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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