I’d like to think it all started in middle school, when a popular kid started making fun of my big nose, but I think it started long before that.
I could blame it on my older brother who told me he found me in a ditch one afternoon as he was bike riding and his (my) parents decided to keep me despite my narrow set eyes and undefined chin.
The story that sticks out most in my mind is a second grade clusterfuck. I was honestly surprised when a girl I rode the bus with wanted to be friends. We exchanged pencils, sat next to each other (by assignment) in class, and were both good at reading. When she invited me to tag along with her mother and her to the city's annual dog show, I begged my mother for days. After promising to a list of outrageous chores for an eight-year-old, I called Shelly (not her real name but close enough) to tell her I could make the trip.
“There’s no dog show,” she laughed. “It was a joke – you’re the dog.”
I sat in my room, tugging on the curly phone cord, and recalled every terrible thing my brother had ever said to me. I could hear my cousins asking me about my frizzy hair. I could hear my mother teasing me about a lopsided nose.
After Shelly became the first on my MEAN GIRLS list, I went on to deal with that middle-school-fuck who teased me relentlessly about my nose. Woodpecker and Big Bird were his go-to names. Very creative.
Despite his lack of creativity, the names lodged themselves in my brain like any other piece of trauma, but I lucked out in ninth grade when my boobs came in, my hips curved, and my ass went – BOOM. My thin waist and arms were icing on the cake and the horny high school boys were NOT worried about my nose.
In college, I was the funny girl, compared most often to Barbara Streisand, Cher, and Mayim Bialik. “It’s just the nose,” I’d shake. I didn’t drink as much as I could have and I took advantage of the guys my friends brought over so I could crack jokes in loud clubs.
“I’m the funny one,” I’d advise. “And Pam is the pretty one and Julie is the nice one.” The guys all laughed, trying to reach an arm around Pam or Julie, and I’d go stand outside, pretending to take drags from a Menthol Light. I was content with being the ‘funny girl,’ and when I did date guys, their commentary on my physique was noteworthy but hollow.
One night at a concert, the loser I was dating sent me out to the parking lot to retrieve his jacket. (Yes, I know, and that’s a whole entire other type of post. #20yearoldguys) I fumbled out to the gravel parking lot in heels and tight jeans. Halfway to the car I heard guy-chatter.
“Damn, look at that ass!”
“That bitch is fine, go talk to her,” the other pushed.
I turned around, hoping to find at least an alternate ride home, but at the turn of my neck, the broad-shouldered cowboy yelled,
“Damn, that bitch is UGLY!”
The two started laughing and I refocused my path to the car.
“Hey!” the other one shouted.
I turned around hoping they had previously been directing their hate at someone I hadn’t seen ahead of me, but they were both fixed on my face.
“You know you’re ugly, right?!” The two leaned over, beer spilling out of the oversized cans, boots knocking into the gravel, and laughter for days.
Of course, after that, I gathered Loser’s jacket and stood solemnly in the concert crowd. Loser cheered on, slapped me in the ass like a star football player, and professed his need for drunk sex later that night. It was no surprise, really, that my guy selection was tainted with my lack of self-confidence.
Fast forward 20 years and lots of drama and here I am, a forty-year-old, married woman with two kids, yet still in the back of my mind I hear Bradley Cooper telling the almighty Lady Gaga, “You’re just fuckin’ ugly” in A Star is Born, and a part of me expects New Husband to announce this the night before Valentine's Day and ask for a divorce.
Let it be said, this entry is not crafted to generate pity or fish for compliments, but to address something lots of people deal with. Dealing with ‘feeling ugly’ or ‘being ugly’ isn’t easy. Even after extensive counseling and pills, it’s likely you’ll still struggle to feel whatever certain way you think you should feel about yourself.
I heard once that we don’t think of ourselves as attractive – that we see all our flaws magnified in a mirror – because we look at our faces, our bodies, every day. I feel that.
I think back to right before college when Loser #4 suggested I wear makeup.
“You’re okay, but I think you should try wearing makeup. I think it’d make a big difference.”
Really? Really. I laughed at this suggestion, but also, hypocritically drove to the drugstore at 9pm to purchase foundation and cheap mascara. I didn’t see what he saw, had no clue what it was he saw, but didn’t want to face the critique from someone else later down the road.
I wore makeup, colored my hair and exhausted myself with all the stereotypical crap women are supposed to do, but I found myself the happiest when New Husband told me I was pretty as I stepped out of the shower. Maybe the vagina exposition had something to do with that comment, but it was nice to hear. Do I believe him when he tells me this stuff? No, I’ve made a lifelong commitment to accepting that I don’t feel attractive and will never see myself as such. What I HAVE done is learn to accept the compliments and embrace parts of myself that I do love.
I love that I’m blunt, brutally honest to the point of receiving “I could never date you – you’d call me out on my shit” when I asked a guy out. I love that I’m open minded – playing Devil’s Advocate in conversations I shouldn’t. I like that I’m ridiculous and laugh too hard at fart and poop jokes. Real growth, eh? I like that I’m working on my body, something I’ve never done, mostly out of an exaggerated fear that some douchebag would make fun of me in a gym.
And so, in struggling to get my ass out of bed and drive to Pilates or spin class, I realize the gym is that thing I don’t like about my life. I don’t have to like everything. If I liked everything, I’d be miserable – What would I bitch about on Twitter? What would I write stories about? What would I talk about? How boring.
You have to take the good with the bad, even if you feel like you’re ugly on a good day or feel like you're doing your best to stay alive on a spin bike with messy hair and sweaty panties.