When I was a teenager, I did not think I was pretty. I was told I was, but I figured everyone’s inner circle regularly boosted them with praise, to keep their spirits high, so that’s what was happening to me too. It’s that whole bit about teaching kids self-esteem. I tried to find things wrong with me, where there weren’t things to even be wrong, and the few times I heard “stop, you look fine” were not enough to combat the job I did to myself mentally.
I didn’t wear makeup, and I didn’t have acne, but I did have a neo-pubescent mustache that wouldn’t have been hidden by makeup anyway. My tiny, lash-less eyes were buried behind androgynous features, combined with a fashion sense that screamed “I obviously don’t care” and all of this was supported by a father who didn’t let me wear anything that was tight or short, or showed the curvature of my body. My hairdo situation wasn’t any better, and at one point, I looked exactly like a boy. There was nothing “pretty” about me.
My father often made me feel ashamed of my femininity. He would ridicule me for trying to wear dresses, and talk rudely and endlessly about how short they were, no matter how tasteful it really looked. He would bark at me if my shirt hugged my chest at all, and would pull at the neckline to see how easily my cleavage would become noticeable. He never let me pick out my own school clothes, and I never once got my hair “done.” When I had an argument or objection to something he said, or if I didn’t laugh at his crude and disgusting humor, he was sure to let everyone know that I was on my period, and needed to “change my plug.” Women were nothing to him, and any sign of femininity was looked down upon, in a means toward it ultimately being hidden.
I used to wear pants that were baggy around my hips and butt, because I was “fat.” Not only that, but I would also tie shirts around my waist, which was in style, lucky for me. I wore nothing but granny panty underwear that I was certain my father was unable to properly shop for. I wore oversized shirts, mostly men’s size “Large” when I barely tipped the scales at 75 lbs. In fact, all of my clothing was either actual boy clothes, or just gender neutral. I cut my own hair, and pierced my own piercings. Everything I did, was to cover up how shitty I felt about myself. If it looked like I didn’t care, people wouldn’t expect that I should want to show my beauty off…wherever that was.
I wasn’t allowed to date, or spend the night anywhere, so the only time anyone saw me without clothes on, was during gym class when we changed in the locker room. When I developed stretch marks on my thighs, I was so embarrassed that I began changing in the single stall, which included standing in the drainage water, and usually getting my clothes wet. I didn’t want anyone to see how dark and red my legs were, so I wore long shorts, when the other girls were dressing normal. There were times when I felt so disgusted with myself, that I wouldn’t come out of the locker room at all.
One time, there was a girl already in the stall, and I panicked and just walked out of the locker room, out of the gym, and into the office, pretending that I had been sent there. Why? My stupid teenage brain, that’s why.
I spent my entire first 18 years in this mindset. I would cover my body with my arms, even when I was fully clothed. I would sit in positions that were awkward and uncomfortable, to avoid anyone seeing how disfigured my body was. I would swat hands away when people hugged me, to keep them from touching any “fat parts.” I smiled with my mouth closed, so nobody could see my teeth, that were far from white or straight.
When I finally found out that there was nothing wrong with me, 30 years had gone by.
As an adult woman, I am curvy. I have an hourglass figure, but I also have cellulite and stretch marks and extra skin that used to be round with fat. When I walk around, or twist or bend, my stomach sometimes pops out of my shirt, and I don’t care. I used to be so mindful of the possibility that anyone would see even an inch of my pre-stretchmark stomach, that I would hold my shirt in place and just work with one hand for whatever I was doing. I was on patrol at all times.
I have spider veins and patchy leg hair and crooked knees. I remember being 18 years old, and wearing jeans every day in the summer, because I didn’t want anyone to see the tiny little microscopic veins that were on my calf. It was 100 degrees for several days that summer, and I was committed to covering myself up. Now, I wear what is comfortable. As long as my butt cheeks aren’t hanging out, I wear whatever shorts are most readily available.
My boobs are two different cup sizes, and I often don’t wear a bra, despite how uncomfortable that might be for some people with weird mixed emotions about breasts. Finding a bra that fits two different sized boobs is not an easy task, so I like to give up on it. If I need to wear one, I break out the granny bra, because if I have to wear one of those strangling fucking things, it better be comfortable and it better support the ladies. When I wear no bra, I just stop caring about what size either of my boobs are. Makes a huge difference for me.
My neck is now disproportionately long and slender, when compared with the rest of my body. I don’t care that it makes my body look extra round.
