At least not when it comes to someone describing me.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “Okay Now Listen” and Sylvia Obell was sharing her story about her struggle with weight. I related to it so much, as I have struggled with my weight my whole life and as I share more pictures of myself on the internet, it opens me up to more comments from strangers. Some can be kind and some can be not so kind. One compliment sits strangely with me. They called me beautiful, and I’m not saying this as a humble brat of sorts but, this word is foreign to me.
Since I was a kid, I have been chubby with an overbite. I have had in shape moments, skinny moments, but I have pretty much always been chubby with big hair, and teeth that don’t meet. This is my truth and has been my entire life. With that said, I have only ever heard the word beautiful with quantifiers. That outfit is beautiful, your makeup is beautiful, you look beautiful today but never have I heard a human utter you are beautiful. Okay not never but I can count on 1 hand the number of times I have heard an unprompted or unquantifiable beautiful in my 38 years.
Funny enough, I attempted to talk to an ex about this and he was up in arms about how of course he said I was beautiful. I said as it is something I never hear so I would remember and despite his anger over the subject quantifiably, he has said it very seldom, they all have. My last serious boyfriend uttered hey beautiful a handful of times in regards to me trying that day, you know doing something extra. You know some extra razzle dazzle outside of my morning routine. I have heard you look beautiful, your hair, makeup, shoes… something on my person but just regular degular me, no extras, just the default… never! Never ever! In fact, I was trolled on the internet for showing up as myself without spanx/skims and a made-up face.
Now, that is not to say I don’t get compliments. I have heard I am sexy, hot even when I want to be. Just the other day an old fuck buddy said to me “I miss your intelligence, personality, and sense of humor, and your smile and don’t forget that booty.” LOL! I have heard I am smart, confident, cocky, intelligent, funny, crazy, outlandish, outgoing, determined, organized, cute even… but beautiful this is a word that has escaped the vernacular of those I let in my circle.
My own mother has never called me beautiful. She has mentioned my weight on every occasion possible. She’s told when I was just a teen that I was average looking, “your chubby but, you have so many other attributes so it’s okay you aren’t beautiful”. She says that my overbite and my lack of in-shapeness makes me undesirable to the opposite sex. Even when I was briefly in shape she didn’t much change her mind. My mothers, both of them were inherently beautiful just by nature. They could stop traffic in their respective sleeps. So I just grew up knowing that would never, could never, be me.
My first serious boyfriend, I can recall verbatim the one and only time he called me beautiful. We were dressed for a formal, I had done a full face of makeup on a borrowed ball gown, the girls were sitting and we were outside just waiting in the shuttle bus. And a guy from one of my classes comments on how perky my tits looked in my dress. My boyfriend grabbed the guy by the collar and made him apologize. Let him run off before my then boyfriend decked him. My boyfriend kisses me on the forehead said to me “I’m sorry he was so disrespectful, you are absolutely beautiful”. I hold that compliment near and dear to my heart as I never heard it before, and I didn’t hear him utter it again in the 5 years we were together. When asked about the lack of compliments between us, he said “if I tell you you’re beautiful all the time, it will just inflate your ego and I don’t want you to leave me.” Funny enough I have heard similar sentiments in most of the relationships I have been in… you know, so why do I have to tell you.
I recently posted TikTok/Reel of just me, no spanx/skims, no makeup, nothing but Cherry Chapstick on, and a dress. I had no lashes, no nails, no extras and people commented on the video how pretty I was. Just to keep things in perspective, I also got a whole troll post about my overbite, my rolls, and grey hair. The reel got 1,000 views in 15 minutes. I was flabbergasted as this isn’t my truth or maybe it is. I just am now coming into what is my own version of beautiful… pretty even. I have never fit the commercial definition of desirable. I have tried every diet, been to gyms, orthodontists, and short of plastic surgery and a broken jaw, I will never be thin with a perfect smile.
So where does that leave me? If no one ever tells me, how was I supposed to know? If most people throughout my life were quick to not compliment me or even tell me that I’m repulsive even, how was I to recognize my beauty? It had been ingrained in me that I am not beautiful but I have other attributes. I don’t know whether to rejoice or cry at my new found truth. I didn’t know I was allowed to be beautiful.Not that there was a law against it, but it felt like a world I was destined to never experience. Like Chris Brown said, you hating from the outside and you can’t even get in. It’s a feeling, a word, I have been denied my entire life and I don’t know how to feel now. I have always been my biggest cheerleader, but what happens when you’re used to being a stadium of one and now other people are showing up? Thank you to Sylvia for sharing your truth and helping me to find the words to embrace my own. I might have to sit with this one a while.