Every day, when I open my email, there are a plethora of emails detailing how ugly I am. Every day, someone leaves a comment here on this blog, or sends me an email, or trolls my Tumblr, deeply intent on declaring me the ugliest person they’ve ever seen. They equate me to pigs, whales, elephants, hippos, manatees and all manner of animals, all of which I personally find awesome and absolutely adorable.
Once upon a time, this would have hurt me deeply. I would have been terribly upset, it probably would have made me self harm, or driven me to isolate myself more, or stopped me from dressing the way I love to dress.
But it hasn’t done that for a long time.
Now before you deny my ugliness, which is a lovely thought of you, I want to say, it’s OK. I’m not writing this to have people dispute the accusation. You don’t need to tell me I’m not ugly, or even that I’m beautiful, to undo the shitty things that some people say to me. Because other than some irritation at having to deal with continued abuse and harassment, the actual words themselves don’t hurt me at all.
I realised why today when I responded to an email that was actually lovely (not abuse, I don’t respond to those) from a woman who had always felt ugly and she told me about her journey to find her own beauty. I got to thinking about that need to be beautiful, and I realised I don’t have that need myself. Not that I have any problem with other people needing to feel beautiful, but it’s just not there for me.
I feel absolutely no obligation to be aesthetically pleasing to others. Oh don’t get me wrong, it is always nice when someone refers to me as beautiful, but I don’t feel it defines me or adds any value to me as a person. Now admittedly, mostly women are expected to be beautiful, or at least aspire to beauty. Women are often seen as prizes or trophies measured by their beauty. I want more from my life than being aesthetically pleasing.
My having beauty does not define all of the important things in my life. It doesn’t diminish my intellect, my humour, my compassion, my dedication, my enthusiasm, my strength, my ability to love. These are, for me anyway, the yardsticks which I measure my success as a human being – not beauty.
Let’s not forget, beauty is entirely subjective anyway. As much as there is a societal beauty ideal, it is not the default of what all people actually find beautiful. People find all types of features beautiful – for every single feature of appearance there is, someone out there will find it beautiful – even the very things we ourselves might find deeply unattractive. We can also find polar opposites of features beautiful – you can be attracted to more than one body type, or more than one eye colour, or more than one skin tone, and so on. I know I am. Think about the famous people that are seen as beautiful. One movie star or pop singer may be deeply desirable to one person, and then completely off putting to the next. Except perhaps for Tom Hiddleston, it seems EVERYONE finds him deeply desirable!
Personally, I’m attracted to people for more than just their physical beauty. A person can be physically stunning, but deeply repulsive to me. I can think of several famous actors who are lauded as being the “sexiest men alive” yet I find them very unattractive because I know that they have been violent towards previous partners, or have bigoted political beliefs, or are ignorant. What I find attractive in a person extends much further than external appearance. For example I am attracted to an infectious laugh, gentle hands, quick wit, deep intellect… I also like crooked teeth, skinny legs, smile wrinkles, hairy bodies, big feet, fat bellies… all things that other people would consider very unattractive. A person doesn’t have to have all of those things for me to find them attractive, but I notice them on people and am attracted to them, particularly when accompanied by those non-physical attributes that I like.
That said, I don’t expect every person on the planet to meet my aesthetic. I’m not personally offended by encountering someone that I do not find attractive. There seems to be this mentality in men in particular that if a woman fails to be sexually attractive to him, it is a personal insult to him. I’ve heard it referred to as The Boner Principle. Any woman who “fails” to inspire an erection in a man loses her right to basic human respect by default. It is the most unbelievably conceited attitude to think that you are owed attraction by every woman you encounter.
I’ve got no intention of buying into that bullshit. My life is worth far more than being a pretty ornament that pleases others. If people think I’m ugly, I offer no apology and feel no shame. For some time my personal motto has been:
I’m not here to decorate the world, I’m here to change it.