I am not beautiful in the traditional sense.
I've known this for a very long time. And I'm OK with that...now. But it took me three and a half extraordinarily long decades of self-abuse before I was willing to recognize, acknowledge and own what beauty I did possess.
This afternoon, 3 of the strongest, most intelligent, self-assured and confident women I know came together with me to record episode 1 of the podcast, Sharp Pointy Objects. For 3 hours (don't worry, we'll be editing that down) we talked about self-image, self-esteem, true beauty, bullying.
Toward the end of the recording, after I'd listened to each of their experiences growing up female, I found myself making confessions...things I'd never intended to disclose. Like...how I'd dropped out of high school, in part, so I wouldn't have to take Physical Education during which, I knew, I'd be mercilessly made fun of. Like how, at the age of 13 and after having lost a significant amount of weight when Blind Betsy signed me up for Weight Watchers, I discovered something even better than dieting...bulimia. Like how, after years of yo-yo dieting, I'd gotten to the point where surgical intervention wasn't just an option but became a life-saving necessity.
This is the life I've led...for better or for worse.
A few years ago, Gretchen - ultimately a friend (I forgive you completely) and sometime adversary - told me, "Don't you understand? We don't love you because you are pretty or because of the things you do to make our lives better. We love you because you are you. Because you are gold. 100% gold inside. It shines through especially when you don't know it. I wish you'd just know it. It's so rare what it is you possess inside you! You are so special! So beautiful! You have no idea, do you?"
No. I don't. Likely I don't know even now.
All I know, what I have to feel good about myself now, is that I am kind. I am loving. I am understanding. If you need a gentle ear, I am here. If you want an ego boost, I am here to give you just that. If you want or need advice, I'm the girl to which you should turn. I'm educated in that kind of advice, don't you know. THAT is what makes me gold.
What I don't know is how to be traditionally beautiful. I do not know how I can live up to impossible standards of beauty. I can't be thin. I can't be adorable. I can't be that vapid pretty girl that catches your eye. I can't be perpetually 20 years old... I never got to be 20, or 12, or 5. I can't be someone who counts in your standard of beauty because...
I'm just ME, in my infinite wisdom. A me that has endured more than you can possibly imagine to become who I am today.
Ain't that fucking grand?!
So. The next time you're compelled to share that picture of an obese woman on Facebook and make fun of her, I'm going to ask you now to think of me first. Do you laugh at me behind my back? Do you harbor me ill will when I soothe your aching heart? Do you hate me?
Because when you make fun of someone who is fat, ugly, or, in your opinion, worthless, you're making fun of me. FYI.
Am I worthless?
You be the judge.