I tried to find a video to post of Ani DiFranco’s “I am not a pretty girl,” for this, but couldn’t find any that actually had her preforming, instead of pictures other people compiled. So not into that. This will have to do.
It wasn’t so long ago that I’d look around the bus, not just comparing myself to other women, but finding faults in them. The attractive women, the women with the shiny hair, immaculate makeup, trendy sunglasses, fashionable clothes, and ‘perfect’ bodies, those I envied. The rest I was critical of, looked for reasons why they weren’t one of them. It wasn’t that I was some narcissistic bitch who measured everyone against myself – hardly. I was equally if not more harsh on myself. My hair was dull and stringy, my face too long, mouth misshapen, joker smile, eyes were okay. Shoulders hunched, tummy protruding (ha!), ass the wrong shape, legs too short.
Today as usual I was on the bus with Cameron, on the way to his daycare, and I looked around at the other women on the bus. I was as discreet as I could be, wearing sunglasses, not looking for any great length of time at any one person. It hit me. Not a single woman on the bus was unattractive. Sure, not one would have been on the catwalk in Paris nor would most be chosen to grace the cover of a fashion mag. But every single one had something about her that wasn’t even just not unattractive – they were all, in their own way, attractive, pretty, appealing.
Myself? I’d still rather not look in the mirror more than absolutely necessary, thanks. Maybe some day whatever clicked in me concerning other women will filter through to include myself.
I also happened to glance at the newspaper in the hands of one of the men. The headline? “I Think I’m Ugly.” The article talks of America the Beautiful, a newly released documentary about the beauty industry. The star of this movie is a 12 year old model. She’s primped, poufed, and dressed to look older than she is for the runway – until at 14 she’s told she’s too fat. At nearly six feet, 130 lbs, the industry labeled her as ‘obese’. She has in her mind the image of what she looked like all made up, take away ten or fifteen pounds, as being ‘right.’ She’ll never match up to that. At eighteen, this gorgeous young woman thinks she’s ugly, and talks of getting breast implants.
In a recent post, Scientistmother referred to herself as pretty – something that at first surprised me. Not because she isn’t, in fact I’ve met her and I’d say she’s selling herself short. (Side note, she’s very right. You don’t want to be seen as the pretty one in a lab as most people will downplay your ideas and even data because of it. Okay, back to my rant.) I thought at first that I was surprised simply because not many women, or so ‘they’ say, think of themselves as pretty. A big part of me is envious of her for this! But even recognizing that, I found the statement made me uncomfortable. We’re not supposed to say that we think we’re pretty.
Great. So we’re told from all directions that there is this ideal. An ideal that, by the way, even the pre-adolescent models who strut their stuff don’t meet without serious cosmetic intervention. We’re trained to see our faults in glaring, sharp, exaggerated focus. Then we’re also told by society that even if we’ve managed to scrape up the self esteem to believe that we’re attractive we sure as hell had better not admit it!
Out of all those women on the bus, I’m willing to bet that maybe one thinks herself to be pretty. It probably wasn’t the one with the shiny golden locks, designer sunglasses, perfectly made-up face, fashionable clothes, and skinny (but probably obese in the fashion world) body. And that one probably wouldn’t admit to anyone but her closest friends that she thinks herself pretty.
Sad, isn’t it?
So I’d like to challenge everyone – male or female. Tell me what you like about yourself, physical or otherwise?
Me, I like my eyes. I like that I can quickly put on muscle and look toned without too much effort. I like that I know that with a little effort I can get back to an approximation of my old body, one I think I’ll appreciate much more now than then. And I like that I’ve got the determination to do it. I like that I can explain science to non-science people.