An Object of Beauty

This is the truth: In a vacuum, I am comfortable with my appearance. No, strike that. I like how I look. I like that my hair requires next-to-no effort and that it’s crazy and all over the place. I like my face. I like my body. I don’t think any of these things are perfect (in fact, I could tell you more about my imperfections than anyone), but I am strong and I like who I am.

But sometimes, I lose sight of the truth. Growing up, I was the butt of many, many jokes. My best childhood friend frequently made fun of appearance. Kids on the middle-school bus would jerk away if my hair brushed their skin (this was before I realized that I had curly hair, so instead I looked like I had a Brillo pad on my head). In high school, the football players made fun of my small chest. (Surprise: That stopped when I made the cheerleading squad.) 
I didn’t like my looks until I was in grad school. I don’t know when I first looked and the mirror and thought, “Hey! This is nice!” But boy, was it a nice transition. Appearances aren’t the most important thing, but isn’t life easier when you don’t feel badly about the package in which you’re contained?
Somewhere along the line, though, my insecurities about the way I look got skewed in the opposite direction. Over the years, I’ve spent time with people who praised me more for my appearance than for who I am. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to be told that you look nice. We all appreciate a compliment, right? But when that’s all you hear, or what you hear the most of, it becomes objectifying. 
I am not an object. I am not a pretty tchotchke to perch on a shelf. I’m surrounded by people who value me. Sometimes, though, I need to remind myself about what really makes me who I am.
Today’s subject line is a blatant ripoff of the Steve Martin novel “An Object of Beauty,” which I read for the second time last week. Boy, is that man talented.


Filed under Autobiography

2 Responses to An Object of Beauty

  1. This post really hit home with me. I struggled with many of the same issues — big hair, small chest — and then one day realized I was actually hot, even with my big hair and small chest. Around the time I realized this it seems my confidence also convinced the people around me that I was hot. Then suddenly, I didn’t like getting attention for my looks. I wanted people to say “She’s so smart” or “She’s such a good writer” when they were talking about me, not “She’s so pretty” or “She has such gorgeous hair.” Lately, thanks to weight gain and living back in a city where my skin color is considered unattractive, I’ve been struggling with self-esteem issues again. But I still don’t want my looks getting more attention than my smarts.

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