less younger and more well, if you will pardon the expression.

Perception is all. Well maybe not all but certainly significant. When I started work at the NEB it was clear that there were at least three different perceptions of it – the vision of the politicians who had set it up and which remained the perception of the far left even though it had changed as it grew, then there was the perception of the far right who regarded it as something of a bête noire and finally there was the reality of what it really was like which was somewhere between the two and over a bit.

Similarly there is the perception of what people think I ought to look like (and when that doesn’t match up with how I do look then it’s ‘You look well‘ if I am not as bad as expected, or a polite silence if I look worse), then there is my perception of how I look (based on how I feel rather than studying my image in the mirror) and finally there is the reality of the numbers from all those blood tests. The challenge in both cases  is reconciling those different perceptions and reality and maybe even adjusting the reality to take account.

So how do I look? Better or worse? Does it matter?



3 thoughts on “You look well

  1. Perhaps we should be asking people how they feel instead of telling them how they feel. But in truth I don’t think it would make much difference because I know I say I am well to the casual asker even if I am not. I figure it is just a way of acknowledging me and they don’t really want to know the particulars of me not feeling well.
    Neither of us have brought any clarity methinks.


    1. Actually it is quite nice to be told that you look well, and the standard British response to “How are you?” is “Fine, how are you?” even if you are suffering some major disease or are on a trolley outside the operating theatre.


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