I realize that I’ve written about this issue before for SPARK in response to a book called Erotic Capitol by Catherine Hakim (which should be subtitled “my internalized misogyny is showing”) but seeing as this is an issue that keeps coming up and keeps needing to be addressed, I’m going to tackle it again.
When my alarm went off this morning at 7:30, I shut it off with the acceptance that it wasn’t going to be my morning. Sometimes I just know as soon as I open my eyes whether or not it’s going to be one of those mornings when I can dutifully drag myself out of bed and to the shower, or whether or not I’m going to spend an hour fighting with myself about whether or not to get up at all. And this morning was definitely the latter. On these mornings — the ones where I just manage to make it out of bed in time to throw my hair in a bun, brush my teeth, and catch the streetcar to work — I often spend the rest of my day feeling pretty gross. Feeling ugly. Feeling like I somehow failed to be an adult. Because how can I possibly ever be successful if I can’t get out of bed two hours before I need to leave the house, apply a full face of makeup, do my hair, and show up to work STOKED to do my secretarial duties?
The first time I realized that my appearance was up for public discussion was when I was having a particularly tired day and my eighth grade mustachioed boyfriend came up behind me, took a few quick tugs of my ponytail, and told me that I shouldn’t wear my hair up like that because I looked much better with it down. And I believed him. It’s been a while since eighth grade, but I’ve been told countless times by countless men on the street, the bus, or in stores how they feel about my appearance — whether it’s that they think I’m sufficiently fuckable or that I need to smile more. From the creepy dude in New York City who “complimented” me on my “nice titties” or the friend-of-a-friend who took it upon himself to rate all of the girls in a group photo as “2s” and my friend as a “10″ in a failed and juvenile effort to tell my friend she was hot. It’s crystal clear that regardless of my successes, or passions, intellect, or sense of humor, I’m perpetually judged on the basis of how many men think I’m hot enough to fuck.
Today, I’ve decided to embrace my ugly. As a person who has struggled with depression of varying degrees of severity for about five years now, some days I need to pat myself on the back just for getting the fuck out of bed. Because when you’re struggling with mental illness and the only comforting thing you can think of would be staying in bed until 5pm and maybe watching a little Netflix, getting up and going to work is a feat. And it’s progress for me to recognize that a year ago I would have been faced by overwhelming anxiety at the thought of going outside, but today I can pull on some shitty clothes and walk out the door without fear of debilitating anxiety. Making beauty a priority and the measure of my daily success was detracting from the fact that just getting out the door and to work without having to talk myself down from a panic attack is a fucking success, and I should be proud of that!
I’ve decided to call this “embracing my ugly” because I’m sick of the idea that being ugly is The Worst Thing. Look y’all, I do think I’m generally attractive, but when I wake up in the morning with puffy eyes and bed head, that’s not my ~natural beauty~ that is ugly, and that’s okay! That doesn’t make me any less awesome! I’m done being embarrassed of my ugly. I’m tired of hiding my ugly from partners for fear that if I’m not perfectly put together that they’re going to see my natural face and realize I’m a monster and run away. Because regardless of what I’m wearing or how put together I look, I’m still fucking awesome and talented and good at the things I apply myself to. And if you think that I’m somehow less of a competent human being because I didn’t take the time to fill in my eyebrows that morning, then you’re probably not a person that I would like to spend time with anyways.
Today, I am ugly. Tomorrow my alarm might go off and I’ll drag myself into the shower and put on some makeup and do my hair and spend the day enjoying my pretty. Or maybe not. Either way, I’ll pat myself on the back for managing to get out of bed for the third day in a row, go to work, and continue to be awesome — mascara or not.