The Tyranny of “Beautiful”

“God forbid you be an ugly girl,
‘course too pretty is also your doom,
’cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room.”

– Ani DiFranco

ImageMs DiFranco sure knows her stuff! We have all done it. A woman can walk into a room and know instantly who is better looking than her and who she outranks in the “hotness” stakes. No one wants to be the ugliest… but the prettiest, well, she had better watch her back!

But I seem to have had a revelation in the past three years:

I am ugly and I don’t care.

Now there’s a declarative sentence for you.

I am somewhat thankful to have become free from “beautiful” while I wasn’t looking. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting I was some sort of Elizabeth Taylor look-alike, but I reckon I was probably slightly above average.

I look at photographs from 4-5 years ago and realise that I didn’t see myself in real terms. I thought I was ugly then, but that girl was slim, clear-skinned, had shiny, healthy hair and was well-slept. Pre-kids I liked my figure some of the time but agonised over the best way to dress it. I fussed about with makeup and hair stylers. I once paid $350 to cut and colour my hair. I am soooo embarrassed! That much money would see my hair cut for around 5 years now!

I don’t really blame my age, weight or having kids for my ugliness. There are enough “Yummy Mummies” out there to make my less-than-deliciousness quite odd. There are three factors really – time, money and the fact I no longer give a “rat’s”.

This ugliness of mine is situational, but I can’t decide whether or not it is temporary. There ARE benefits…

I used to take upwards of one and a half hours to get ready to go out. Anywhere. Now I am ugly, it only takes 10 mins from shower to car keys. If I keep that up until I am 80, being ugly just saved me some three years of my life. I’ll take that to the bank.

I used to stand in front of the mirror for a long time. Even being conservative, I would put a minimum on it of about 20 mins a day (not including dressing/makeup time etc). Sometimes I would admire the person looking back at me, but mostly I just criticised her. I don’t look in the mirror anymore. There’s another 253 days or so. Cha-ching!

No more makeup, face masks, nail polish, hair dye, 3-step facial routines. My current wardrobe cost around $90 for the lot. I own exactly 2 pairs of shoes (and one of those is a pair of purple flip-flops). That’s a lot of money saved. That would now be debt if I still insisted on spending it.

So, what have I been doing with all this extra time on my (un-moisturised) hands? Listening, looking and thinking “outwards”. I listen to Radio National (love!!!), take an interest in current affairs, read an incredible number of books, look at the people and things happening around me and really THINK about stuff.  I believe that I have become far more interesting…

I also think I am a much nicer person than I used to be (my feet don’t hurt, for one thing, so I’m not so cranky!) The biggest change for the better, I believe, is that once I stopped being “beautiful” I could stop caring about my “rank” in that room… and everyone else’s too. I stopped scouring magazines and TV shows for celebrities’ flaws to “prove” they are not really “all that”. In fact, I hardly notice how people look at all – I genuinely care a lot more about what they are doing and saying. I like myself more for this.

But I do sense myself being judged. There is a sort of moral panic that happens when a woman opts out of the endless worry about what she should aspire to look like. There are a lot of people gaining money and power from our insecurity. A woman’s worth has been defined by how they look for so long that people are bound to object.

The reaction of some young men is particularly amusing. I am definitely a MILF (Mother I’d Like to Forget!). Their usual assumption that any woman talking to them is having a crack leads to abject horror that someone that looks as I do might DARE to think I had a chance with His Gorgeousness! Actually, I was just saying “excuse me” because you were mooching for too long in front of the cereal I am trying to purchase. Sorry to infect your optical personal space with my eye-polluting ugliness. I’ll slink back to my swamp cave now…

Other women can be just as bad. Why don’t I care more about my lack of attractiveness? It makes them very suspicious. It is impolite in the face of a compliment like “I love your dress” to not shoot back with “Thanks… I hate my thighs!”  Perhaps they are concerned that if I don’t participate in that “face-value” system, I might turn to passing judgement on their other attributes…?

There are things I am seeking to add back into my life – exercise, proper diet and sleep, for example. Since my life is going to be far more interesting from now on, I think I want to live as long as I can, as well as I may. I accept that this may even have the side-effect of resulting in my being a little less “ugly”…

but I cannot go back to the Tyranny of “beautiful”. I won’t… and you can’t make me!



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2 responses to “The Tyranny of “Beautiful”

  1. Ninon de l'Enclos

    But what will you do when people quickly encounter that inner beauty which you possess and cannot wish to hold in disdain – surely that isn’t a burden – “That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful”…

  2. I suppose Ninon, that is what I now aspire to… the maintenance of inner goodness which is beautiful, rather than the fleeting (and expensive) “beauty” which is manufactured and subjective anyway! Thanks for the comment : )

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