30 Days of Being Ugly

Pre P.S. Sorry for the long post. Also, enjoy the intermixed ugly pictures of me. 

What a month of being ugly has done to me:

I’m not really a “girly girl.” I never have been. I’ve never been an outright “tomboy” either- mostly because I was never good enough at sports to be considered one.

Growing up you could find me sporting one of my MANY pairs of overalls, hightop yellow chucks, purple rimmed glasses, a bucket hat, boys basketball shorts, and oversized t-shirts tied up with hair ties.

I know what you’re thinking….

Work it, mama.

And, you know, I did work it. I was never overly insecure about it. I just did me and strutted my stuff and cracked jokes and did my homework. My self worth wasn’t found in how I looked at all.

Then middle school hit.

Can I get an amen?

Middle school is otherwise known as the worst century-long 3 years of any girl’s life. The time in which you are a prisoner of puberty, the laughing stock of the male population, the targeted prey of the female population, the captive of your hormone cocktail, the misunderstood ball of emotional rebellion (as seen by your parents). It goes on. It’s the worst.

You define beauty as whatever your mother looks like in elementary school and you think nothing of your own beauty or lack there of. Beauty is something everyone has before middle school.

And then, suddenly, you’re hyperaware of the fact that beauty is no longer your mother, (sorry mom, you’re gorgeous). Beauty is what we see on TV, in movies, on magazines. It’s something that she has that I don’t.

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(My mom is real-life beautiful)

Looking in a mirror becomes an exhausting hypercriticism of everything from your eye color, to hair volume, pore size, and nose arch, lip shape, and forehead span, cheek bone structure, and skin tone evenness.

In elementary school, the only thing that could be wrong with your face is when you were eating Spaghetti-O’s and got sauce all over it. In middle school, hiding your face with sauce is probably better than showing it to anyone- I mean, look at how big your pores are- aliens can see them from their galaxy far far away.

And then high school hits and maybe you’re lucky enough to find friends or have family that sees your beauty and reminds you of it. Or maybe you’re unfortunately surrounded with insecure lady friends who seek validation by bringing you down.

I’m not here to rant on about society and the role it plays in destroying our egos, falsifying our self-images, demoralizing our definitions of beauty, violating our perceptions of what women should look like and so on. Whatever. Society is stupid.

I am here to talk about what 30 days of looking ugly has done for me.

As I said before, I’ve never been much of “girly girl.” Aside from that hideous phase in early high school where I either didn’t own a mirror or thought seven inches of eye liner was cute, I’ve never been a big make-up wearer. I’ve never been ladylike enough to appreciate dresses. I’ve never learned to curl my hair without leaving at least two burn marks on my hands or neck. I have no idea what concealer is and I bought an eyelash curler once because I thought it looked like a tool aliens extracted body parts with (i.e. could be GREAT in science demos as a teacher later on in life) I own a single pair of high heels that I’ve worn one time. I’m terrible at painting nails and I don’t know how to french braid. I’ve never dyed my hair, I don’t know what the word “contouring” means, and I’ve never owned lipstick in my life. The few times I have endeavored to look even semi-decent has been more out of laziness than anything else- like asking my roommates to curl my hair because I wore it up all day and now I want to wear it down but it has that ponytail-lump. Or showering and braiding my hair at night while it’s wet so it looks fancy the next day, but really I just didn’t want to wake up early enough to shower….

My morning routine consists of waking up, showering in under 7 minutes and putting on the top pair of leggings in the drawer and the first flannel in the closet. Divalicious, I know.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a self-righteous, girl-hating jerk, I have to tell you that for a long time, this has been a point of pride for me. I laughed at girls who spend hours in front of the mirror putting make-up on. I scorned the girls who care enough to curl their hair before class. I wondered who they’re trying to impress by wearing dresses. I attributed their desire to look “pretty” to some kind of insecurity and need for validation. I mean did you see her? Cake face. Look at the line of make up on her face. That dress…vavavoom. Who is she after?

I have now spent 30 days being ugly.

I mean, technically one could argue I’ve spent arguably 21 years, 5 months and 28 days being ugly ( I think that math is off, but idc, you get the point). I have some quality double, nay triple, NAY QUADRUPLE chin photos. I can curl my lips in so it looks like I don’t have any. I’m super good at re-wearing clothes and sometimes I forget to brush the other side of my hair. (That’s more out of exhaustion than lack of appreciation for hygiene. I mean, I shower everyday but sometimes a girl just forgets about the left side, am I right?)

