Pretty on the inside...
OK. I'm about to write something I've thought about writing a number of times. I've shied away, due to general embarrassment, but hey, blogging is baring your soul to the universe, so here goes. I was inspired to finally tackle this due to two things. The first - some graffiti written in the toilets at work (University Library). On the wall was written "Do you consider yourself pretty?".
A timeless question for those of the female persuasion. I wrote way back at the beginning of this blog, about being the goofy sidekick in my group of friends when I was growing up. Not the popular or attractive one, I was always more tom-boyish and therefore found my niche playing for laughs instead. Shyer in big groups, or around boys though. Hiding behind my fringe, and hoping to blend into the background.
In my 20s I still found myself surrounded by intelligent, funky and gorgeous friends. The painful bit was that on the one hand I embraced the *fuck you* mantra of the car crash currently known as Courtney Love and Hole's song Pretty on the inside. All brash Riot Grrl, with feminist attitude and the idea that brains and personality would get me further than looks. Hell, they were rules I could play within. But as much as I wanted this to resonate, deep inside there was a feeling of inferiority. I'd beat myself up and wish I thinner, prettier, funnier...different to who I was.
My 30s continued along a similar road, though I gained more confidence at work. Thanks to supportive and fabulous colleagues and friends, I could now speak in public and was told that I was quite good at it. I began to face things that terrified me. And in my late 30s I began to write, as openly and honestly as I could. And again the feedback has been good. But it is only recently in the last year that I have begun to let go, and stop being so hard on myself. A friend commented on a photo of me on facebook, saying I was pretty, and it freaked me out. I feel like an idiot writing this, but it's true. It was a bit of a kick up the arse making me acutely aware that how we see ourselves is never how others see us. If only we could see what they do.
The second thing that made me write about this subject, was a documentary that Peter and I stumbled across on SBS on friday night. I've found the complete thing on Vimeo and I urge you all to be brave and check it out. It was a show called The Perfect Vagina. It discussed the issue of young women, girls really, having plastic surgery on their fanny. I winced more than once I have to admit. In this age of surgery and photoshop are women being made to feel even crapper about themselves? What was interesting about this doco was the plaster cast wall of lady bits. Mesmerising. It made me realise that we are only fed a select image of what we should look like, as apposed to how we ALL really appear. The short answer is that everyone is unique and different. And I'm not just talking frou frous here.
Height, weight, bums, boobs, skin, hair...everything. Unique. Different. There is no 'normal' but unfortunately there are ideals. And perhaps a tiny handful of people who can measure up to that. It's good to be reminded that we out-number them, so what a pity the sea of oddments haven't started an uprising. The host of the doco said in one poignant moment - that she wished she could tell the 20 year old having surgery, that the one thing you learn as you get older is that 'it doesn't really matter'. How you look or the fact that you don't fit the mould isn't important. As she said it I smiled. She also said there was no point trying to tell the 20 year old as it's something you hopefully learn as you go through life.
So when I saw the graffiti, I was saddened. As women, or people, are we always destined to beat ourselves up? Or is it all part of the journey? The good news is that I feel I am reaching a place of comfort regarding myself...lumpy thighs, blotchy skin, saggy bits and all. I have a body that's had a life, and hopefully a brain that smart enough to understand and appreciate that fact. So, do I consider myself pretty? Sometimes. More importantly, do I consider myself happy? I'm pleased to answer - yes.