beauty

'I am not a pretty woman. And that's never felt like more of a crime than in 2020.'

I’ve never been one of the pretty girls. I wouldn’t go as far to say I was ugly. But growing up I was definitely what would be considered a 'plain Jane'. My middle name literally is Jane, by the way. 

I think I first realised I wasn’t pretty when I wore pants to school and the crossing man called me 'young man'. Not my finest moment when battling puberty. 

"First underarm hair, now this," I thought. 

It tortured me as I grew up. It didn’t help that one of my best friends was incredibly beautiful and I took on the role of delivering notes to her from boys, dying to be her boyfriend. She would circle yes or no and I would return the note, somehow knowing I would always be the messenger. The ugly stepsister to her Cinderella.

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I would fill my diary with teenage angst about why no one would ever notice me and I obsessively focused on knowing my good angles, makeup, lighting and all the other tricks that all young women have up their sleeve. Still to this day I carefully craft the most flattering photos for social media, selecting a good angle and filter. Because it’s fun and I’m human. And humans like sparkly things. 

We always preach that it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters but I feel like that statement in this era feels laughable to any young girl. To hand them a phone and give them access to social media. To have them see endless beautiful faces and unattainable standards staring at them everyday. Then to turn around and say- "don’t worry! It’s your insides that count!"

It's never felt more like a crime not to be pretty than it does in 2020. 

And yes I realise that beauty is within the eye of the beholder and that true beauty shines from within. But at the end of the day conventional attractiveness really just comes down to symmetry. That all your features are well placed. 

Unfortunately for me, my reflection is slightly less Mona Lisa and slightly more Picasso. 

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My eyes sit close together, my nose is too big. My hair is thin and naturally mousy, I have one crooked tooth that lets the rest of the team down. I don’t have a big wide smile, it’s uneven. I have genetically large pores and still get pimples even to this day. Plus, I seem to have this one stubborn chin hair that continually makes an appearance. A friend once told me I had a face you could pick from a crowd, which I’m still not sure how to take…

I don’t speak about this to be fishing for compliments. Now I’m in my thirties I’ve come to terms with the face and body I have. As you get older, the focus shifts from vanity, to health and gratitude that everything is functioning and useful.

I have come to peace with it all. Living in an appearance based world I learnt very early on in life that my looks would never be my commodity. I wouldn’t be able to use them to step ahead in life so I had better sharpen my other qualities quickly. Which I did. I learnt to be funny and quick-witted. To read and be educated. 

I know if I am getting ahead in line it’s not because of the way I look. It’s because I worked to get there. 

Now I’m not saying that you can’t be both pretty, witty and intelligent, of course you can. I’m also not saying that pretty people have it easier than others. I’m simply saying that if you are pretty, that is an advantage in this world whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. Just like I’m a privileged, middle class white female who can choose to spend her time writing about not being pretty. That is a fact. 

I'm sure physical beauty comes with its own disadvantages. For example, I’ve never had to chase or maintain a standard of prettiness. I’ve never mourned the loss of my beauty. I’ve never looked at old photos and wistfully traced rock hard and smooth, fresh skin. 

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I think it’s fabulous that people can make entire careers built on their symmetrical faces and beautiful bodies but I also wonder how exhausting it must be to live on that treadmill. To be chasing and attempting to not only maintain, but turn back the clock. To feel invisible once the heads stop turning for you. To seek that magic elixir to freeze you in time. 

Do you wonder if people love you for who you are or because they simply are drawn to your magnetic reflection? 

I’ve never had to wonder. I’m not on a treadmill. I don’t believe I’ll become an old lady and feel saddened at the loss of my beauty. I won’t feel the pressure. 

I’m not casting judgment either way. I don’t wish we all looked the same. We need beautiful things to stare at in this world. We live in a society built around people’s faces. A time where we can judge someone’s worth with a swipe or a double tap.

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I'm proud of the fact that in this world that is completely obsessed with the outside, everything I value about myself, every inch of confidence I have attained is built from my insides. It’s not about not loving myself when I look in the mirror, it’s about loving myself at the core, a love completely separate from my reflection. 

I don't believe we all have to love our faces and bodies. To stand naked and jiggle our cellulite with glee. That’s great if you can but I love myself despite all of that. The fact that I’m unsymmetrical, doesn’t really affect my life. Because that’s not what I will be remembered for. 

There is nothing wrong with being attractive. But there’s nothing wrong with not being either. I think the pressure to love your entire self can be tiring and sometimes pointless. You don’t have to love your body and you don’t have to hate it. You simply have to live your life in it. 

I love what my body enables me to do. To hug my friends, to feel sand in between my toes, to write, to bake cakes with my children. That’s why I love it. Because of what it does. My body and face are a gift, and I’m no longer concerned about how pretty the wrapping is. 

I’m not a pretty girl, but I’m pretty damn happy with who I am and I’ll take that, any day of the week. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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