Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Beauty

Millie writes:

Like anyone who was ever a little girl, I want to be beautiful.

My mom (who always tried to be kind when my dad wasn't looking) once comforted me when I was a child by telling me that I was one of those people who don't look right in photographs – that I didn't look the same if I wasn't moving. My first boyfriend told my best friend while we were dating, “I love her body, but I can't stand her face.” (Can you believe my friend didn't pass that little tidbit on until after I broke up with the boyfriend?)

If having non-standard features wasn't enough, I'm also a fat woman. (It makes Lance flinch when I say that, like he's watching me stab myself, but to me “fat” is just an adjective. “Zaftig” and “fluffy” and “big” mean “fat.” Why not just say it?) To most people, being fat is the very worst fate they can imagine. Public ridicule of fat people is still okay; I'm embarrassed to recall that once I got into an argument with a bunch of Craigslist trolls about whether or not a fat woman (who might, after all, be their favorite teacher or their mother or their boss) could conceivably have any value to society. The unanimous consensus was that if they didn't want to bang her, she might as well be dead. So much for society.

(By the way, my cholesterol is probably lower than yours and my arthritis is inherited from my 98-pound mother.)

I wasn't fat until I hit my 20s. I was raised in the Projects and went to ghetto schools, and since I developed early I got called fat so often that I absorbed that belief with my multiplication tables. When I did get fat it felt pretty natural, to tell you the truth. What was the big deal?

Anyway, never having added “beauty” to my mental resume, I concentrated on other things. I am smart, and funny, and extremely nurturing (which doesn't always go with “smart” and “funny”). I'm bouncy and enthusiastic and organized and skilled in a wide range of areas. These things have given me an air of confidence that tends to confound people who can't believe I'm putting myself out there. I mean, why would an ugly fat woman WANT to shop for negligees, have a baby, swim laps, speak in public or dance? It confuses people that I'm not in a corner covered in shame.

The foregoing is not a cry for sympathy. It's a statement of fact, as if you were writing, “My eyes are brown” or “my hair is short” or “I am tone-deaf.” Most of the time I don't even think about it, because goofy-looking and overweight are not things that matter much to me.

They do matter sometimes, though. I love clothes, and like most other women I long for fluffy red cashmere sweaters in the fall and gauzy white peasant blouses in the summer. I get polyester double-knit tunics in colors from the planet Krypton no matter what the season, because designers don't make beautiful clothes in my size. Anything over size 12 apparently falls into the “slipcover” category. It matters, too, when I go somewhere in my official capacity as Someone's Mother or Someone's Wife. I would really love to be beautiful then. My people love me as I am, but I'm always so sorry to embarrass them by not being a Cosmo Woman.

There are a few things I like about myself. I love my eyes. I like my boobs (even though they're a lot lower down than they used to be). I think my hair is a pretty color and I am excited about the silver streaks that are coming into it. I put on makeup every day of my life – foundation, eyeliner, shadow, mascara, blusher, lipstick, gloss) because that's what my mother did so that's how women DO. I like being clean and well-groomed; beyond that I just don't usually think about it very much. I think about things like writing and gardening and chickens and my family and sex.

Lance thinks I'm beautiful. I don't understand why, but he really, sincerely thinks so. Partly I think it's because when he looks at me he sees the 19-year-old with waist-length gold hair who could wear a 2-piece swimsuit. Partly I think it's because we're both extremely sensual and he sees me through the eyes of how I make him feel and how I express the way I feel.

Sometimes, though . . . sometimes I catch sight of myself in a mirror or a window and I can see it. Sometimes I'll be wearing a dress that makes me look – just for a moment - curvy and delicious instead of like the Michelin Tire Man. Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of myself laughing and see how someone who eats life by the handfuls could be more attractive than someone who is forever reining themselves in. Sometimes I'll walk into a room and watch my husband's eyes narrow and his lips turn up at the corners when he sees me.

Sometimes, I'm beautiful. It could be that we all are.


  1. You ARE beautiful. Who give a *(&* about sizes or boobs or hair color. The boobs sag, sizes are relative, and eventually even our hair falls out!

    But the soul - - -

    Your soul is magnificent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. This is perhaps my favorite entry you've done. I think very few people out there think of themselves as beautiful until they've seen themselves through another's eyes, but it's important for us all to remember that that beauty has always been there.


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