My mother once told me that being beautiful creates a responsibility. She said that my words will hold more weight because I am more beautiful than most.
There’s something about being beautiful and being brought up in a family of beautiful people. My boyfriend is physically beautiful and I fully expected to meet his family of beautiful people as well. In fact I was intimidated by the thought. They turned out to be warm, intelligent, well-read, many of them bilingual but also physically average.
Saying aloud that I know I’m attractive has never felt okay and my gut is telling me to apologize for exploring these thoughts. My Facebook feed is filled with friends’ filtered, make-up, hair, one hand on hip and pursed-lipped selfies. There are far more important things to occupy our attention. Sharing this may be my own pursed-lipped selfie.
Since I met my boyfriend, I thought it was really interesting that he doesn’t care about my appearance. He doesn’t often comment on the way I look. I even enjoy it. If I don’t have time to do my hair and carefully apply make-up, it’s okay. He chips off my nail polish when we sit together on the subway.
Other men that I’ve dated have admitted that they want people to see us together. The last boyfriend wouldn’t even close his eyes when he kissed me; he darted them back-and-forth to see who was watching. After a week of knowing me, he said his father offered to give me $50,000 to marry into the family after having seen my photos. A job I recently had featured me on their website, a move that drove their traffic up 80% and there was talk of having me “sign something” so they could use my face in their advertisements. I don’t see myself as an unusually beautiful person; I have plenty of flaws and things I would change about myself. Feeling like an asshole for committing this to paper, I do know that my beauty is above average; it’s what people have told me since I can remember. Just like other things in life, when everyone says the same thing for years, you believe it.
My boyfriend doesn’t have a concept of how attractive he is; it likely just was never a topic of conversation while he was growing up. It was very different in my family. There was a lot of emphasis on clothing, long eyelashes and perfect lips. My grandmother showed us pictures of how beautiful she was when she was younger and shared story after story of jealous girls and boys lining up to talk to her. She pointed out once that a man let us cut in line ahead of him after she cocked her head to the side, held his eye contact and touched her earring with one finger. My great-aunt always had a fresh manicure until she fell into a coma and passed away. We spoke openly about men hitting on us and it felt a little bit like a competition.
My family taught me a lot of other things too, like the importance of being kind to others and learning to be independent. Intelligence was highly prized as well, although it unquestionably placed second behind beauty.
We made our home beautiful, often with very little money. Even now, I live alone and I own almost nothing but have found ways to make my apartment beautiful. Without furniture, people still say that my home is comfortable and pretty. Beauty has always been a member of the family, a guest at dinner and a companion on grey days.
It’s difficult for me to know how important my own beauty is to me. There will come a day when I will lose this part of myself and men will look right through me when I walk on the street. They won’t yell out their windows and they wont slow down and honk their horns. No one really wants to be judged solely on appearance. We want true love, to enjoy good books, good food and silly yet meaningful late night conversations with best friends, and I dare any woman to say with sincerity that they will truly be comfortable when the moment comes that they stop being noticeable.
Submitted to ArtParasites by Laurel Perkins