It was in third grade that I realized that I was "ugly." Dark-headed, chubby, eternally either pale or sunburnt to a crisp, I was nothing like the long-haired wispy girls who were the starts of the books I read; who were the girls I sat behind or beside in class. I remember asking my mother if I was what I had been told that I was. "You are not ugly!" she exclaimed in horror, as if I had offended her personally by the very suggestion. "You are just different..."
In third grade, different is worse than ugly. That doesn't change in fourth, fifth or sixth grade. It doesn't change in college. It doesn't change in "the real world."
I have spent my entire life trying to remedy my ugly. Long hair, short hair, new clothes, old clothes made new, make up, perfume, more make up, lotion, another layer of make up until it looked like I had been mugged by Crayola, pants to make me suck it in, shirts to make me stick them out, dresses instead of pants, jeans instead of shorts, turtlenecks instead of button ups... decision after decision made with the hope that this was going to be the God molecule... the one that was going to transform me into a pretty girl.
When the outside stuff didn't work, I went to work on the stuff that really counted: perfecting my act. Playing dumb, cool and aloof, detached, distant, mysterious, silly, unattainable, pouty, angry, seething, searching and seeking... I became a social chameleon. I could fit in with anyone. It was miraculous actually, the morph that was me. I could make anyone like me because I could be anything they wanted or needed. I was a pod person and I was exhausted.
I don't remember when it all stopped. I don't remember when I got so sick of myself that I realized that there's no such thing as trying to be beautiful. Beauty just is. We don't get that much in today's society. We slap make up on people and fawn over that improved version. We plump our lips, paint our nails, transplant our hair, work out at our gyms, turn sideways in mirror after mirror, pull our necks up and tight to fool the camera, pop the hip and tilt the chin, pout the lips and furrow the eyebrows and end up looking like a Modigliani painting in the 72 pictures we take of ourselves with our cell phones in bathroom mirrors hoping to get one, just one that shows what we know must be in there somewhere: the pretty.
We are a world of makeover moguls. We love the "potential." But the potential is never enough. We are not satisfied with anything until we make it into everything we want it to be. Beauty just is.
That's when I stopped looking for the pretty. I realized that I didn't need the pretty because no one could tell me, with any type of certainty, what exactly "pretty" was/is. Pretty changes with the seasons. Pretty is long wavy hair today, long straight hair tomorrow. Pretty is green eyes and brown hair, brown eyes and red hair... so subjective. I was never going to be pretty because I didn't know what pretty was/is and truth is, nobody else does either and if they say they do they are either lying or regurgitating what they have seen in magazines or on television.
See, pretty is contrived. Pretty is figuring out how to make your eyes look bigger and your nose look smaller. Pretty is dropping a few pounds and being able to wear a little black dress. Pretty is walking into a room and turning heads.
Beauty just IS. You can't fake beauty. Beauty is figuring out to make your heart bigger and using your eyes to see those is need. Beauty is dropping a few of your pre-conceived notions and being able and willing to wear your heart on your sleeve so that you never miss an opportunity to feel something new, good or bad. Beauty is walking into a room and turning hearts, changing minds, creating smiles.
We're all mixed up as a society because we say that beauty is only skin deep. But in reality, pretty is skin deep. Beauty is in the muscles, the bones, the nerves and the blood. Pretty is in the packaging. Pretty is marketing. Pretty is one dimensional.
I spent the better part of one morning this week trying to find the perfect shade of lipstick. I found it - in a mall in Chesterfield, about 100 miles from my house. I had grabbed my purse and was ready to drive the 100 miles for a $34 tube of lipstick (YSL Nude Beige) when I realized something very important: that would be completely idiotic. Because, quite frankly, pretty just isn't a priority anymore. The truth has set me free.
Different is beautiful. Determined is beautiful. Funny is beautiful. Rowdy is beautiful. Smart is beautiful. Caring is beautiful. Faithful is beautiful. Spiritual is beautiful. Strong is beautiful. Brave is beautiful. So much is beautiful... why waste your time being pretty?