Friday, January 21, 2011

Power in Beauty

A friend of mine told me the other day how a date asked her when she knew she was beautiful.

Nice come on line, I replied. Did you have an answer? She did. She remembered when she did feel beautiful, a few years into what was a long term relationship. It took time, trust and confidence.

I wondered about the question. My answer would be, Um, as soon as you tell me, sweetheart. Okay, I may be a little out of practice with come back lines after 20 years of marriage.

I don't feel beautiful. I never have. Now, before you all start saying beauty is in your heart and all those nice things, the reality is I am not traditionally beautiful as a woman. I'm tall, broad shouldered, and have a more masculine appearance. You could say I'm handsome and I'd believe you.

While I was sitting having lunch in a small cafe today between classes, I heard some comments from the two guys sitting next to me that stung.

It always stings. I try to have thick skin, to realize some people are simply stupid, but it always gets to me.

It's snowing like crazy. I'm in jeans, a sweater, and muck boots (which probably won't come off till April this year). It's New England, it's winter and I'm thinking stilettos aren't the best choice with a foot of snow on the ground.

They started, loudly, talking about "shemales" and how they wished people would dress right.

The implication was that my gender was their business. It wasn't. I'm having lunch. Does it matter if I have breasts or a penis? One more comment and I was going to dump my soup in their laps.

It hurts. Do you have to make fun of me? Because, I was pretty much the only other person there aside from an elderly woman and two young lovers who were holding hands and kissing between every bite.

I glared at them and they snickered and went back to talking about football. I wish it wasn't quite that stereotypical but it was what it was.

The reason I can't answer the question about when I felt beautiful is because I don't fit. I was still raised as a girl, with little girl expectations of beauty. My mother would put books on my head and teach me to walk with good posture- she never did that with my brother. When it came time to wear makeup, she tried to give me lessons. I remember I was working at Burger King after school and the heat of the grease and makeup were not going to work well together.

I passed.

While I identified as a boy in so many ways, I was still a girl. Society ingrained certain expectations, even in me. I rebelled against them. If my mother said, Oh that's pretty, I'd put it back on the rack. I didn't want to be pretty.

But I did want to be beautiful. Pretty felt weak but beautiful meant power.

That is what it all boils down to, I realize. Power. Those two white guys felt they had every right to snicker away. To make me uncomfortable, to make a judgment and deem their worldview not only acceptable, but worthy of announcing.

Although I doubt they thought that deep. You have to wonder, though, what inspires people to be randomly mean.

All I know is I'm jealous of my friend's response, her real belief that she is beautiful (she is, by the way. no question). There is not only a level of self esteem but a sense of power I wish I had.

Maybe then it wouldn't sting.


Blogger weese said...

I too... am not beautiful. Cute maybe... tho I am old now - so cute may no longer be an option :)
But no. Not beautiful.
Someone said something hateful to me last year or so - while we were out having a casual dinner with my daughter. Something about my obvious butch-ness (clearly he missed my cuteness).
My quick wit was numbed. I always wished I had said something clever.... like 'oh my! have you never seen a lesbian before !!"
o well... maybe next time.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

It's funny. I usually just HATE my looks. As I get older, even more so. And I don't think of myself as a vain person or one who is obsessed with looks of any kind, but still. No. I haven't felt beautiful in a long time. Except...
When I am in my friend's films. He tells me that my face is his favorite to see through the camera lens and when I see what he shoots, I think, That is Beautiful. All my lines are there, my sags, my every bit of age, and yet, somehow, it is beautiful.
Not any traditional sense, but in a completely different way and I am grateful to have that window through which I see myself differently.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

oh I think you're a hottie, ms. moon.

and I have often referred to myself as cute, too, weese. I think we're still cute as we get older. in fact, more so.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Terena said...

"But I did want to be beautiful. Pretty felt weak but beautiful meant power." I love this quote.

It's taken me to the age of 43 before I felt beautiful, meaning powerful and no longer worried about "pretty." I never realized how vane I was until I hit 40 and things started falling apart. I'd look in the mirror and mourn for my loss of "pretty." Now I feel free from it all. I'm no longer pretty, no longer something boys desire. Beauty is beyond sexy or young. And that feels good.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous donald said...

don't let the words of strangers get to you. you are aging beautifully.

4:21 AM  
Blogger screamish said...

oh man...I remember a comment from a girl in high school that just came back to me, reading this...along the same lines, one of those casual things imbecile teenagers/young people say...(yhis is literally 23 years ago, now)

it means nothing, though, no matter how it feels right the long term, they'll still be idiots smirking at interesting people in caf├ęs in ten's nothing personal to people like that..forget it...

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Lez (shemale) zorba! said...

There is also tremendous power (and beauty) in pride and individualism. In moments like these (which we all have from time to time, but hopefully fewer as we grow older) I remember what Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "nobody can make you feel less than without your permission." Or something to that effect. Wise woman that Eleanor and beautiful in her own right!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

Wow, fooled me on all counts.

12:54 PM  
Blogger A1 said...

I love reading your blog and I never really post but this blog touched me. i can remember one day when i was dating someone and they told me " Your so pretty...but if you lost weight you could be beautiful." It stung then and it still stings now. All my life have preached to people that beauty comes from with in, I'm glad it makes people feel better but I just can't bring myself to really believe it. Yes I am a good person and great friend and I will be the first to give you the shirt off my back but not even my wife can give me back what I thought was the "Beautiful" feeling because I no longer believe I am a beautiful person.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to feel beautiful all the time. I'm getting there.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Lez Renovate said...

Great blog, lez mom! especially like your thoughts about sexist ideas of beauty
Dykely yours,

6:43 PM  

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