I have rarely been called beautiful.
Beautiful is not for girls like me, so I have been told.
I have felt beautiful a few times – but it is not something that I am, so I have been told.
Pretty. Yes, pretty.
I have been called that often enough that I even believed it sometimes.
Cute, adorable sometimes.
Sweet has been uttered more than a few times in reference to me.
All words that others have used to describe me, to describe who I am.
What I am really, not who; because who I am is what I am of course – and that is wrapped up easily in descriptors of my physical attributes.
These are the words that sprinkle my life like garnish.
Garnish that the entree that is me needs to be adorned with if I am to really be complete.
“Make sure you wear something nice for your first day of school. No one is going to want to talk to you if you don’t look approachable.”
“Smile. You’re prettier when you smile. You’re not going to make any friends if you don’t smile.”
“How are you ever going to find someone if you go out looking like that?”
“You could be so much prettier if you just put in some effort.”
Helpful words of advice to the younger me so that I could learn how to perfectly present the commodity of me for approval.
I was the best student of these lessons – I always aim to be perfect so why should I not be perfect at this learning after all.
I have known since as far back as I can remember that I am worth something to someone if I am pretty, cute, quiet, polite,well-behaved…good… but mostly if how I look and behave is “right”.
That “right” though is the slippery, elusive, mist-shrouded image always just out of my grasp.
It is a picture made by someone else that I could never seem to bring into focus.
A picture that I knew held the secret to me feeling “right”.
For so many years, every incarnation of me was shaped to try to fill the nooks and crannies of the boxes that I kept trying to fit into.
Girls that looked like me did certain things – and didn’t do certain other things.
Girls like me behaved a certain way.
They lived inside very specific boxes.
Boxes that fit girls like me.
Except that they didn’t fit me.
Trey pinched and chafed and suffocated.
I tried to pretend that I poured into them effortlessly and perfectly but I could never live that lie for long before the boxes just hurt too much.
Over and over again.
So many times that after a while I didn’t even know what shape I was and what the box would look like that DID fit me perfectly.
I felt wrong.
Wrong in a way that can’t ever be made right.
It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t need a box to live inside of.
I had learned the lessons so well that I knew – not just knew but believed so deeply that it was truth – that I was not complete if I wasn’t framed in someone else’s parameters.
It never occurred to me that the package that I came in was complete and perfect and whole.
That there is no such thing as “girls like me”.
That the real truth is that I am the box.
And it is not wrong.
It is right, perfectly right.
And it’s rightness has nothing to do with how it looks.
And that is fucking beautiful.