Love Me, Love My [Im]Perfections?
My bestie and I have known each other since we were 11. We met on the school bus when we connected over the fact we both had very, very, very hairy legs. All we wanted to do is to be able to shave. Obsession with body hair is a thing when you're a teenage girl. How would you be loved by a boy with hairy legs? Or hairy eyebrows, as another friend suggested, wielding a pair of tweezers at the two hairy caterpillars above my eyes. One cannot underestimate the '90s for overplucked eyebrows. It's a price I had to pay for acceptance. Clearly I wasn't acceptable with the ones I was born with. I can only recall one time where I was complimented by my peers. It was at a sleepover. The girl reached out and touched my lips, telling me they were beautiful. I felt a little butterfly flip in my tummy.
Growing up on warm Australian beaches, I was known as the girl with a rather large bust, often out in the sunshine because I refused to give a fuck. I had them and they had a right to be in the sunshine, damn it. I had a tiny waist and big boobs and most of the time compared myself to others not knowing my own gorgeousness at the time. It's a fact of womanhood you don't appreciate your own beauty until you are past all that. I don't think I've ever looked in the mirror and thought myself beautiful. Ever. That was other girls. If you've ever had a classically beautiful girlfriend you'll know what I mean. Because they get all the compliments, and you don't get any, you grow up thinking yourself sub par. Beauty standards suck, even though you know that what's on the surface doesn't matter. Even that becomes a joke. 'She must have a reallllllyyyy good personality' they boys will tease, talking about the plain girls.
At 50, you stop caring so much, although you'll veto the majority of the photos that family take of you and want to put on line. Sunset filters mute the edges of wrinkles and other signs of age. Gah, we live in a society that is image driven - can you blame us woman for being so self critical?
Getting into our wetsuits yesterday for a wintry surf, my bestie and I are joking around about getting too fat for our wetties. Two fat old surfing ladies. As we take them off to reclothe we are still talking about body hair. 'Oh my god!' I squeal. 'Are you growing a beard!!'. I point to the six long chin hairs she's cultivating. We talk about how it's unfair men can grow beards and the benefits of having a pair of tweezers in the car so one can pluck the shame from our chins at the lights.
She also has a growth on her upper arm. A massive kinda... Mole? A creature about to hatch from her freckled arm? A wart that fell off her hairy chin? I call her a fat hairy witchy poo. We fall apart giggling. Turns out it's a squamous cell carcinoma and she'll be having it removed next week.
It strikes me that a friendship of 40 years is not about how pretty you are at all. She looks and me and feels love, and I the same. We are sisters from another mister, and love each other unconditionally.
My husband though, he's a different story. There's something seriously wrong with his vision. He thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world and has been telling me that for twenty years, relentlessly. Even my profile, which I loathe beyond all comprehension. He thinks my looks are so European. They are, with my Slovenian/Germanic heritage, with a dash of Italian and Yorkshire in there too. But I've just seen that as a very farm woman kinda look. Heavy features. You should see my great great great grandmother on my mother's side. She looked - strong. And terrifying. Clearly, my ancestral DNA came down that ugly tree, smashing into all the branches as it descended. I don't mind my knees though.
Okay, okay I realise I'm being self deprecatory. But I can't, just can't, see what others see. I laugh when my husband tells me I'm gorgeous or cute or beautiful, though I secretly adore the
I don't know what people see when they see me. Is it my
huge noble Cleopatran nose? My large buxom breasts? My crooked interesting teeth? My curvaceous figure?
They say that no singular version of you exists. How I see myself is different to how my father, my sister, my bestie or the butcher sees me. I see a singular view of my husband, perfectly imperfectly handsome, whereas another might not look at him twice. Perception is so discriminatory and judgemental that there is little truth in any descriptors at all.
The older I get, the less I really care. Those that love me think I'm beautiful. I have an inkling - just an inkling mind - that what they see is me.
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