“I mean… She has a pretty face.”
That was the closest thing my junior high self, had ever heard as a compliment from a guy. My gorgeous skinny friend told me I should be happy with that. “After all” she said “You really do have a pretty face.” I smiled weakly and said “thank you.” But on the inside, I hurt. Because I knew behind that statement was a silent “Too bad she has that chubby body of hers though, right?”
This is why I knew I was destined to never be loved. It was ridiculous for me to think a guy could think I was beautiful just off a cute face and fun personality. I needed the body to match. These fears were confirmed when I started playing sports and dropped a bunch of weight. Suddenly, I was told I was beautiful. I got hit on all the time. Guys asked for my number and invited me to dances. And although I was relieved that I was no longer just a waste of a pretty face, I felt just as empty. I’d bat my eyes and giggle at the flirting but inwardly I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if my body changed. Would they still like me? My gut said no.
I nearly didn’t graduate high school. My severe secret depression didn’t have time to keep up with my grades. It wasn’t until a counselor condescendingly implied I was going nowhere in life that a fire lit within my soul. I worked hard that year and caught up on everything I fell behind on. I was 2 weeks from graduating on time and felt on top of the world.
I was standing at my locker when one of those guys who used to flirt with me saw me. It had been awhile since we spoke. We made some chit chat and before I turned to walk away he said with a smile “You know, you used to be so cute, but you have really let yourself go.” I was stunned. I stammered around and said “Well, I’ve been focusing on my grades.” He chuckled “That’s cool. But don’t forget about them looks!”
The story of womanhood for many seems to start off the same. We came screaming into this world as our mothers looked on with pride and joy. The doctor proclaimed “It’s a girl!” and just like that in walks Society. He scooped us in his arms, left the room and placed us before a panel of judges. The world was waiting, eager to hold up scorecards to measure our worth.
By the time I was in 3rd grade, the world held up a score that let me know my body was unacceptable. Teary eyed, I came home from school that day and asked my mom “Am I fat?” My beauty score went down. I lost more points for being too short and black. But “hey!” They would tell me “at least you’re light skinned. Thank God you’re mixed because now you got that good hair. 2 points for you!” I was funny so that gained me some points. But I also was strong willed and feisty. And Lord knows don’t nobody want a woman who thinks she is capable of changing the world. Leave that for the men.
Women are over it. They’re done curtseying on a stage they never asked to be on. The thing is we don’t need the world’s approval. We aren’t required to check in and compare where our score lands with others. Our value comes from within. And I give my wild hair, big personality and soft stomach a 10! I love my audacious ambitions, tender heart and crooked teeth. My version of beauty is not up for discussion. And neither is yours.
I’m proud of the many women who give themselves a 10 despite society’s judging system. And as for that boy who told me back in the day that I let myself go and I should worry about my looks: my response would be so much different now. I’d search my pockets looking for effs to give and tell him to put away the scorecard. I’m not apart of that raggedy system.