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So I suppose saying I’ve only spent 30 days being ugly isn’t completely accurate.

But work with me.

I’ve spent 30 days being ugly.

I’ve been wearing the same 3 shirts and SINGLE PAIR OF SHORTS for 30 days. (Alright, alright, I wore leggings two days when it was cold). I rewash my clothes everyday after we walk and hang them up to dry, only to put them on before bed again so I don’t have to waste time in the morning. Aside from washing my hair and brushing my teeth, I pretty much haven’t participated in any kind of beautification at all.

I wake up and go. I wear a baseball cap. I have no make up on. Its 750 degrees Fahrenheit out here and we spend 6-7 hours a day walking in the sun. I’m also donning a knee brace, an ankle brace, and socks with sandals. COULD I GET MORE GLAMOROUS?!

I’ve spent 30 days being ugly.

And this is what I’ve learned.

  1. I’ve spent my entire life being afraid of being pretty. I am a very short, very young looking female and I get comments day in and day out about how young I look. “Oh my gosh, you’re in college?! I thought you were 15!” is like the soundtrack of my life. I’ve never fit the standard of pretty. I’m short, a little on the stocky side now (S/O to lifting), young looking, and I have never really “tried.” I’ve been so scared that if I tried to look pretty, people would laugh at my attempts. Boys wouldn’t like me because basically every male claims to like “girls who don’t wear makeup” and that girls would mock me because “look how hard she’s trying.” I’ve never really given myself the opportunity to feel beautiful. Blending in, looking normal, accepting the fact that people will think I’m 12 until I turn 45…it’s all easier. That way, I don’t have to worry if my attempts to look pretty have failed or not. Go unnoticed, Rach. No one can laugh at you for that.

And that’s stupid. No one should be afraid of being pretty for reason I will get to later…

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2. I have been so unfair to my fellow gal-pal, girlfrand, strong lady, ferocious women. SO unfair. Who the heck am I to look at a girl who has put time and energy into looking beautiful and pass judgment that she’s “trying too hard.” Like Rach, just because you can’t freaking remember to brush the left side of your hair doesn’t mean than you are any more of a “woman” than the girl who curled her hair. And just because she can manage to wear a dress AND walk in heels and you can’t even pick out a shirt and flannel that match, doesn’t mean you’re anymore confident in yourself than she is. In fact, the very fact that you’re afraid to even try to look pretty is a solid indicator than you’re probs not that confident in yourself.

Just like there is this skinny-shaming/ fat-shaming culture in our society, I definitely think there is a “girly-girl”-shaming/ “tom-boy”-shaming culture, too. And it’s rampant. Girls who aren’t in to playing dress up and playing with make up at an early age are labeled tomboy, and taught to mock “girly-girls.” If they like those things they obviously can’t be good at sports and they probably don’t like dirt or climbing trees and they’re probably super prissy and basically the worst to be around. And girls who love those things are labeled “girly girls” and taught at an early age to mock the tomboy. They’re just another one of the guys. They’re not refined. They’re not ladylike. They’re probably super crass and gross and basically the worst to be around.

And then we get older and the girl who wears make up and dresses up is trying too hard and the girl who doesn’t wear any make up and who like sweatpants and sports is probably a dyke. And don’t even think about trying to cross over. You’ve never tried to “look good now” so why should you start trying now? And you can’t “let yourself go” now- the boys won’t like you and the girls will talk about you behind your back.

This whole shaming each other thing is awful and disgusting. We’re all just doing our own thang. Y u gotta h8?

As I put on the same outfit for what feels like the 80th time in a row, and as I look at my hot and sweaty, sunburnt face, and as I put on my rockin’ sox w sandals, I have found myself doing what I never thought I would- longing to feel pretty. Yearning to put on something I feel beautiful in. Aching to look and feel like a girl again.

And I’m learning that it’s not because I’m trying to impress anyone. LOL. There are like basically only 80 year old men walking the Camino. But I digress. I’m not trying to fit some beauty standard or attract boys or prove to other women that I’m worthy of their friendship because I’d be a good wing woman or whatever. I just want to feel pretty.

Weeds are taller than Rachel
Day 4 between Estella & Los Arcos

And maybe, just maybe, that’s what all these other “girly girls” have been doing all along- doing their own thing to feel confident in themselves. Maybe being pretty isn’t at all about how you look…but how you feel.

