I recently have been doing a lot of thinking. More thinking than normal, I would say. I attribute most of this to the fact that I’ve had the flu for 9 days and my internet was out for 2 of those 9. Talk about time for self-reflection. I found myself laying on my bed lost in thought. I was thinking about cheese (I’m lactose intolerant, so I think about cheese a lot. They’re longings, really) and life and love and other normal American things. But mostly, I was asking myself this question: Am I pretty?
There’s this supermodel alive right now in the world, and her name is Gigi Hadid. When I say that this woman is flawless, I mean it. She is downright perfect as far as perfect looks go. I literally had to unfollow her from Instagram because I was becoming soÂ negative towards myself. Literal harshness was abounding after I spent a long toilet session (don’t act like we all don’t spend too much time sitting on the toilet perusing through social media) staring at her perfect pictures and perfect life and perfectly symmetrical face. I will never, ever, ever look like Gigi Hadid. Mainly because nachos, but for many other reasons as well.
Like I said a few sentences ago, I have had the flu for 9 days. It has been a really unattractive 9 days, as the flu was bad enough that I lost any desire to even make myself 10% presentable. The fanciest moment that I had is when I put a Biore charcoal strip on my face in an effort to tame the unruly blackhead colony that has claimed my nose as its brave new world.
In those moments of what I call phlegm-fest 2k16, I would stumble into the bathroom and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Horror. Sheer horror. I know what some of you are thinking: “You were sick! Cut yourself some slack.” But the truth of the matter is, I had a moment where I looked in the mirror and thought, “Dear God, I am a very ugly person.” And I meant it.
We live in a culture where beauty wins, every time. We don’t have reality-dating obsessions that showcase the chubby and average. We don’t have magazines full of size 16 women who have adult acne and greasy hair. In fact, we take the celebrities that we worship and we ridicule them for leaving the house in sweatpants without their eyebrowsÂ on. We have entire segments in magazines and tv shows highlighting how fat some people have become. We encourage enhancement- both physical and through apps that smooth out our skin and trim our waistlines- and criticize when the enhancement is too much. We teach young people that they need to be beautiful and then make fun of them for trying so hard.
Dang, we suck. I suck. You suck. Kanye sucks. (Not really related, but I’ve really just been wanting to say that last part publicly).
On Saturday night, I was awake until 3:24 am. I could not sleep. Blame head congestion or something, but my body was not having anything that resembled relaxation. I was going through Instagram (I swear I do other things besides look at the gram), and I came across this quote that reached out and slapped me in the face (but in a really loving way) and then yelled, “Screenshot me, woman.” So, I did.
It is not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.
When I say that this quote hit me, I mean it. I feel like it actually hit me. Or maybe the medication just hit me in that moment, but either way, something hit me. I am someone who puts a lot of weight into feeling connected to things. I have to feeeeeeelÂ the things that are a part of my life or I begin to panic. I’m a feeler. It’s weird, maybe, but somebody out there understands this feeling and is saying, “Dang girl, you too?” right now. I connected with this. I connected in a way that I haven’t connected to anything in awhile.
For the first time, maybe in awhile, maybe in my life, I had this crazy thought that society and culture and the Kardashians would scoff at. Do I have to be beautiful? What if I don’t feel like being beautiful? Is it required of me, as a woman, to try and be pretty?
Can I confess something to you? This is going to be incredibly honest and either make you feel like I am a complete narcissist or one of the most in-tune woman that you know: About 5 months ago I went from having hair down to my butt to having hair above my shoulders. Yeah, the cut was super trendy and the long bob has been made sexy by Taylor Swift (I love you Tswift), but there was a really definite reason why I cut my hair, and it didn’t have anything to do with me being trendy.
I was tired of being sexy.Â
Maybe I didn’t realize what journey I was on at that moment, and at 3:24 am on a flu-infested Saturday night, it finally hit me, but a few months back I began to have this urge of not wanting to be sexy anymore. Let me rephrase: I didn’t want to be expected to be sexy.Â I had people begging me not to cut my hair. And they weren’t doing so in a way that made me feel labeled or like a piece of meat, but it did make me realize how much emphasis my hair had on my beauty. Â I felt done. I felt done living up to what everybody thought pretty was.Â I remember thinking, “Is this what makes me beautiful? Let’s find out.” So I cut it. No turning back, I totally chopped it.Â (And spoiler alert, I have never felt hotter).
In the past, I have spent countless hours wondering why it didn’t work out with certain men. C O U N T L E S S. And my first guess has always, ALWAYS been, “Maybe he didn’t think I was pretty.” Are you serious? Yeah, I am. That’s what I’ve been taught to think. That’s what we’ve all been taught.
Maybe that’s why that quote spoke to me so much. Reading that made everything that I’ve been feeling come together in a second. It’s not my job to be pretty. It’s not my life’s goal to be sexy and for everyone to agree. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. And honestly, it has been. But as of 3:30am-ish a few nights ago, it’s not. Not anymore.
I want to be beautiful and presentable and make myself look good. I want my body to be healthy and strong and I want the compliments that come with that. I am human, for Kanye’s sake. Compliment me. But I don’t want it to be all that I have. I don’t want people to talk about me, and all that they can think to say is, “Yeah, she’s really pretty.” I don’t want the way that I look to be more important than the way that I look at things. (Some of y’all are slow. Read that again.)
I don’t want my “beauty” to overshadow my purpose. It’s nice to be and be perceived as beautiful. But I’d rather have a beautiful mind (especially if that came with Russell Crowe). I’d rather people say, “She is full of new ideas and kindness” than people say, “She has a great butt.” I’d rather they talk about my ability to connect rather than my ability to touch up my eyebrows. I don’t want to be an object. I want to be a subject. I want to be talked about and studied, not looked at. I want to be learned and remembered, not gazed upon because of something that will undoubtedly change in a decade or so after I have babies or decide that I am comfortable being sorta chubby.
I don’t want to be desired. I want to be admired. I don’t want to be seen. I want to be noticed.
So how do I change? How do we change?
We teach our sons and daughters to be somebodies and not somebody’s.
We emphasize being kind, period. We put emphasis on grace and not glam. Â
We highlight brains and not butts. We create an atmosphere where mental stimulation is more erotic than physical stimulation.Â
But most importantly, we make a conscious and everyday decision to create beauty in the world around us by not allowing ourselves to be objects. We refuse to be passed off as ordinary. We refuse to buy into the idea that we are trophy wives and husbands and girlfriends and friends.
We don’t allow ourselves to be won or conquered. You are not someone’s endgame. You decide. You create. You articulate. You’re not a prize to be won or earned. You are so much more than the way that you look or even more relevant, so much more than the way that you don’t look.
So am I pretty? Yeah, I’m pretty. I’m pretty smart and pretty wise, pretty intuitive and intelligent. I’m pretty determined and pretty stubborn and pretty funny. Am I beautiful? Yeah, I’m beautiful. My mouth and my mind are beautiful. My brain is beautiful and the work that my hands accomplish and the words that my fingers type are beautiful.
And now that I’ve settled that in my spirit, no haircut or bad date or lost job or betrayal or grief or insecurity or supermodel can take my beauty from me.