When I was a young girl and a “tween” (I hate that word), I hung out mostly with a group of friends. We were all Girl Scouts and we would congregate at one of our houses for slumber parties on a fairly regular basis. During these slumber parties we did all the requisite things that girls that age do: watched movies, ate pizza, danced together to Wham! Songs and had beauty pageants.
The beauty pageants always consisted of the following: 4 contestants and 3 judges. The contestants varied each time, but generally it was me, my friend who was tall and lanky and never wore make-up or had any interest in boys at all, my friend who had braces but also blond hair, and my friend who was tall and skinny and had acne but was cute and played lots of sports.
I was always crowned third runner-up. Always.
The winner was always the girl with the braces, because she had blond hair. Second runner-up was always my friend who was tall and lanky and never wore make-up or had any interest in boys at all, and first runner up was the tall and skinny friend with acne who was cute and played sports.
One day I was tired of this and actually cried. Being twelve is really emotionally challenging anyway and these pageants were adding insult to injury. The girl who was my best friend, who was always one of the judges, said to me, “Don’t worry. You’re pretty on the inside.”
Translation= You are ugly.
“You are so nice!”
Translation= We could run laps around you.
This leads me to two conclusions:
1) My friends were huge bitches.
2) I really was an ugly kid.
And I was ugly. I look at pictures of myself from that time and I had a mullet (I like to call it a 2/4/7- 2 inches on top, 4 inches on the sides, and 7 inches in the back) and coke bottle glasses. I was afraid to smile with my teeth because I had a part so large between my front teeth that you could drive a truck with the doors open through it. I got two pairs of jeans per year and if I outgrew them then it was just too bad. There was no money for new clothes and certainly no money for nice things. I was ugly. I felt ugly, I looked ugly, and I was ugly.
As my daughter approaches this tender age I worry more and more about her. She’s a tiny little thing; hardly bigger than a minute. She’s very smart and funny and self-assured. She doesn’t doubt herself. She’s not afraid she might get the answer wrong, she just gives the answer. She gets really angry when someone picks on her brother. She’s sweet and silly and uses really big words. She is the person I would like to be when I grow up someday.
She’s also highly opinionated and not afraid to tell you about it. And while I absolutely adore that about her, I just don’t know how well that will go over when she’s twelve.
I lost touch with those girls, mostly. As we got into high school we talked less and less. Everyone sort of split off into their own groups and our individual groups had less and less to do with one another. Girl Scouts ended for us and that pretty much ended our friendships. We were nice enough to one another I suppose. The blond girl with braces finally got her braces off. She played all the sports in high school and was in the top 20 of our class. Last I heard she’s a stay-at-home mom. The girl with acne’s skin cleared up. College wasn’t really for her and last I heard she manages a store. The tall, lanky girl graduated near the top of our class and is married now and does something absolutely brilliant, because she is absolutely brilliant. I think she’s like an aerospace engineer or some crap. I saw her last in 1995 and she acted as though it was extremely uncomfortable for her to talk to me. Maybe it was? I don’t know. The girl who was my best, best friend has three sons now. I think the oldest one will be sixteen this summer, maybe seventeen? She had him between our sophomore and junior years. She and I emailed a few times back in early 2000 but I’ve lost touch with her again. I don’t know that her life turned out the way she wanted it, at all.
And then, there is me.
I got married when I was twenty. He certainly wasn’t my first boyfriend or even the first boy who proposed, but he was definitely not the right person for me. I knew it even then. I knew our relationship wasn’t normal and it wasn’t what I really wanted. But I wanted to get married because I felt like it would prove to everyone that I was pretty and someone did love me. That even a girl who was so ugly that her best friends said she was pretty only on the inside could be loved.
Of course he didn’t really love me. He married me…well, I don’t know why he married me frankly. I have no idea. But not because he loved me, because he didn’t. Our marriage was so shockingly brief that I’ve just really tried to put it out of my mind. I refer to him as SD (sperm donor) because he’s nothing more and nothing less than that to me. I appreciate his “contribution”. That’s all. I used to think that he ruined my life, but he didn’t. I wouldn’t allow him too. My life is far, far better now than it would have ever been had I stayed married to him.
I’ve turned out to be a strong person. Is that part of being pretty on the inside? Maybe.
I look in the mirror every day of my life. Do I like what I see? Sometimes. I have really beautiful hair. Thanks to the braces that I finally got when I was seventeen, I have a perfect smile. My clothes fit. They may not be really expensive designer clothes, but they fit and they are clean and they look appropriate. I have really green eyes so green that people sometimes ask me if I’m possessed (why? I have no idea).
The main difference now, I guess is that I have a smile on my face a whole lot of the time. Even when things are crappy, even when I almost get killed three times on the way to work this morning, even though I don’t understand half of what’s going on at my job and even though I feel like a huge idiot, at the end of the day, I’m happy. At the end of the day, my son draws me a Valentine that says, “You’re the best mom every” (yes, he meant ever). My dog sits on my stomach while I try to do sit-ups. My daughter reads to me from the funny papers in a funny voice. My husband says, “Thanks for making dinner.” and “How was your day?” And even though a great deal of my life is spent being sarcastic about everything, really things could be a lot worse.
I’m no supermodel and I’ll never be called beautiful, by anyone. But I’m pretty on the inside. And I didn’t realize until just lately how very important that is.