Tuesday, March 8, 2005

On Beauty

Myspace has me thinking a lot about women and beauty this week.

I am fascinated by the different ways that women present themselves on this site. First, there are the porn types, who all have thousands of friends and most likely some major childhood sexual abuse lurking under the surface. These girls are only interesting for the gross-out factor.

Then there are the pin-up girls. I blame the Pussycat Dolls and Dita Von Teese for this bunch. This is an aesthetic that I really love, but lately it seems that every chick with a half decent ass and a friend with a camera is bending over in front of a jukebox. Many of them, when you look closely, are not really that cute and most of the ladies on this current bandwagon just seem a little desperate for attention.

In the third category are girls like me--and most likely you, if you are my friend and reading this--posting flattering pictures of themselves that may or may not be sexy but are not completely sexualized. We want you to see us as attractive and desireable but we’re not so desperate for your love that we’ve changed our last name to Tequila and shoved our boobs into the camera.

And lastly are the girls that just don’t give a shit and post goofy or ugly photos on purpose. I like those girls and their lack of vanity, or maybe, their vanity in a different direction.

It is interesting to me how we all create a persona on here and then elaborate upon that persona with photos, lists, descriptions, demands and blogs. And the majority of girls/women, myself included, want to paint a physically beautiful persona. I know that what I am presenting to the world through this page is the facet I want you to see. It is me, but it’s not the whole truth of who I am.

When I was a preteen and teen, up until the age of 16, I wore very thick glasses and was so shy I was unable to speak to anyone outside my immediate circle. I was a very goofy looking kid, a total egghead, and all I wanted to do was hide out in the house and read. My dad used to look at me sadly and say, “Don’t you have any parties you want to go to?”

One time I was walking down the hall in school and noticed two boys at their lockers looking intently at me as I walked by. As I got close one of them sneered and said to me: “Dog…” I was crushed by the cruelty of it, and I realized at that moment that there were two different worlds, the world of light for pretty girls and the world of invisibility or scorn for the ugly ones.

For women, beauty is way, way more important than for men. It helps a man in this world, but it doesn’t dictate who he is. A man’s worth is measured by what he achieves, his money, his power, his fame. A woman can achieve these things too but she will always be judged on her looks as well. An ugly man with money and fame can always have a beautiful woman. The opposite is not as true.

I think that’s why there aren’t really male groupies the way there are female, either. Women get a lot of power and status through who they can attract, men who are primarily good looking without their own power or status are not valued in the same way. I know these are generalizations, and they may be changing, but I believe them to be true.

So anyway, I got contact lens for my 16th birthday and grew out a very short haircut and bought some new clothes. Some people in school thought I was new, and one day shortly thereafter I was walking through a parking lot and heard someone whistle. I thought, “Why do people have to be so mean?”

I was so upset at being mocked, but when I went home I sat down in front of the mirror and scrutinized myself. After about 15 minutes of just staring I realized with a shock that I was actually not that bad, and maybe the whistle was for real. It was like the clouds parted, and my life changed from that day on.

My very close friend and ex Jesse used to always say that one of the things that he really liked about me was that I wasn’t constantly trying to prove that I was smart, like the other girls he dated always did. I said it was because I never had to bother proving that I was smart. It was the pretty part that took some work to get to!

So now fast forward through many years of being the hot girl in the room, or at least one of the hot girls in the room. It has become a major portion of my identity, and it is the currency that I deal in. It is not my only currency, but it is a major source of funding and probably my favorite. I am used to being treated a certain way because of the way I look. Any pretty woman who tells you otherwise is lying. But I am reaching an age where I am being forced to really think about what this means, and what it means to me.

I am genetically fortunate and have a good maintenance routine. I look younger than I am, and the gym is my friend. But I am not 20 and I can see that my face is changing. I know that the day will come soon when I will have to step out of the race. I work with a girl of about 22 who is absolutely, drop dead gorgeous and I can see myself become invisible to certain people when we are both standing in the room. It doesn’t bother me because the people that pay attention to her are unimportant to me, but it always reminds me that I am currently morphing into a different species.

And that is absolutely terrifying to me. Who am I if I am not beautiful? I've been on the other side and I don't want to go back there. I have always had moments of panic over this, and during one I tattooed the word “beautiful” on my inner arm. It is to remind me that everything is okay, I am okay, life is beautiful, we are all beautiful, there is nothing to fear in our own imperfections and we are indeed beautiful with those imperfections. Nearly every woman I meet gets it immediately while a lot of men don't. Which is not to discredit the wonderful men in the world, it’s simply to say that they don’t live with the situation in the same way that we do.

I have great sympathy for those aging plastic surgery nightmares you see in high end boutiques like the one I work in. It just never works--they don’t look young, they’re just old ladies with pulled faces, usually with those trannie lips that no one buys for a second. Some of them have great bodies and they try on completely inappropriate clothing and pose in front of the mirror, pouting and pulling their heads back to get the best angle. They usually flirt with the one straight boy we have in the store and he humors them for the sale.
 

I think these women just weren’t able to make the transition and develop a different character to take the place of the pretty girl they once were. So there they are, desperately trying to remain still while their body continues to change. Maybe they were beautiful from day one and never had any reason to develop any character or skill. Then one day they woke up from the dream and the surgery began.

They are laughable and tragic but lately I am understanding where they are coming from. I am closer to them than I like to readily admit, but not so close that I can’t write about it with a sense of humor. I am starting to believe that growing up an unattractive kid was not such a bad thing after all, because it's given me enough character and depth to avoid becoming one of those women. And I won’t go down without a fight.

But I don’t want this whole myspace thing to be about presenting a flat surface of who I want people to think I am. Otherwise it's pointless and there's too much of that out there already. So I’m putting some realness out there tonight for ya. We’re all beautiful, we’re all ugly. We all get old. In the end we just are who we are, lovely in our imperfection and maybe the better for it.

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