Beauty

I am tired of the stereotype of beauty. I grew up being told that a girl should like men who look like Brad Pitt. I like women with soft lush curves, big and strong ones too. Many would consider my past conquests masculine, or overly thin, or fat. No one type fits what I like. I too have “strange” preferences for the men I have dated and these too tend towards those with meat on their bones, they have body hair, they are dark skinned, fair skinned, or really just alive.

Most of them, but not all, are tall. With either sex I tend to reach out for the taller people, though tall has changed in meaning since the wheelchair entered my life. I can’t look up at my baby brother without hurting my neck. He sits down for me, and still towers above. He is about seven feet tall. I love height because my family is full of tall people, except my own biological father. I associate height with safety. What does this mean about the other standards of beauty? Are we all programmed to like certain things?

Yes!

A huge part of my persecution in this life has been based on facets of my physical appearance. I have red hair, very pale skin that burns the instant sun touches it, soft full lips, and I have always had curves. My smallest size is a fourteen. I was barely eating to maintain that. My body needs meat on it. I am simply a curvaceous woman. I do have an ample bosom as well, and all of these things have been picked at.

I grew up being told I should be blonde. Blonde meant perfection. I hardly find blondes attractive as a result. I am aware that most of my siblings and my own mother are all blonde, and this factors in too. I think Blue Eyes are the best, though any shade is lovely to me. Blue eyes were mocked, because they are pale. Being a minority as a white person is very rare in any part of the world, the patriarchal structure still dominates and is usually white, even in countries where white is the minority. I have always been told my pale skin makes me wealthy. Whiteness in my state is a status symbol.

In India women who are by nature in the darker end of the spectrum are considered harder to marry off, they have less value based on something as simple as their genetic make up. The lighter you are, the more respect you can gain. This is White Privilege. It has defaced an entire culture, this love of all things white has poisoned us. You see whiteness in media, dominantly with able bodied super muscular WHITE men. You see their blonde perfection everywhere. I think back to the Nazi Propaganda studies group I was a member of in High School, and that is what I see. Reflections of past propaganda, continued, accepted, and fully realized.

Curly hair is considered disheveled. Girls with curly hair wake up at odd hours to iron their hair out. I think it is lovely, and my standard of beauty includes the use of a curling iron to add curls to my hair. This is rare, the era of the Super Perm died out at the end of the Eighties, except for a few hold outs.

I am told I must wear make up to seem presentable. I do, at times like to wear make up but I do it when it feels good. Usually I will also hide some of my facial scars under make up, if I cannot shake my feelings of Paranoia. I do not allow myself to wear make up on days when my self worth is being questioned, or when my confidence would hinge only on sultry red lips.

As I write this I am watching a movie that has what I consider the equivalent of Black Face. Sophia Loren is the Millionairess, Peter Sellers is the Indian Doctor who teaches her how to be more than a spoiled snob. This movie is full of propaganda that is anti woman, anti persons of color. I was enjoying it until I realized the fallacy that a white man is playing an Indian, with hardly any alteration of skin color and a very cliched accent.

I also note that the famed figure of Sophia Lauren seems to be aided via a corset. I might be wrong, but the extremes to her figure seem to need assistance. It doesn’t feel natural to me, though it does fit the “standard of beauty”. Her hair is lightened a bit, and of course she is always shown in posh and polished appeal during this film.

I do not think Brad Pitt is handsome. I think he is mediocre. This is all about looks, not his acting. I will not malign someone for having a career. I will however state that I do not understand the requirement to find him attractive. If you want to know who I find attractive in Hollywood, you will have to dig deep. There are few people that strike me as gorgeous or stunning, especially since we have entered the Anorexia Age of Hollyweird. Health is beautiful. That inner glow of self acceptance can make anyone gorgeous.

Since my blossoming into awareness about privilege I have seen more beauty in the world. This side effect shocked me. I like to compliment people when I find them attractive, and I have had the urge to tell the entire world how beautiful it is. The beauty I see is nothing like what is in the Movies or on Television. I live in a world of diversity. The people I see daily are of mixed race, from other countries, and their voices alone are a rhythmic song.