I have arm flab, and inverted elbows. That sounds funny, and you may have a difficult time picturing it, so let me help you. When you look at someone’s elbow, from the back, there should be a pointy bump where the bone protrudes and creates the “elbow.” Mine isn’t there. It’s an indentation, where the arm flab completely eclipses my elbow. You know how much I care? None. When I wave, my Hello Bettys get their glory in the sun. Just as it should be.
I still have the mustache, and I still don’t wear makeup, even when I get the largest blackhead in the whole world right in the middle of my face. I don’t care. If my zit grosses you out, go home.
I don’t spend any time on my hair, other than the annual cut that I still do myself. I have gone weeks without even brushing my hair at all…recently. I don’t care. It looks fine, and I even wash it a couple times a week.
I don’t look at clothing sizes, and some days, I don’t even look in the mirror to see if I’m dressed appropriately to go to the store. Clothing is fucking weird, and I am realizing how much it messes with people’s minds. It doesn’t matter what the number on the tag says. Sometimes, you just need to put the clothes on, and let your personality do the rest. I’ve seen some well-dressed people act like assholes. Just saying.
I don’t work on my nails at all, and actually tend to chew them off. Looking at them right now, I have 3 nails that I would consider “long” (any white showing beyond the nailbed) and 3 that I would consider “too short” (cuticles missing, scabs where the nailbed should be, deep pockets where hangnails were ripped free). The rest are just sitting there, recovering from their own “too short” status. I also have knuckle hair, and hair on the tops of my hands. And a bunch of scars. When I make any sort of exchange with someone, I catch them double-take at my ET fingers. I don’t care. I’ll use my alien hands to eat your Reese’s Pieces.
I smile with my teeth showing more often than not, and don’t care if my freckles or dark circles are showing. The fact that I’m smiling, probably means I don’t care about whatever you have to say about them.
I’ve never worn high heels, mostly because of those slack knees, but also because I’m built like a starfish. My legs start out meaty at the top, but get suspiciously skinny and chicken-like once you get past the knees that don’t work. My calves have zero definition to them, and don’t even want to be noticed, so just check out how skinny my ankles are… holy shit my feet are just toothpicks. When you have a child’s size 4 foot, and non-existent ankles, holding up a wide set of hips and ass isn’t physics at its best. The second I even look at someone wearing high heels, my ankles give out, even if I’m not standing up! When I put on any shoes, I have to prompt the ankle roll, just to see how likely it will be that I fall. The answer is: VERY. Like, even if you’re walking extra cautiously down the flat sidewalk in the middle of downtown Chicago, on the way to your brother’s wedding, you can still roll your ankle and end up on the ground. Believe me, I’ve done the research. So, I stay the fuck out of heels, because they don’t look “better” in my opinion, so why go through the trouble?
Speaking of my feet, I would like to point out that I was told at 16 years old, that I had Hobbit feet. Hobbit fucking feet. I have some toe hair, and some stubby toes, but I feel like they’re pretty normal, other than that. As a 37-year old, I still have the toe-fro, and still have the tiny feet, but guess what… don’t care. My boyfriend rubs my feet every single day, and if he can get past it, then what the fuck do I care what you think?
My point to all of this, is that I thought my body image was normal, when I was a teen. I thought that it was how every girl felt, and that we all thought we were fat, and we all had things we were hiding, and that nothing was going to look okay as long as we were in school. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve realized something important: where I used to think none of that shit mattered, I now know it does matter. All of it matters. It matters at the time, it matters 20 years later. A girl goes through self-esteem changes with the metamorphosis of her anatomy and physiology. Nobody pulls a caterpillar out of the chrysalis mid-way through and says “wow, that’s fucking ugly, and will never be beautiful.” Every stage matters, because we don’t lose that sense of how we felt about ourselves, even when the thoughts were harmful, even if we change our minds down the road.
These days, I love the way I look. I like that I have a soft body. I don’t mind when my clothes don’t fit perfectly, because my body isn’t made for the clothes, so I forgive. I don’t try to look any better than my normal self, because that’s who I am. I don’t discredit any women who do spend time and effort on their appearance, because that makes them feel beautiful. I consider myself lucky to feel so blessed with my natural body, even if it is revolting against me in my 30s! I still love it. It gets out of bed every day, and brings my boyfriend to work, so he can be the best he can be. It gets my kids to school, so they can educate themselves on how to read other people and accept their differences. Hell, it brought those two humans into this world! It gets me to the grocery store so I can feed my family. It provides me with a canvas to tattoo. It takes the food I feed it, and makes it into energy for me to use. It glows in certain light. It provides hugs when others need them, and strength when I need it.
Loving the way you look is a great feeling.
Loving the way you feel is a great look.
Just love yourself.