If you know me personally and see me regularly, maybe you shouldn’t read this post. If you do read it, you’d better not do anything weird the next time you see me. Don’t look at me more closely, don’t analyze my hair or make-up, and if you dare try to give me some lame, esteem-boosting compliment that sounds even the slightest bit fake to me, I will hurt you. I am fast, flexible and strong and I can kick you in the head. Don’t test me.
Okay. Brace yourself. I’m about to let you inside my head.
I am not one of the Beautiful People. I presume I’m not frighteningly hideous, but there are occasionally days when I’m sure people are thinking, “Get back into hiding, Quasimodo. The public is not ready for you!”
Next layer: I live in this paradoxical reality of loving being on-stage, but wishing I was invisible when I’m up there. I really and truly aim for invisibility. I know I’m in no danger of distracting the audience with my radiant beauty, but nor do I want to be a distraction at the opposite end of that spectrum. So I pick clothes that won’t stand out too much and make-up that is subtle enough so people won’t think, “Who is she kidding?”
I am 36 years old and I have basically spent 36 years wishing I was prettier. That sounds so stupidly vain and egocentric and pitiful and cliché. Everyone knows that women feel this way. Everyone knows that we all have features that we wish were smaller/bigger/straighter/fuller/curvier/firmer/perkier/cuter/brighter etc. We know it, and yet we still process it through a filter that tells us everyone else is fine the way they are but we truly deserve the self-incrimination. We see the Beautiful People around us complaining about their big nose or flabby thighs or asymmetrical eyebrows and we think it’s false humility or compliment-fishing. Or they’re somehow trying to make us uggos feel better about our own blatant shortcomings. Hearing Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson or Emma Watson discuss their “flaws” does not make us go through the following mental process: “They are beautiful but they think they are ugly, therefore I must be beautiful even though I think I’m ugly.” No, it makes us roll our eyes. And possibly break into a rousing rendition of “Cry Me A River”.
I am only just starting to realize that when we say things like “every woman feels this way”, it actually does include the Beautiful People. A friend of mine, who is one of the Beautiful People, recently said something about feeling ugly one day and I was completely dumbfounded. What the what? She feels ugly?!?! What is she thinking? How can that be?
And then there was Kevin Costner’s speech at Whitney Houston’s funeral. He talked about how Whitney spent her whole life being afraid that she wasn’t good enough…wasn’t pretty enough. Even when he was trying to convince her to co-star with him in “The Bodyguard”, she was terrified of doing the screen-test. She completely botched her first attempt by piling on too much make-up, which melted right off her face as soon as she stepped into the stage light. Fortunately, they gave her a second chance, and the rest, of course, is history.
Whitney Houston was obviously one of the Beautiful People. And yet, SHE looked in the mirror and seriously didn’t see that? How can that be?
Maybe, just MAYBE, I need to make myself go through this mental process: “They are beautiful but they think they are ugly, therefore I might be beautiful even though I think I’m ugly.” I don’t know if I can do it. I’m quite sure I won’t believe myself.
But here’s what I can do. I can tell my daughters that they’re beautiful. I can tell my nieces that they’re beautiful. I can tell my daughters’ friends and my friends’ daughters that they’re beautiful. And if I tell them often, maybe they will start to believe it.
And that is why I’ve summoned the gumption to post this. Not because I want a flurry of compliments. (Seriously. My foot + your head.) The idea of sounding so needy and putting it on The Internet makes me throw up in my mouth (which is sad because I just had a fabulous Viet Thai lunch date with my husband). I’m writing so that one of two things might happen: A. You will recognize your own thoughts in what you’re reading and you will know you’re normal and you’re prettier than you think you are. Or B. Everything I’m writing sounds completely illogical and bizarre to you (which means you’re probably a man) but now you understand what most women think of themselves and you can go and tell your wife/daughter/granddaughter/sister/friend that she’s beautiful. She may not believe you (despite her thankful response) so tell her again.