Failure.

I’ve spent several years of my life feeling like it is my duty to other people to look the same way I looked at 16.

Which is not only stupid, but impossible.

People age and change, and I want to be relaxed and happy with those changes. There was nothing wrong with me as a child when people told me I was ugly and misshapen and that I should be ashamed of myself; there was nothing wrong with me when one day I woke up looking more like the cultural ideal than I’d bargained for and was hunted like a deer in season by people who treated me like an orifice.

And there’s nothing wrong with me now, as I age and get fatter and, hopefully, wiser. The problem was never with me…it was with the ridiculous significance we attach to the way people look, and the arbitrary dividing lines placed between “acceptable” and “unacceptable.”

One day, I was unacceptable for wearing glasses and having straight hair. Another day, I was highly prized for wearing a different dress. One year, my rounded derriere was outré; the next, it was the height of fashion. I literally woke up one morning and changed my hair and put on new clothes like a costume or uniform or, more likely, armor, and the way people treated me changed 180 degrees — based entirely on my appearance. This severely undermined my already-shaky faith in humanity, and I’ve been suspicious of people ever since.

How about this: I have always looked basically the same, with slight alterations in hairstyle, clothing choice, and makeup. I am the same person, always, and my worth does not change based on the whims of fashion. And how about if it’s no one’s business to tell someone that she’s either in or out or ugly or beautiful — because all she is, all she has ever been, all she wants to be, is human?

Not a canary in the coal mine of cultural beauty.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    You know, a few years back I lost a LOT of weight. 55lbs. Which equated 5 and a bit dress sizes.

    You wouldn’t believe the people who came out of the woodwork gasping to be my friend. People who I was invisible to before I lost all that weight suddenly wanted to be my buddy. Whether it was because they only wanted to be around someone who “looked great” or I represented the “If she can do it, maybe it will rub off on me and I can do it too.” thing.

    But I lost all that weight, and I was still “me”. People told me I was “fabulous” but all I thought was “But I was fabulous beforehand! I’m just skinnier now.”

    It was a rude shock to the system. But here I am now, with all that and more back on, and I’m more fabulous than I ever was, because I get it now. I’ve found my own worth, and it’s not in how tiny my dress size is.

    • Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t that just shake your faith in humanity, a little? I know it did mine. So frustrating, and also somehow frightening.

  2. Meems
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve found my own worth, and it’s not in how tiny my dress size is.

    I love this.

  3. Alice
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    This completely reminds me of Carrie Fisher’s recent blog post. Less profanity in yours, but they both point to the same thing – we don’t owe ANYONE a certain appearance, and we’re not obligated in any way, shape or form to stay frozen in time for other people’s comfort.

    I came back to 2007 because your RSS feed is apparently archive-posting, and I’m glad that it is!

  4. Posted September 21, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I love the phrase “a canary in the coal mine of cultural beauty.” You rock.

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