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 until 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.
While I identified as a boy in so many ways, I was still a girl. Society engrained 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.