For the better part of my formative years, I was ugly.
I fluctuated between pudgy and chubby, and wispy hairs flanked the curved perimeter of my upper lip. I towered from a vertiginous height over most of my peers – especially the boys, who can be so cruel and unrelenting in their teasing. I relied on clunky, horn-rimmed glasses that were most definitely not on trend when I was in grade school. My mom and dad couldn’t afford to pay for braces for both me and my younger sister, and because her teeth were the more — how should I put this — fucked up, it was her mouth that got a metal miracle, while mine, filled with bucked and overlapping teeth, was a constant source of embarrassment.
Even now, mostly grown and confident, I can easily find fault, and there is always an added caveat to the features I find attractive. I have slimmed down considerably, though I wouldn’t mind gaining five pounds in each of my boobs and buttocks. My teeth are still pretty busted, but I’ve come to view such imperfections as little secrets, as an alluring uniqueness. A person who grew up ugly will never quite master that indefatigable confidence that flows so freely from one who never knew the struggle. So we’ll praise our reflection, but always on some condition.
Certainly it’s a step up from the reaction a younger me would have in front of the mirror, back when I was reckless and desperate and saw a homely gargoyle staring back at me. On the eve of prom, for instance, the (date-less) younger me over-plucked her eyebrows, took a cheap disposable razor to her sideburns, cut herself a set of bangs with kitchen scissors, and was fitted for contact lenses. If I could give that 17 year old any advice it would be this: that ugliness is what makes you, and for the love of God please stop plucking those brows or a decade later you’ll find yourself growing them out and drawing them in and looking like a raving barbarian in the interim.
And glory hallelujah, I’ve since found my groove, as most awkward adolescents do. I’m not wholly satisfied with my appearance, but I also don’t know any woman, not matter how hot or not, who has triumphed over such a feat. Under the best lighting, on the least humid (or windy or rainy) days, and from certain vantage points, I rather like the way I look. Is that such a terrible thing to say?
I didn’t always – and maybe that’s why most kids who grew up ugly feel they don’t deserve to be a little vain or proud. Until recently, any attention or compliments I’d received on my looks were quickly shot down because I didn’t like to draw attention to my appearance when I thought of myself as some grotesque beast — so why on earth would I now, as a grown woman?
Face it ladies, the sucky truth about the world we live in is that we assign astronomical value to appearance. I never take this for granted – the zeitgeist is a fickle lover and she will turn a cold shoulder the instant you don sweatpants and sprout chin hairs (alas, the plucking war is an unwinnable one!). And yes, I confess, I want to be desirable — not to any one man or woman — but universally; I want to be a desirable person.
Whether I’ve actually outgrown my ugliness or just think I have is incidental, because the confidence is sexy enough. After years of insecurity, there will come a point when you either give up the fight and accept your face, warts and all, or you develop a true fondness for those warts and champion them as remote instances of a rare beauty. Either way, ugly kids tend to evolve into less ugly, more assured adults, and that is a comforting thought.