My husband thinks I’m beautiful.
He tells me this frequently. He told me that the first thing he noticed about me on our first blind date were my eyes and how beautiful I was. (I still think he noticed my boobs. But I digress) He sneaks up behind me when we are at events together and whispers in my ear ‘I’m married to the most gorgeous woman in this room’.
I don’t believe him.
‘What about her?’, I think, ‘she looks like Audrey Hepburn.’ or ‘I’m having a fat day. This can’t be right’
I have never believed my husband when he says I’m beautiful. We’ve been together for 15 years and I am convinced he is a pathological liar. I believe he thinks I’m beautiful…but I don’t believe it myself.
Other people have told me that they think I’m beautiful…and to a person, I am convinced they’re all insane. They’re saying it so I won’t feel bad that I’ve gained weight, or to apologize for something they are about to tell me, or because they are my parent. Or because they are blind.
I am (have been? would still like to be?) an actor. I have professional photographs taken as part of my job, and when I look at them, I think the photos are beautiful. Because of the hair, the makeup and the fact that someone knew what they were doing when they took the photo. Not because of me.
For the first two years of my son’s life, I got a book of pictures of the two of us for Mother’s Day with a story written by my son (he’s a super genius) about all the adventures we’ve had together.
This past Mother’s Day, I did not get that book. I was upset with my husband until he had explained to me that I had successfully removed myself from every picture taken of my son.
For an entire year.
I removed myself from his life in pictures for a year.
Sometimes, I’ll think I’m having a cute day. Or that I look fierce (generally because of new shoes), but I don’t think I can ever remember a time that I looked in the mirror and thought ‘beautiful’.
Recently we were all memed to death by the Dove Real Beauty campaign.
You know the one I mean.
The one where the forensic sketch artist sits behind a curtain…like the Great and Powerful Oz. Women enter the room and then describe themselves to the artist. Then a stranger that they had been sitting with previously describes them to the same artist.
In the end all the women are shown the two drawings side so they could notice the difference between the two. To a woman, they almost all think they look more beautiful when described by someone else, and they see that they are beautiful.
This video made me cry. It made me sob loudly while sitting at my desk. It made me want to drink an entire bottle of Jack Daniels with a tequila chaser. It drove deep down in my soul buried itself there. Like that earwig thing from Wrath of Khan.
Of course, as with everything related to women and beauty, there was backlash. Endless, non stop backlash. Backlash that made me think ‘am I a bad person for being touched by this video? Am I shallow because I wish I thought I was beautiful?’
No…I don’t think I am.
Yes, this video was made by an advertiser trying to sell more soap. Yes, they are owned by Unilever who also sells Axe body spray, maker of horrid sexist and really stupid commercials and who have some really questionable practices world wide. Yes, yes, yes. Advertisers sell shit. It’s what they do. Anyone in a business is selling shit. It’s their number one goal…to sell more shit. Some of them may be a little more socially responsible than others while they do it, but over all, the bottom line of any product based business is to sell…more…shit. This video sells soap. Goes without saying. But it doesn’t change what I got from it.
Apparently, there are a lot of blonde white women in that video. And many of them were skinny. But I didn’t notice that. I noticed that each one of these women was absolutely beautiful. And they didn’t think they were.
This video didn’t say to me, as many negative comments have stated, that all women have is their beauty and that being beautiful is more important to a woman than being smart. I bet most of these women think they are smart, funny and amazing on the inside. I know I do. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the smartest and funniest people you will ever meet. But then it all screeches to a halt.
Here is the thing. This wee 6 minute video cut me to the core. Because I am those women. If I sat behind the curtain, this is what I would say…
“I have mousy blonde hair….kind of taupe. My face is round and chubby with no definition and I have no profile. My nose is too small and it makes my eyes look like they are too large and too close together…and the space between my nose and mouth is too much. My face looks dirty because it has too many freckles. And my teeth are too small for my smile. My eyes are the colour of baby poop. I have lots of wrinkles around my eyes and wrinkle divots in my cheeks where my dimples are. My skin is too pale.’
Sure… I’m a little suspicious that some of this was a wee bit set up. And I do think the video said that being beautiful matters.
‘GASP!’ women around the world shriek, ‘WHAT? BEING BEAUTIFUL DOESN’T MATTER! YOU DON’T NEED TO BE BEAUTIFUL TO BE A SUCCESSFUL AMAZING WOMAN! YOU ARE SETTING US BACK YOU STUPID BITCH!!!’
Let me rephrase that. What I got from the video is that thinking you are beautiful matters.
Because I think it does.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is not a four letter word. Being beautiful is not a bad thing. Wanting to be beautiful is not a bad thing. It is not shallow, or evil, or dismissive of our other attributes. Obsessing over it and doing freakish facial reconstruction…not so good….but that’s a whole different set of problems.
Being beautiful doesn’t mean wearing more makeup or dressing a certain way or rebuilding your face so you look like Barbie. It doesn’t mean looking a certain way, or looking like a certain person. It’s so much more than that. Its about being confident and brave and carrying yourself with ease. It is possible to be smart…and successful…and funny…and beautiful. One does not negate any of the others.
Little girls like me are told over and over again that we are so much more than beautiful. Because we are. We are told that we can be anything we want to be (because we can) and that we are SO MUCH MORE than pretty little things. I think the message can then start to become that if we are smart, and funny, and clever, and successful…WE CAN’T BE BEAUTIFUL TOO. Don’t look at those women in the magazines. You can’t look like that. It’s not real. Beauty is superficial and wrong. Be smart…be clever…be successful. BE SUPERWOMAN.
But don’t be beautiful.
And honestly…I think a lot of ‘beautiful little girls’ are told the same message…but a different way. At least you are pretty. You don’t need to be smart because you are beautiful.
How many times have you looked at a stunningly beautiful woman and thought ‘please be stupid’. I do it all the time. I hope and pray that she is stupid…or mean…or has really horrible gas…or a rotten home life. She must be dumb, shallow and because she could have been so much more than just beautiful…but obviously she isn’t. Poor stupid thing. Because you can’t be beautiful AND everything else. Right? Right?
That my friends…is fucked up.
Beautiful, smart women aren’t an anomaly. And they don’t have horrible gas. Most of them.
The thing that makes them the most beautiful is that they ooze confidence. Some of these women don’t care what they wear or if their hair is ‘just so’ when they leave the house. Some do. But whatever they do, they do it for themselves.
Really beautiful women know that they are IT. They are Beyonce, Arianna Huffington, Angelina Jolie, Amy Poehler, Tina Fucking Fey, Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey all rolled into one amazing package. Yes, some of them work at being beautiful. But they also work at being successful, smart, funny and kick ass. They are THE FUCKING BOMB. They believe.
Imagine… looking in the mirror and thinking ‘hey beautiful’? If you started every day with the mantra of ‘I am smart, funny, brave, clever, competent and beautiful’, can you imagine how unstoppable you would be?
How unstoppable I would be?
Yes, we are all so much more than beautiful. But we’re beautiful too.