I posted this on Tumblr late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, so I'm backdating to the 17th. I had been thinking about it after seeing the Dove video. Unlike this blog, that I try not to promote, I wouldn't mind people following my Tumblr. But I get no likes or reblogs or people arguing with how stupid my opinions are.
The Dove Video
The Dove video with the sketch artist who draws pictures of women described both by the subject and by a third party…that’s been making the rounds the last couple of days. I’ve read people say it brought them to tears. It certainly made the women in the video cry. I can’t say it wasn’t interesting, because it was interesting to me. The whole process wasn’t there, but the pictures seemed more accurate when people were described by others. It seemed like the artist probably internalized the way people talked and put that into the sketches, because the people actually looked happier in the drawings described by the other person.
But the scenes of the women crying, realizing they didn’t see themselves as being as pretty as others saw them left me cold. Why, why, why are seemingly useful human beings crying over this. So you don’t think you’re pretty? Big fucking deal. A lot of people aren’t pretty, a lot of people don’t fit neatly into the societal standard of beauty. Don’t cry about it, go out and do something useful.
Now don’t get me wrong, I get that beauty as it is defined by society is a commodity and a power. I lump it right up there with all the other useful attributes that humans have, like intelligence, physical strength or good communication and relational skills. It might take a lot of work to get and keep beauty and make it work for you. It’s interesting, though, that most people aren’t crying about how they aren’t those other things. I’m sure we all feel that we wish we were smarter or better, but at the end of the day don’t think it’s within our control to be as talented as we could be, we learn to accept things as they are and work to change what we can.
The bottom line is that I am not beautiful by society’s standards. I am not even considered pretty by society’s standards. I fall short of being truly ugly, but ugly is a word that I think is cute (and I think the word cute is rather ugly), and to me it’s a word that conveys a certain kind of power. There are day where I just embrace the hell out of my ugliness. It’s not anything that anyone has to give me. I’m not pretty. I say that frequently. I don’t cry about the fact that I say that or that I feel that I need to say that. Because, the truth is, of course *I* feel like I’m a lot prettier than others see me. I think I’m smarter than others see me too. I actually think I’m pretty damn valuable. And, it might be really surprising for many people to learn, since I publicly lament not being as kind as I want to be, but I actually think I’m nicer than most people give me credit for.
One thing we all realize fairly early on in our adult lives is that who and what we are attracted to, what we find beautiful, is affected by a lot more than mere aesthetics. We fall for people, and then they define beauty for us. I can call myself ugly because by society’s standards as a middle aged, morbidly obese woman, that’s what I am. I can look at my children and find them absolutely gorgeous to my brain and heart, but I can also pull back and look at them through the lens of current standards of beauty and see where they fall short. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s still a commodity, so I can look at it that way. But because I might say I’m ugly, don’t ever let that fool you into thinking that I don’t actually find the beauty in myself and try and embrace it or keep it just for me my loved ones. And don’t think I don’t have self esteem. Some days I don’t, but that very fact is what helps me evaluate what I’m doing in the world. We all need some, but we don’t need too much of it!
Yes, I wish I were wealthier in the beauty department, but I’m plenty privileged enough. I don’t feel like the truly useful and valuable among us actually worry about it the way many of us might. It kind of makes me sick, in a way because I’d like to feel that transcending this petty crap was possible. But I’m still vain, oh yes I am.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s totally normal and desired in some cultures to be self-deprecating, to not take compliments at face value and to deny them out loud even as you partly internalize them. I may not be good at that, since I like things to be pretty up front. But the compliments, oy vey, the “Oh, you’re so pretty” can feel so artificial to me. How many times have you seen a photo of someone and you’re all, “Damn, rough night for that one” and people are all, “Oh you’re so beautiful!” It can take all that I have in me not to say, “Wait, are we looking at the same photo? Because I’m not seeing it.” But I remember that 1)beauty truly IS in the eye of the beholder, 2) people see the beautiful compliment as a statement of how valuable they find that person and 3) people don’t want to kick someone when they are feeling vulnerable.
I try and post new profile photos of myself regularly on some sites, and not at all on other sites (like this one, other than this cartoon thing my husband had done for me as a birthday present years ago—and the artist made my face thinner, because I guess that is a gift). I hate posting new photos of that static moment in time, because I feel like many of us look kind of less than appealing that way, like this one still shot cannot possibly capture the totality of how awesome or how not awesome I am. But I post them to be real, although, of course, yes, you’d better believe it, I don’t post the pics where I think I’m ugly…at least not unless I’m really feeling my ovaries that day.
I accept the societal standard of compliments and looking past the words to the intent even though the words may offend me. The truth be told, I’d rather people say, “awww, you’re so pretty” rather than to say, “Although you are not aesthetically pleasing to my eye and I feel no sexual affinity for you, I wish to show that I find you worthwhile by paying you the compliment of saying you are beautiful.”
I’m 46 now, so I’m really coming into that womanly freedom of not having to be beautiful. I’m not quite there, not quite able to embrace my cronehood, I’m at the crux. I think I’m actually really nice more for the things I don’t say than for the things I do, and I think I have talents that other people don’t appreciate. And I don’t really think I’m ugly, although, as I said, that has it’s own kind of power and freedom. But what if I didn’t second guess things, didn’t stop to question my motives, my actions, my brains, my appearance? I’d be fucking insufferable. And we have all known insufferable people. It’s not pleasant. So let me be self-deprecating and let me have my self esteem and self preservation instincts too, because somewhere in the middle of it all is the truth of who I am.