I am not beautiful by the overly BMI oriented modern sensibilities. I never will be. I’d have to break my bones, cut my body apart, inject myself with dye, and lose my sense of self. (This statement does not mean that those who naturally fit this standard are not beautiful, it is merely a rejection of the expectation to alter myself to be just like them) I reject the need to starve myself to fit a rare body type. I reject the fashion industry’s expectation that “fat” women do not like Fashion. I LOVE clothes shopping, and am discovering that I could easily spend a million dollars on cute shoes. These are cliches about womanhood, and yet you will find I only have four pairs of shoes, two for winter, two for summer. My clothing is all rather sensible, black, and boring.

I am pigeon holed by my lack of thinness. I am trapped by the need for others to stigmatize those who are not identical to them. I am not a Stepford Cripple, I am not anything but a person. I am flesh, I am bone, and I have soul. You are beautiful. My friend who is an immigrant is beautiful. I love listening to her voice, the way that she sings while she speaks entrances me. My friend who is the son of immigrants is beautiful. He cannot see that because his world is full of hatred, hatred of the Other.

I discuss privilege with my friends. It is an unavoidable conversation now. Eventually it is addressed either by discussion of politics, feminism, or simply the venting of frustration. I no longer hide my beliefs, to survive until the next day. I am free to speak them. Most of the time these conversations hold a similar impact, someone learns something. We all do really. My friends are all shapes and sizes. I have friends who are thin, blonde, and blue eyed. I have friends who are extraordinarily fat, but give hugs that are so soft. I have friends of every shape, size, mental capacity, and ability. My friends are all beautiful. You are beautiful.

Stop stigmatizing people for not being clones. Clones are scary, according to the media pundits and science fiction. Every time the word cloning is mentioned on TV it is with the hush of fear. Disability also has that hush of fear. Stop being afraid. Fear stops you from living life. This doesn’t mean you should ignore some fears, such as the fear of hunger or the fear of a snake bite. Stop fearing things that are different. If you do not understand something, educate yourself. Don’t fear it. Don’t shun it.

This includes fine art, not so fine art, but most especially people. Children are people. Women are people. I see often abuse launched at those who are different. I experience it every time I go out. I was reminded however, of the power of kindness and decorum.

I write often about the importance of gentle resistance, passive resistance, and not striking back. I admit I fail this way at times but, every so often I am given the reminder I need, the proof that I am right. I had transferred out of my chair at Sam’s Club, into the van and rolled down the window. Beside me a harried mother of two beautiful children, her disabled mother, and a cart of groceries struggled. I watched in silence, until they were about to leave, calling out to the woman that her mother had forgotten her cane.

Her son looked up as she thanked me, glad to not have to spend another twenty five dollars on a cane, and said, “Mommy, that’s the lady from the Walmart with the kitty!” His mother paused and said, “She was on TV too.” We talked then, and I complimented her for handling the stress. I could see she was frazzled, and I let her kids talk to Sprite while she settled them in. No petting of course, but, I told her how beautiful her family is. Three words. “You have a beautiful family.” Okay, five. I never was good with numbers.

She froze, looked at her kids, and then smiled. “I wish everyone could see that.” The thing I have not mentioned is this. Her children are Triracial. They are of Asian, African, and Caucasian Descent. I wanted to take them home with me, their sweetness gave me a rare pang of desire for Motherhood. It went away before we were out of the parking lot, but not the reminder that everything you do has a lasting impression. Every word, Every laugh, Every shout, every time you teach someone something. There is impact.

What draws me to people is never what they look like. It is instead their personality, the joy they have for life, and sometimes the hope that I can grow up to be like them. I may never grow up. I am always surprised when I realize for a moment I am not a child anymore. It fades, but, that too reminds me to be innocent.

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is not what media tells us it should be. Beauty is merely in the existence of life. Flowers, Puppies, kittens, children, lovers. All beautiful. Be you a Homosexual, Transgendered, A person of non Caucasian ethnicity, red haired, blonde haired, black haired, green haired, or even a strange shade of orange. You are beautiful.

Burned at the Stake (Trigger Warning)

I was eight. My family had just moved from one small town in New Mexico, up to another. I want to name it, but, if I do it reveals too much about who I am. I keep my veil of safety. Being pale, with red hair and my own inhibitions in communication I was an outsider anywhere I went in this state. In small towns however, there is a generational acceptance and a strong xenophobia. That which is different isn’t just feared it is hated.

The children in this town were taught that red hair meant you were a witch. This lesson came along before I did. The further stigma of not being able to tan implied this further. I remember the attack, though it plays in half segments, like a badly edited movie and I feel like an outside viewer. I was on the swing, trying to kick the tree branch. Despite my fear of heights the Swing was as close to flying as I could get.

