Men, do you want to build up your woman? Here is an important way to do so: tell her she is beautiful. Tell her again. And again. And again, and again, and again. Keep on telling her until she begins to believe you. And don't stop. Because in our culture, where the standards for womanly beauty are so hard to attain and so unkind, and where the messages to a woman that she is imperfect and undesirable are fired like arrows into her soul from the time she is a little girl, far too many women, even those with a model's good looks, believe down inside that they are not beautiful. Tell your woman otherwise. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her she is beautiful to you—because you're the one to whom, above all, she wants to be beautiful. So tell her, both by your words and by the way you relate to her, that you think she is beautiful both outwardly and inwardly. Let her know that you see her at her very core and that you love what you see—her intellect, her personality, her sense of humor, her spirit. And while her outer wrapper is just a part of her beauty, it is an important part, so let her know that you find that part of her attractive, because it matters to her. She wants to know that all of her—body, soul, and spirit—is lovely in your eyes. Set aside the male ideals of breasts and legs and waist and buttocks. Great if your woman has got those things working for her, but every woman has got areas in which her physical appearance shines. Notice them, and call them to her attention. Do you love how her eyes sparkle when she's excited about something? Let her know. Does her smile light up her face? Say so. Do you love the sound of her laughter? Tell her. You can come up with something. Something to build her up. Something that is true and lovely about her and that makes her feel special to hear it from you. Convincing a woman of her beauty is not always easy. Some women bear emotional scars that make it hard for them to receive compliments. Persist. You are a man—so be a man. A real man who bears up under her skepticism and patiently persists. Because healing doesn't happen in a day, or a month, or even a year. It takes time. It is true that, just like some men, some women are simply not ready for a healthy relationship. Some are too self-centered, manipulative, and even cruel to be good relational material. But if yours has lived enough to have shed some of our culture's shallow trappings and developed a bit of character and nobility, then the question is, what kind of man will you be to her? What she needs is for you to see a beauty worth fighting for, a heart that longs to be seen and admired, and a person who needs and deserves to be loved. There is a cost, but the reward is watching your woman's beauty emerge. When she smiles at you, her smile will speak volumes; it is for you only, and nothing can take the place of it. Through the fights, through her testings of your sincerity, through the misunderstandings, through your own self-doubts, through the struggles and discouragement, through the months and years, be to her that man who tells her the truth: that she is beautiful. Stay with it. Because she is beautiful—and she is worth it.
The old swamp spread for several acres among the trees, a dismal, brooding place guarded by fierce tangles of poison ivy. By August it was just a damp hollow filled with beggar's tick. But most of the year the swamp was flooded, a shallow pond steeped in hardwood shadow except where errant sun rays filtered through the canopy and dappled the water. At the most four feet deep, that water was darkened by tannins and the forebodings of schoolboys and their mothers, but nothing more sinister—no alligators, no water moccasins, no bottomless pockets of quicksand. This was, after all, Niles, Michigan, not rural Georgia. But there should have been those things, and I wished there were. Sometimes on the mile-long walk home from grade school, I would stop off at the swamp. At the end of what, with a little imagination, could have passed for a dock, my classmate Delores's older brother kept a raft. The best thing you could say about it was that it fulfilled its purpose, providing a means to go poling among the trees, something I loved to do. But dependable though it was, the raft was an ugly thing, and cumbrous, and tipsy. One wrong step and water would squirt up through a fissure and nail you in the crotch. I knew I could build something better. So one day I did. Heading into the garage with my little toolkit, some pieces of lumber obtained from who knows where, and a head full of ambition and vague plans, I got to work, and by the end of an hour I had produced a surprisingly elegant raft. The fresh blonde planks were evenly cut. There were no awkward overhangs, no bent nails projecting in wild directions, no gnarly, half-rotted logs lashed together loosely with rope and jostling each other like dice in a cup. My raft was trim and tight, a model of economy and streamlining, and I smiled to think how far it surpassed the abomination Delores's brother had built. There was simply no comparison. His was a garbage scow; mine, a yacht. It would be many years before I learned the meaning of the word hubris; otherwise, I might have recognized an example in the making. Somehow, likely with the aid of a rudimentary but serviceable form of transport known as a Little Red Wagon, I hauled my creation the half-mile across the fields to the backside of the swamp, and there, at the end of the dock, I eased my proud new raft into the water next to the ugly old one. It floated beautifully. My hard work had paid off. My raft was a dream, a cruise ship among swamp craft, ready to embark on its maiden voyage. And I was its captain. Me, Bob, builder of ships. Confidently I stepped aboard, and my raft, with the instant responsiveness one expects in a marvel of precision engineering, sank beneath me in water up to my thighs. It occurred to me that there was a flaw in my design. For all its imperfections, the old raft had one thing going for it that mine didn't: flotation. No one had told me I needed a few big logs to keep my raft afloat. What I had created was, in essence, nothing more than a skid. And while a skid has its uses, it's worthless for poling around a swamp. If I'd thought things through, I might have hunted up Delores's brother and tried to consolidate my skid with his log pile. Then we'd both have had something. As it was, I slogged ashore and walked home, disgusted. Going down with one's ship into two feet of swamp water can have that effect on an attitude. I'm quite sure the older raft simply disintegrated. It was already halfway there. As for mine, I have no idea what happened to it. Maybe an alligator ate it. I don't much care.