by Isa Garcia
I have decided that I do not want to be pretty anymore.
I am not what society would call ‘conventionally pretty’ anyway. Typically pretty girls have good facial symmetry and wonderfully well-behaved hair. They have the kind of smile that makes the world stop spinning, even just for a moment. With them, the right angle becomes a non-issue. The pretty girl is nice to look at from every single side — all the freaking time.
If you wanted to be particular about it, you could probably break the world down into three aesthetic categories: pretty girls, ordinary girls and not-pretty-at-all girls.
Personally, I consider myself a hanger-on. I would’ve been completely ordinary if not for my eyes. I have rather nice eyes and I say this with complete and absolute humility. My eyes have given me enough merit to be graced with the word ‘pretty’ a few times in my life. I have heard it from women, fellow comrades in the never-ending battle to be gorgeous. And, on a few memorable occasions, I have heard it from men with good intentions.
The problem with being almost pretty is that it’s a lot like being a part of the Hollywood D-List. At first, it seems prestigious. But, eventually, it turns out to be an empty honor and a whole lot of work. On some days, when I feel the irrational urge to prove myself, I take on the painstaking burden of eyebrow threading and hair dyeing; waxing, plucking, the tedious application of eyeliner and lipstick. An entire litany of beauty rituals and, in the end, I still don’t even closely measure up to being really, actually and completely pretty.
And so it is with wonderful relief that I surrender. I am waving my white flag. I do not want to pretty anymore.
I care too much about it and that is the gross and honest truth. I care too much about looking good in pictures and being perceived by guys as the-kind-of-girl-you-bring-home-to-meet-your-relatives-because-you-just-know-they’ll-be-impressed. As I type these disgusting revelations down, a voice in my head is asking: why do you care so damn much?!
And the answer is: because I grew up believing that pretty was currency.
Pretty got you affection. It got you favor and popularity. It gave you the capacity to seize the attention of the crowd. Pretty meant that certain things could be so much easier – like puberty, making small negotiations and finding a date to the prom. It meant you’d almost always get the guy.
Pretty seemed like a difficult but worthwhile pursuit. I figured that if I could be pretty, even just by a quarter of an inch, on the basis of a single physical asset, then I would milk that opportunity for all it was worth. All my life, I exhausted superhuman effort into trying to be prettier… until I realized that there was actually so much more that I could be.
I could be smart. I could be kind. I could be funny. I could be the girl people’d run to when they need to feel safe. I could be wise. I could be witty. I could be brave and strong and brilliant at shining my own light. I could be a million adjectives other than pretty and I could be happy, absolutely happy, being all of them – even if I stood a significantly lesser chance at being able to captivate someone with my ‘effortless good looks’.
I want to be known for more than how I look. I want to be sought after for the way that I love, for my capacity to inspire, for big faith and my ability to speak some sort of truth with both amazing confidence and soft tenderness. I want to be pursued because I am an undeniable person of passion, a woman of distinction worth getting to know because I care more about making my corner of the world so much better than I do about making my face fit an ideal I know I’ll never be good enough for.
I swear I don’t watch Glee anymore but last night, I caught an episode where the football coach, Beiste, was asked out by a handsome teacher. And she roared with anger as she said: “But I’m not a pretty girl. I don’t have the kind of face that a pretty girl has.”
To which the handsome teacher replied:
“Well, that’s good because I don’t date girls. I date women. Beautiful women, like you.”
I do not want to be pretty anymore. I want to be beautiful.
I want to trade shallow aesthetics in for a bottomless ocean that never runs dry. I want people to see my heart, all its gruesome glory, and my spirit, with its never-ending persistence to try. I want people to smile when they look at me, with or without the lipstick on, because they associate me with something more than can be seen.
I want to possess something that lasts, even if all the pretty is beaten out of me. I want to be beautiful and I think that I could be. I think – somewhere deep down, I truly believe – that I am.