Which leads me perfectly to number 3 (great segway, Rach)

3. Being pretty is a feeling.

I mentioned before that I’ve spent my whole life afraid of looking pretty. I didn’t want people to think I was trying because then it seemed like they would critique me harder. I didn’t want people to think I cared how I looked because I was raised well enough to know that it’s what is on the inside of a person that counts (thanks Mom and Dad, and also probs Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood). But as I’ve spent these last 30 days being grody and ugly, aching to feel pretty, I have learned that like Mom and Dad and Mr. Rogers taught me, pretty, like everything else, is all about what’s on the inside.

And yes, your personality is what counts and your soul is what make you beautiful and all that blah blah blah- I mean don’t get me wrong, that’s an important lesson to learn but it kind of just feels like empty words. Go find a 13 year old girl, just walk up to her and say “hey, it’s what’s on the inside that counts”- guarantee you she will burst in to tears because what what you said is “hey, it’s what’s on the inside that counts” but what she heard is “you’re ugly, but at least you have a decent personality.”

We can talk about the problems with that scenario another time, my point is, knowing that you have a great personality doesn’t make you “feel” any better about how you look. And we can say “looks don’t matter” until we’re blue in the face but we all know that unfortunately, in today’s world they do matter. We’re humans- born into flawed insecurity and until we can overcome it, looks will always matter. I’m not saying looks are the the most important thing a person can have but tell a 13 year old girl who is bulimic that looks don’t matter, tell a 17 year old boy who is anxiously trying to put on muscle weight that looks don’t matter, tell an aging woman who is covering up the gray that looks don’t matter, tell a middle-aged man trying to lose the beer belly that looks don’t matter. Looks do matter. They matter to all of us. It’s a disappointing truth. (Yes, other things matter more but you can’t just ignore that lookism exists and you can’t just invalidate how people feel about themselves because of what we’re taught about looks)

Anyway. Back to prettiness is a feeling:

Ask any girl who has every been cat-called. It’s stupid. Being pretty is having intermediate, fleeting physical characteristics that are pleasing to an individual or group of individuals. Being pretty is a label that other people put on you when they think you have the right combination of ratios and symmetry and other BS. Being pretty is something you can be without your consent, without your emotion, without your approval or input. Being pretty is something that’s up for debate based on each critics personal preferences. “Being pretty” is pretty much worthless.

Ask any woman who has put on her favorite outfit and done her favorite thing to her face and hair, whether its sweatpants, no make-up and a messy bun, or a dress, smokey-eye, and high heels- Feeling pretty is feeling like you are working it. Feeling pretty is feeling confident in how you look and who you are. Feeling pretty is feeling like you deserve good friends and good relationships. Feeling pretty is being aware of your flaws but knowing that your strength outshine them. Feeling pretty is feeling like you are proud of who you are and you ain’t gon’ change fo NOBODY because you like who you are. Feeling pretty is feeling like you got this. Feeling pretty is knowing that you are the only person in the world like you, and knowing that you have something to offer. Feeling pretty is something you get to decide for yourself about yourself, without the input, approval, or validation from any other person. “Feeling pretty” is empowering.

I’m learning that prettiness is about what’s on the inside. It is a feeling more than a physical characteristic. No one person is found physically attractive by all other people. We all have different tastes and preferences and what not. Therefore, being pretty isn’t a physical characteristic. Having green eyes is a physical characteristic. No one will argue, no one will disagree and no one will refer to you as “green eyes.” It’s a physical characteristic that you possess, among many others. You have green eyes. You are not “green eyes.”

Do you ever feel happy (pls say yes. If not, let’s talk)? It’s like a thing that you feel inside you- sometimes people describe it as having a warm heart, or enjoying something- like you just “feel” happy? Anyone?

I feel happy a lot (thank you, Jesus). And when I tell people I’m happy, no one really argues. No one says “no, I don’t think you really are. Her, over there, now she’s happy. But not you.” There’s no conversation about “well in my opinion you’re happy, but I have a huge weakness for this kind of happiness. Jeff, is more of a that kind of happiness guy so don’t take it personally that he doesn’t think you’re happy.”

