“You are very beautiful. Your features are very striking. I hadn’t noticed how green your eyes were, are you wearing contacts? Wow. Yes, you’re beautiful both inside and out.”
We were looking at a photo taken from my last show. One where I’ve got my head rested gently against my puppet, my Wayfarers slid halfway down my nose, and my wavy hair held back by a loose black lace bow. I was channeling my inner 80’s punk rocker – heavily influenced by an early Madonna. My skin was pale, my eyes and lips were dark. The fake mole that had appeared for a brief moment removed, CARCINOMA! I was stunned by her comment. A person unrelated to me, not beholden to me in any way saying I am beautiful.
The truth is I am not. I am ugly.
Now, this will cause a small uproar among some of the folks closest to me. They don’t want me to feel bad about myself and for the most part, I don’t. To me, being ugly is a part of me. It’s a lot like announcing: I am a brunette, I am 5’6”, or I have green eyes. I am ugly. I accept that. This is not to say that people haven’t found me attractive; there’s family, friends, the occasional fetishist or the person who says sweetly, “it’s not looks that matter; it’s what’s on the inside”. I get that a lot. It’s an expression used on ugly people so they don’t feel bad. Hey, you’re beautiful on the inside!
I’m an inside person.
The part that hurts me, when it does hurt me, is how eager people are to let me know how unattractive they find me – even as an adult. As if I’d woken up one day and seen a Victoria’s Secret model peering back in the mirror and these saints wanted to intervene and provide a much needed reality check – like I’d somehow forgotten. “Quick! Remind Beth where she stands in the pretty spectrum or else she might demand head shots and a spot on the runway .” “Hey Beth, on a scale of 1 to Ugly, you’re OH SWEET JESUS grab a bag! Whew! Our work here is done. High-five me, bro!”
A sample of the words that I carry – the words that define me:
“You’re no Miss America, but I sure think you’re pretty.”
“I’m tired of dating beautiful people and just want to be with someone like you.” “You’re the kind of person you raise a family with.” (My ex-husband. How I miss his praise.)
“People are either smart or pretty. I could tell you were smart.”
“Your mother told [long time family friend] you were retarded; I didn’t know what to expect when I met you.” (These would be people who knew me well and in theory would know better. You see, I was born with strabismus and had a brace to correct hip issues; I didn’t learn to walk until much later than the average toddler. Moving my legs was excruciating. My looks and my delayed motor skills are where this comment came from.)
“The guys on base saw your picture and said you were ugly, but I said, ‘She has a degree!’”
“I got your picture. Ummm… that wasn’t what I expected. I think we can still be friends.”
“Your face scares me.”
“She’s ugly like a dog.” (This started a round of random people from two schools barking at me in the hallway. People I didn’t know and had never seen before barked every time they saw me.)
I know who I am. I am keenly self-aware. I understand my limitations. What continually surprises me though is how comfortable people feel saying these things to me. How one of those comments was said as recently as a month ago. Of course, when pressed the person claimed, “it’s a joke!” Because calling me ugly is hilarious. My face was the punch line? Well then, slap my face on poster board and put me in your comedy routine. I’m hilarious.
When did we become so brutally honest? Is there some civic duty to point out people’s failings? Being reminded of something I’m already aware of gets old. No one goes around saying, “you’re still a brunette”. Why is it necessary to say, “you’re still unattractive”? It boggles me.
This is why my WordPress Gravatar only shows half of my face. I don’t want to hear how I’ve scared a stranger half a country away. It’s why photos of me on Flickr are set so only friends and family can see. I have the face only a mother, some family and a few friends can love. A face that will never launch a thousand ships much less a dinghy.
And when this woman looked at my picture from last weekend’s show and said “you are beautiful”,
I walked away.
Beth, Beth, Beth. I’m sorry to hurt your feelings, but you’re wrong. You are not — NOT — ugly. Not by a long shot. You are average, with a great smile (when you’re happy — your “I’m faking a smile” smile is nothing to write home about). So, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re wrong. I, too, have come to grips with the fact that I’ve never been beautiful and never will be, but dogs and small children generally like me.
I appreciate that even if we may have to agree to disagree. And sadly, I’ve got dogs in my corner – small children are more uncertain. Although, I did have a niece once who thought I was pretty darn spectacular; she’s one of about two people in that family I wish well (she was an amazing kid with a wonderful mom).
Did I tell you about the time the PTA for the boy’s Montessori school was arguing over whether to have a big “gala” as a fundraiser? I was opposed to it. The mom who was agitating for it said “everyone” would go. I said I wouldn’t. I don’t like big parties, and I don’t have anything formal to wear. She said I could rent a dress and shoes, and — I swear this is what came out of her mouth — “you could be pretty if you tried.” I just blinked at her for a minute. I wanted to say “can you rewind that comment in your head and re-play it? See if it sounds to you like it sounded to me.”
We did not have the gala.
Sometimes I wonder if people realize they’re actually speaking that thought bubble that blooped over their head. Bloop of course being the sound it makes when it appears. This is where I wish you could have retorted, “yes, I could be “pretty if I tried”, but sadly you will never be smart nor tactful no matter how much effort you exert.” Was this Jessica’s idea to have a gala? Bleh.
Dogs know – go with them….they are steady and have good judgement – the kids are fickle when tired, hungry or you won’t buy them something
I hate my pictures – I never recognize myself – or I can see too much resemblance to my mom (who/which is not a pleasant subject.)
Why do people blurt out ugly things these days? Self centered? A culture that loves to attack others – and is applauded or rewarded by money and fame or TV talk show appearances. Never taught proper manners or compassion? Mixed bag.
Smiles make a difference – and eyes – that usually all I see/remember about a person.
I used to tell unhappy children fretting over brutal remarks by classmates – something my grandmother said “Everyone has one time in their life they are beautiful.” And looking back that’s pretty true…so, we’re looking forward to that 100th birthday are we?
You’re great kid. Green eyes? What a beauty.
I think you’re onto something with talk shows – some of the most popular ones were those that were a heavy combination of shock + vulgarity + brutal honesty (?). Maybe this is what years of watching has turned some of us into – people seeking that talk show thrill. I think it just surprises me that I can be the age that I am and still have people say this – at some point you’d think they’d give up and say, “oh, it’s just Beth”. I love your grandmother’s saying! I’m looking forward to celebrating 100! 🙂
Beth, I think people who say mean and hurtful things usually are people who feel bad about themselves and for some sick reason, they get some satisfaction in making other people feel bad. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! I am not saying this because I am your aunt. I would say it even if I wasn’t. Some people are only beautiful on the outside and some only on the inside. You are beautiful both on the inside and outside. On top of being beautiful, you are extremely smart, witty and one of a few people who can make me really laugh! You are very funny with a keen sense of humor. Some people might see me as beautiful and some people might see me as ugly! There have been many times that I have said I thought someone was pretty or handsome and a friend disagreed or vice vs. It makes me furious that anyone has said hurtful things to you, but unfortunately, some people are cruel. I love you very much.
I appreciate what you’re saying, but unfortunately I didn’t get y’all’s genes. I think you, Kim, Aunt Jen and Mom are all very beautiful, but unfortunately I am a little too much of Dad’s side to ever warrant “pretty”. U an an acquired taste. That’s ok, though. I am who I am and people love me and like me and despite my terrible sense of humor, they think I’m funny. 🙂 I love you very much and thank you for leaving such a lovely comment.