Barbara Keeling is appealing…

(Here is a black and white of one of our inturners looking rather poolish.–Oh! Wait!  Inturner?  I meant Lana Turner!)

Greetings from Moscow, oh loveable Literati!

Today’s contest entry in honor of Peggy Dobbs comes from Barbara Keeling, an Oceanside authoress entering our playground for the first time.  She is sure to make a splash!  Please welcome her and behave yourselves!


By Barb Keeling

 Now that I am old, I find my self, at odd moments, allowing what is left of my memory to glance back over the heap of years gone by. This is often a search for previously occurred times of delight.  Those moments often do not linger long in our thoughts, but leave their footprint just the same. I peeked into the past and found an episode that may be worth mentioning as a sample of simple youthful discovery.


I grew up in a small California farm community of about 2000 folks. Our touch with the outside world was from radio, the newspaper and the movie theater news reel. We knew almost “everyone” in town. Life was easy going and not filled with much sophistication. A simple activity could border on a life changing experience.

In 1945 when I was 13, I discovered I was not beautiful. I don’t think I had really thought about it too much, but I was amazed when I did pay attention to that shocking bit of visual realization.

What happened was I had gone off to a moving picture show. I don’t recall what movie I saw, but do remember a really unusual looking girl playing a “beautiful lady” in the film. She made a big impression on me.

The actual discovery of my personal lack of glamor came after I returned home from that movie. I stood in front of the full-length mirror. I looked at myself more seriously.

But I seemed to look okay to me. After all, my hair was curled and looked pretty good. I loved that pleated skirt and sweater I was wearing. My socks had thick rolled down cuffs folded over my Spaulding White Buck Shoes. I was pretty well decked out. All in all I thought I looked really nice, but not like the beautiful movie star lady in the film. I’m not sure what made her look so different from me. I think it was she seemed to have more rounded parts than I did.

She was wearing a bathing suit in the movie. The way it fit her was bothersome. The upper front part of her swimsuit actually didn’t fit very well over her chest. When she walked around, that whole area seemed to bounce up and down like a bunch of jiggle parts. I guess she didn’t realize she just needed to tighten up the shoulder straps to fix that. In fact her swimming suit didn’t cover up her bottom too well either.

Then she was walking around in really high heel shoes. Now that part seemed very odd to me. Why would you be wearing a pair of high heel shoes with your swim outfit?   But no matter how poorly this bathing suit fit her she still looked beautiful to me.

This lovely lady must have been a very important person to the movie makers. They had her doing all sort of things in the film. While she was walking around a swimming pool, some music started and she began to dance going around and around.  She went around so many times and so fast I don’t know why she didn’t fall down. Then suddenly out of nowhere a handsome man in a tuxedo showed up and grabs her and they did the fastest dancing I had ever seen.

Somehow it seemed strange to me, to have a lady in a swimsuit and a man in a tuxedo dancing with her out in the hot sun by a swimming pool. But I guess that is what the moving picture business is all about.  No matter how weird this all seemed. I was happy to have seen her in the movie. To be honest, I didn’t know beautiful ladies like that existed.

After checking myself out in the mirror again I figured it was not likely that I was ever going to look like her and I should not let that bother me.

I began to think of the logic of all this. I was 13 years old and in all my years this was the first beautiful lady I had ever seen.  So, I am guessing there aren’t many of them around. In that case, I shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to be one.

Passing by that day of wonderment, a lot of years have come and gone. Since then, I don’t think I have given much thought to “not being beautiful”. I had always said I would rather have a sense of humor then be beautiful.  That worked out well for me. I am 81 years old and if I had been beautiful, that would be all gone by now. But I swear it’s not too late to have a sense of humor. And I am so glad I still do.

I hope I made you smile today.


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16 thoughts on “Barbara Keeling is appealing…

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Your story struck me right in my own mirror’s reflection of me. I related to your tale on both the beauty issue and the sense of humour trait, but wondered why not both. May be that’s asking too much. Your telling is an archetype of what many young girls at the point of puberty and women later in their lives experience, yet your words were very personal and vulnerable which kept me engaged throughout. Thank you for your well told life’s experience of yourself.

    • barbkeeling says:

      Thank you for your nice comments. Glad you enjoyed the frolic of my story. Yes, being beautiful and to have a sense of humor would be dandy. I am happy to have the humor still with me.

  2. Diane Cresswell says:

    Fantastic Barb…written so well on the perception of beauty. I remember those days but it was the mid-50s for me and seeing the glamour of those on the big screens took my breath away. Then I went home and didn’t want to look in the mirror. I still don’t today unless its for putting on makeup. Love the telling of a simple perception that held its ground and is beautiful all on its own. Great story.

  3. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    You did. From a girl that felt “ugly” because I didn’t look like Cinderella (yeah, way to go with helping impressionable little girls with self-image there, Uncle Walt), you made me smile. Welcome to our playground, Barbara <3

  4. Ken Weene says:

    Funny, poignant, and so very real. I guess most of us are old enough to remember innocence. That’s one of the things kids today have lost. They come out of the womb either made-up for glamor or on steroids for sports.

  5. Miryam says:

    Welcome Barb! Your story is beautifully written & reader-friendly. I could envision it all. Thanks for joining us on the playground.

  6. barbkeeling says:

    Thank you all for letting me play in your yard. It is such fun to be part of your neighborhood. Appreciate your support, interest and comments.

  7. Michael Stang says:

    I never figured out the screen glamour thing either. Too busy gawking at the parts of the swimsuit that didn’t fit right. I watched a Sinatra movie back then, once. Tried to walk like that for a week but essentially returned to my own gate. Your straight forward writing is a comfort as I read through the years. Well done and welcome to the playground.

  8. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    I like the way your confession tale starts off right away, the first sentence, telling readers exactly what to expect.”Now that I am old, I find myself, at odd moments, allowing what is left of my memories to glance over the heap of years gone by.”

  9. Beverly Lucey says:

    I don’t think the story needs the set up you’ve given it. It comes alive at the start of the third paragraph. Granted, there’s a tidiness to starting in the present, going back, and bringing it on home at the end. But the joy of discovering a sense of humor and winding up satisfied, is more than enough as is. Thirteen is such a desperate age, the mirror is rarely our friend, yet the idea of a Saturday matinee putting the narrator onto the road of self-acceptance instead of wailing and wanting a nose job, makes me think the first two paragraphs disposable.

    • barbkeeling says:

      Beverly, thank you so much for your input. I see what you are saying….very good point. think those first two paragraphs could easily be among the “missing”. Appreciate your help.

      • Beverly Lucey says:

        I’m relieved. I’m used to writing groups that have a certain, shall we say ‘bluntness’, but this site seems mostly supportive, and I was reluctant to be a public damper. But I’m convinced that ” In 1945 when I was 13, I discovered I was not beautiful.” Is a killer opening line.

        • barbkeeling says:

          I just rearead that and you are so right….all the this and that said before does not have that same whamoooo….as “in 1945 when I was…

  10. Tiffany Monique says:

    I like the way you capture your 13-year old innocent voice and seamlessly integrate it with your “older & wiser” self. The denial of “beauty” is clearly presented (with a beautiful awkwardness only available to a 13yo), but you handle it with that kind of “awww” sound that a 13yo would make when she can’t get candy. A simple acceptance. Makes me remember when I was that age. Well written and bittersweet. I really like this submission.

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