The other kids were calling me names again, chanting them at me, one threw a rock. The film skips. I must have fallen, my shoulder was out of place and my legs hurt. I was in a corner now, and I was quiet, I hadn’t learned to make them feel fear yet. They were new threats. The film skips. I hear the bible verses, half misquoted, none of them had actually read the bible they were just paraphrasing their parents.

“You’re weird.” Silence. “We should kill her.” Fear. “She’s a witch.” Confusion. “Thou Shalt’ not Supper a witch to live.” I did mock them back at that point, correcting their mistatement, “Suffer.” Fear. Suffering. I hurt. The teachers who watch and protect the students watched, they did not say a word.

I ran, I could feel the bones in my knees and ankles grinding, my hips hurt and crackled loudly. I could barely walk, a familiar feeling in daily life now. I cried too. No one wants to die. I thought if I died no one would protect my family. They laughed at my terror. I tugged on my teacher’s sleeve and begged, “They said they’ll kill me.”

“Go play.” The film skips. It’s the next recess. The sun is lower in the sky, and my body aches more. My shoulder is still out of place, but so is my elbow. The rope cuts into my skin. My lip is cut, my glasses are broken so their faces are just blurs. “Witch. Witch.” I feel the sticks under my feet, one of the boy scouts is rubbing sticks together to try and start a fire. I am being burned at the stake.

I did not cry then. I thought I was going to die. I closed my eyes, and I did nothing. I did not pray, I did not let myself feel. I just felt things. Mostly, I felt relief. I thought then I would never have to see my father again, or the older boy who had already found a new victim. I thought if I died my mother would be happy again. I thought the world would be a better place.

A sharp pain comes, and I start to cry. It’s not fire. They failed with fire and one of them threw a rock. The film skips. I cried, I knew I was bleeding and I knew too my guardians did not protect me. I had no teachers who cared, I gave up then. I gave up living in my heart. I had already been broken, I had already been beaten. This was just proof that the world was a place of pain and violence.

Proof no one could love a piece of trash like me.

Invalidation of a person. “She’s weird.” I did not scream, and I did not shout. I just waited to die. Why was it taking so long? Why couldn’t it end? Why did no one do a thing to stop them? Was I so very bad that I didn’t get to die? Was I so very bad that I was going to die?

The bell rang, and everyone else went to class. My teacher’s voice came as a snarl, “You will be counted as absent for the day.” She always looked away when the other children hit me, cornered me, and this time she had just watched. She looked away too when she caught one of the teachers raping another girl. This was the same. It all felt the same to me. No tragedy worse than the others, every breath was tragic and full of pain.

The third recess came, I hurt from the sun. “Whore.” I did not respond, I did not look up, I just stayed silent. “Slut.” More rocks came. One of them found a lighter, maybe a teacher gave it to them. The film skips, plays backwards, the insults the same, a chant of hate. The film skips forward. They have a stick that is burning. My ankles are covered with debris, rocks and sticks, a branch pulled from a tree. Dry tinder, dry grass. The lighter is set to the flames.

I wasn’t afraid anymore, I just watched the sticks burn, listening as they cheered. They were killing me, but, they were happy. I wondered if my mother would be angry at me for dying, or if she would be happy that there was one less mouth to feed. I could hear my father’s threats, I could feel his hands on me. Everyone said I was evil, so dying was right. One less bad person to ruin the world.

My feet hurt, but, I just stood there, tied to the tether ball pole. The principle suddenly was there, the film must have skipped again, but, I didn’t care. I just wanted to make them like me, so I would have to die. Then, maybe my mother could love me. I didn’t know she already did. I thought I was bad. I thought that every lie said was truth. I never heard the good, I don’t think it was said.

I heard yelling, I thought it was more hate. “How dare you just watch?” A knife was drawn, I thought the principle was going to kill me. I had been out in the sun all day, I hurt too much to think. The film skipped, he was carrying me inside. The teachers went back to work, watching. “Who did this?”

Silence.

Eventually I told him, all I could remember. I told him, and he cried. I thought that meant he knew I was evil. He called my mother, I don’t know if she answered but she did not come for me. My teacher kept her job, no one was punished. Only my body, my mind. He drove me home, he said he’d do something. I am sure he tried.

