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On Becoming Ugly

I have a crooked troll tooth. Not my cute crooked upper tooth I’ve had always. This one’s from aging. You know those old person crazy fucked-up crooked teeth? Well that’s happening to me.

I’ve thought about Invisalign, as in “I’m a woman of independent means, I’m going to treat myself,” but I don’t think it’s going to bring me five thousand dollars worth of joy, and isn’t it just stemming the tide on the inevitable?

One of my witchy healers started our session recently with, “Notice if there is a part of your body with a message for you” and you know what? My tooth told me, “Get used to being ugly.” Ugly. Wow. Ugly? Six years ago II thought, “There will always be some people who think you are beautiful, and that group of people is shrinking.” I’ve gone in and out of clutching the Conventional Beauty VIP pass, and it’s weird. In 9th grade, after years being overweight, I returned from a sabbatical to the Kingdom of Tonga tan, blond and skinny: the same person, but suddenly popular. A decade later I shaved my head and wore only bulky overalls after getting raped, and the same thing happened in reverse. 

It’s a little like the skit where Eddie Murphy goes undercover as a white guy and everyone gives him free stuff. Telling a person outside of conventional beauty standards that “looks don’t matter” is a tiny bit like telling a person of color you’re colorblind. In addition to my white privilege, I wonder what role my looks had in my admission to grad school, in success in certain classes, in all the doors that have been opened and all the free stuff, to my enjoyment of dating and meeting new people: I walk up calm and comfortable in my skin, assured they will like me, that I won’t have to work to improve or impress.

And all of that has been slowly disappearing. An invisibility starts to set in. Faces don’t light up as much. I get chosen less, swiped left. I receive less attention, interest and curiosity. In short, I have a lower status. There’s also a reckoning; much of the love and respect I’ve received has had barely anything to do with me. 

Yet I feel smoking hot, and more worthy of my own love and respect than ever. I swim or do yoga every day, and give my body what it delights in and needs. I can heal deep wounds in people in a matter of hours, and increasingly, I realize when I’m being an asshole in the very moment I am being an asshole, and I can stop, laugh, and apologize. On warm days, I water the garden naked and the sun can’t keep her hands off my skin. I skinny dip with salmon and seals, and every kind of wind is constantly caressing my cheeks, whispering sacred messages straight from the gods, reminding me to pay attention and wake up. I feel powerful, loved, sexy, and alive. 

So much so that I don’t care much about my expiring VIP pass. [Well, that’s not true, wrestling with this attachment is what has me writing this.] And even… even… it’s kind of nice being invisible. I can turn my freak factor up waaay high before anyone starts to notice. Instead of presenting my pass to the guards, I can sometimes slip past the checkpoints unnoticed and get away with more and better shenanigans. When I was young and conventionally hot it was a pain in the ass! I couldn’t even dance freely in public without some dude coming up close uninvited and energetically invading me.

I don’t want to pump what precious juice I have left into laminating that pass (although I am going to enjoy the hell out of it, like a sunset, as it fades). I’ve decided instead to invest in a different power. A “protect this heart-breakingly beautiful planet over my dead body” kind of power, a “bring shame into the light, and make people uncomfortable in a good way, risking my status to bigger the boxes for everyone” kind of power. I want to love big and wide, knowing my heart is resilient.

The amount of admirers shrinks, but the amount of pleasure doesn’t, nor does the love. Are potato bugs and possums any less awe-inspiring than hummingbirds and butterflies? Aren’t fading and dying things, death, and decay also quite beautiful? 

Now, when I stare at my growing shock of grey hair, my saggy chicken neck and fucked up teeth, I practice my troll faces. I’ve always wanted to be funny, but as a pretty girl I found it hard. Approval was granted before I spoke, so it was mine to lose. Now I bulge one eye ball and snarl my lips to reveal the wild, crooked troll tooth, and my children run screaming with peals of laughter. If I straightened my teeth I’d lose this new freedom and expanded comic repertoire. Why would I want to change that?

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