I saw the most beautiful girl at the mall this week. I had nicked over during my lunch hour to buy a much-needed belt, and while standing at the checkout, I noticed this stunning 14-year-old hanging around the periphery. It was clear that she was waiting for her mother -- who was working the cash register -- to be done with her task so that she could engage her in conversation.
I'm guessing at her age, of course. She could have been 13; she might have just turned 15. Her dark hair was long and lustrous, her bone structure -- still kissed by a touch of baby-fat roundness -- was flawless (think a young Brooke Shields), and her mouth was a shapely rosebud. She was perfectly groomed and poised, yet not in any way flaunting her beauty.
What struck me about this girl was how closed off to the world she was. My gaze kept stealing over toward her -- we were about 8 feet apart -- and not once did she meet my eyes, give the social half-smile that people often share while waiting together, or acknowledge the presence of any of the customers who were coming and going.
And I wondered: was I seeing stereotypical teenage sullenness? Or has this girl, at her young age, already internalized the message that in order to protect herself, she needs to shut the world out? Has she already been the target of unwanted attention?
This thought made me incredibly sad, and I didn't get a damn thing done the rest of the day.