When I went back to school the next day, we started to read about the Salem Witch Trials. Everyone laughed about setting me on fire, about burning me. No one asked if I had blisters on my feet, if it hurt me to walk, or commented on the fact that I had blisters on my face. It was funny. The film skips.

It was all my fault, my mother said, if I just tried harder to get along. If I was nicer. The film skips. Years this time. In and out of the institutes I had already been, I was tired of it. Someone called me a witch, I fought back. I did not want to burn again.

The scars are hidden by other scars. No one was punished. No one cared enough. I was just a little girl, I wasn’t like them. I never will be. Over the years, I watched them as an outsider. I watched them live, I watched some of them die. None of illness, it was always stupid and preventable. I watched them age, I listened to their cruel words.

Every year, they reminded me about it, about the time they burned the witch. I still don’t know why it is funny. I was always threatened with a repeat performance, whenever I did not give them their way. My mother asked why I never had friends. Because I was the Witch. I took their mantle, I practiced the craft of hatred. I made them fear me.

I committed acts of violence, and I learned to hate. I never forgot that my siblings watched too, I never forgot that the teachers watched. There was real danger, there was no medical treatment for it. I had to walk to school until my feet healed, with burns. I had to feel the pain. I still feel some of it.

My sister found a half acceptance by selling her body for it. She let the boys do as they would with her. She let herself be their perpetual victim. It helped that she was born to be blonde, blondes cannot be witches you see. Their culture too taught them that the blonde women are the most desirable. My brother never found acceptance, he ran off as soon as he could, starting adult life far too early. Facing different pains than I.

My siblings who were born while we lived there still never quite fit. Generational Acceptance. Their great grandchildren just might fit in. I hope if they do, the town changes from violence and hate to love and acceptance. I never forgot who watched. I can still list the names. I know too, if my principal had not been sick, his age catching up with him and his body failing him slowly, they would not have just watched. He was a good man. One voice trying to teach them to love.

I never just watch. I will open my mouth at risk to my person, if it feels right. I will lift a hand to help someone if I can, or I will find a way to act. I never just watch. A part of me is forever burning, forever marred, and forever marked. I hear often that bullying is harmless. It isn’t. That was written off as bullying. I spent the rest of my educational career in terror for my life. It’s never just bullying. it is sheer and abject cruelty.

Is it just bullying to throw rocks at a person hoping to kill them? Is it just bullying to set someone on fire? Is it just bullying to blind them? Is it just bullying or is that the excuse given to make it alright to watch? What are you watching happen? What do you let someone do, that costs another?

Every word, every fist, every rock and the fire all took from me. Every adult who just watched is more guilty than the children, because the children did not know better. They only knew what they were taught. They were taught to persecute outsiders, to shun those who were different and to fear any slight varient. They were taught that god hates difference. They were taught hatred.

Not many people in that town grow up and function well outside of it. Part of it is the high density of criminals, hiding easily from the law. Part of it comes from the number of illegal immigrants. The lack of proper education, in a state that always falls in the bottom categories, this is the town that scores the lowest every time. The deficits that these children face disable them further than anything ever has me.

They burned me at the stake. I am struggling to forgive, but, when one of them ventures out of their town or when I must enter it’s borders I still feel sick and fearful.

They burned me at the stake. No amount of explanation or justification will ever make that alright. I may forgive them but I will never forget. I will not pity them, I will also not abandon them. If I am given the choice between watching or acting, I will act. I have to, I must rise above the actions of abuse, incest, torture, and pain. I must rise above. I must heal. I give myself this edict.

They burned me at the stake. There was no justice, there was no help, there was no relief, there was no escape. I had to face them. I had no safe place. I had no one to trust. I wasn’t just lonely, I was in a desolate place, beyond the reach of the rest of the world, wrapped in torture. Reality was worse than any horror story I could read. It was all just a nightmare, except that my nightmares ended eventually. I was beyond suicidal, I was beyond help, because no one offered help. I was blamed. I was a victim. I was nothing like who and what I am today.

They burned me at the stake. There is no forgiveness yet, but, I am trying. Each word written here is one word closer to forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for not being stronger, for being afraid, and for being a child. I have not forgiven them for their cruelty. I have not forgiven them for demanding kindness when they felt pain, for denying me my right to be a person. I am trying. If I can forgive them, then perhaps someday I can forgive my biological father.

I might never forgive them.

They burned me at the stake.

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