By Lisa Messinger
Let me tell you about Mary*. After a few 30-minute eyebrow waxing appointments with aesthetician extraordinaire, Mary in a salon chain in the nearby mall, I was almost sure Mary could have been my long-lost daughter.
Twenty-four-year-old Mary was born about two years after my husband and I started dating. She looked exactly like a young Rachael Ray and inexplicably like a mix of me, my husband and many close members of our Rachael Ray-like family. To boot, she had Ray's and, therefore, my unbelievably warm actor husband's impossibly effervescent and down-to-earth, magnetic personality, the type of kindness which, fortunately, I have been complimented for as well.
Though I have met many children and young people through my personal life, as well as during years as a reporter, I have never thought anyone to be my long-lost daughter, or, more accurately, a person who could have been my daughter and, most importantly, who I would have wanted to be my daughter.
There is something about Mary.
She is not a lawyer. She is not a doctor. She does not have a master's in English literature. She had not written a book as I had by age 24.
She is Mary.
She is, quite frankly, one of the best people I have ever met.
She is sweet beyond belief.
She is intelligent in a real way, not a flashy, showy, I-know-it-all way. In a common sense way you barely ever see, but is the most important of all.
She is thoughtful.
She is conscientious.
She is responsible.
She is ambitious.
She has a smile that could melt the coldest heart.
Warmth and kindness ooze from her. And self-deprecating humor, too.
She has occasional problems and doubts and those make her even more charming.
Never before had I known what it was I would want if I had a daughter.
I know what unfortunately I often have observed: Parents pushing, pushing, pushing. Nothing is good enough. How much will you make? Who will you marry? Where will you live? What kind of car do you have and what is it that you'll be leasing next, is it the BMW 335i Sedan, oh, wow, no, right, it is the 550i Gran Turismo!
I don't know what Mary drives. But I have come to know what drives her. Being a good person. Suddenly, through knowing her, I knew what I would be thrilled with if a hypothetical child of mine turned out like. It reminded me of what I have always loved about my husband, the husband whose daily acts of kindness still continue to surprise me because, after a few decades, they are still many multiple acts of kindness seven days a week, every week, of every month, of every year.
But then there's Mary's Facebook page.
She had told me she was on Facebook. Not wanting to bother her on her smartphone, I looked her up to message her to let her know of a salon owner who had wanted to meet her.
Mary's Facebook photo didn't do her justice, just as she had mentioned her boyfriend who drove up to Los Angeles almost daily from San Diego to get a glimpse of her recently told her. Besides, instead of Rachael Ray dimply cute and curvy, she looked somehow much more purposely curvy in a leopard print tank top and come hither stare, pushing her bedroom hair half up and half down.
The music of Reel Big Fish, the film "The Hangover," the TV series "Jersey Shore" and her 372 friends, what did this tell me about Mary? Nothing. I would have thought just a run-of-the-mill cute kid, looking for a little fun.
After getting to know Mary at that point for only about 90 minutes over three jammed-with-talking occasions, and then reading her stats and seeing her pics on Facebook, I realized what social media accounts often yield: Nothing. Nothing on that page reflected the Mary I knew, who, as of Appointment One, I had been floored by.
Have you ever taken inventory of your online self and determined if he or she is as special as you are? My experience with Mary made me realize that's something we should all do.
In cyberspace, not only may we not recognize our long-lost friends because of their much more current wrinkles and hair-dos, but, surprisingly, there's a good chance we also won't recognize even our new friends if we've been lucky enough to get to know them first in the real world.
*Names have been changed.
Lisa Messinger has a graduate certificate in Strategic Communication Management from Purdue University and is a contracted blogger for the university's Master of Science in Communication program. She is a longtime columnist at Creators Syndicate and before that Copley News Service and a manager of editorial quality assurance within iHeartMedia, Inc. She has won multiple national first-place writing awards and is the author of seven nonfiction books, including "My Thin Excuse: Understanding, Recognizing, and Overcoming Eating Disorders" with Merle Cantor Goldberg, LCSW. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.