That would be absolutely ridiculous. When I say I’m happy (and actually mean it- this isn’t a blog about hiding your true feelings and pretending that everything is fine- I have other blogs about that…) by and large, people believe me. Because they’re my emotions. I know what I’m feeling and I’m feeling happy. People believe me. It doesn’t matter if my version of happy is as simple as the sun is shining, and your version of happy is getting a $10,000 raise. It’s all about my definition of happy and my definition of happy says I’m feeling happy. And I get to wear that as an identity. I’m happy.

So why, then, don’t we get to feel pretty and decide that we are? Why do people hear that we feel pretty and get to argue with us? No one argues with me over my green eyes because it’s not a “perception,” there is no personal opinion, bias, or interpretation involved in deciding that my eyes are green. It’s a physical characteristic that I possess. End of discussion.

But I decide that I’m pretty and it’s like I’m opening up a debate, as if people should be allowed to weigh in on this. People think that prettiness is a physical characteristic that people either do or don’t possess. And even worse, people think that they get to decide who possess it. But prettiness isn’t a physical characteristic that anyone can possess. It’s a feeling. And people end up thinking that their opinions, their perceptions, their interpretations, their biases are important enough to decide how another person feels about themselves AND they think that they’re decision is so important that they get to label another person with it. People would never argue with you when you say you feel happy, and they would never whimsically force the label of “distraught” on to you without any reason. But people think that they should be allowed to argue with you when you say you feel pretty, and they by and large have no qualms about forcing the label of “ugly” on to you. And people are wrong.

We don’t get to decide who is pretty. Somehow we’ve entered into this alternate reality where we think that we get to determine other people’s worth based on how they compare in our own minds to a set of pre-conceived, ever-changing, media-influenced, impossible-to-reach criteria. And we are harsh in our judgements. Because if we rank them lower, if we decide that they rank lower on the prettiness scale than us, then we’ve just elevated ourselves. If they’re lower, we’re higher. We get to feel prettier by making them feel uglier.

And that’s just it. That’s how I know prettiness if a feeling. Because when your are serving up hot-mama, feelin’ good, struttin’ yo stuff glamour and someone says your hair looks bad or your outfit is tacky or your face is too fat or whatever, you start to think you’re ugly, right? Did they change anything about your physical appearance by saying that? No. But did they change how you feel? Absolutely. You feel ugly.

Prettiness is a feeling, and just like you don’t get to decide if someone feels sad or happy, you don’t get to decide if they should feel pretty.

We have to stop this human/human shaming. You are pretty.

As I’m rocking my pilgrim grossness, I get to decide if I feel pretty. Who knows, maybe I remembered to brush both sides of my hair that day and it sends my confidence through the roof. Who knows. Whatever, I get to feel pretty if I want. When I get home and undoubtedly wear my Goodwill flannel and leggings after a 5 minute shower and I forget to brush my hair, I still get to decide that I feel pretty. And if I decide to wear a dress and do (probs ask someone else to do) my hair, I get to feel pretty.

She gets to wear whatever makeup she wants and do whatever she wants to her hair, and she gets to wear whatever she wants, and she gets to rock those high heels, and she gets to wear sweatpants, and she gets to wear no make up, and we get to do whatever we want to our appearance and we’re still pretty.

Prettiness is something everyone should feel. Everyone should feel pretty and everyone should feel great about feeling pretty. And everyone else should celebrate that other’s feel pretty.

I think in our heads, when we hear someone say they think they’re pretty, little alarms go off. Oh she’s so cocky. Wow, she’s full of herself. She probably thinks she’s pretty than me. Guys probably think she’s pretty, too. Well, I don’t look anything like her so if she’s pretty, then I’m for sure not pretty. Can there be more than one pretty person in a room? In our school? In this state? IN THE WORLD? OMG. I just met the only pretty person in the world. And she’s so arrogant. Ugh, I hate her.

Like, what even is that sickness?

Can we just celebrate? We should be thrilled that our friends have found something about themselves to feel good about. Goodness knows the world is always trying to tell us all things about ourselves that we shouldn’t feel good about. So let’s celebrate! No one knows how hard it is to be a girl except another girl, so why do we make it harder for each other?

In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that prettiness is a feeling. It’s not a physical characteristic that you either have or don’t, it’s the way you feel about yourself regardless of your looks. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel pretty without first receiving that validation from someone else. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that it’s ok for other people to feel pretty, too. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that if other people don’t feel pretty, I owe it to them to tell them why I feel they’re pretty until hopefully they feel it, too.

In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned how to feel pretty.

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