I Am Brienne of Tarth: How the 'Game of Thrones' Character Changed How I See Myself

I will never be beautiful, but I believe my Tormund is out there.
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Katherine Burke
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I will never be beautiful, but I believe my Tormund is out there.

Brienne of Tarth is a six-foot, horse-faced bad bitch from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, and from the moment her character was introduced, I was like, "Yep, that's me." 

Actually, this is me.

Actually, this is me.

Brienne and I have known all our lives that we were never going to be one of "those girls." We're too tall, too strong, and too brash; trying to be feminine only makes us feel ridiculous. We were both lucky to be born into families who accepted us for who we are, but unfortunately, we're also both afflicted with heterosexuality. 

Now, I'm not saying life would be easier if I were a lesbian. My mom's a lesbian; if you think you have relationship problems, try going through menopause at the same time as your partner. I'm just saying that guys can be cruel and unforgiving when it comes to women's appearances. 

But recently, Brienne's story on Game of Thrones has helped me see that the reason I'm single has very little to do with the way I look or act.

I have always been rather butch for a straight girl. As a kid, my favorite outfit was a set of pink sweats — the perfect mix of masculine and feminine. In my early adolescence, I expressed my newfound tingly feelings for boys by challenging them to wrestling matches on my trampoline. Halfway through a sweaty summer, I realized these boys were weird; while they didn't let me win, it did seem like they wanted me to win. I remember their sweaty faces as I towered over them, their big grins making me feel confused but proud.

The rest of my adolescence was not as triumphant.

In the novel A Feast for Crows, there's a Brienne chapter that reads like it was ripped from my teenage diary. While training with King Renly's hilariously named rainbow guard (we got it, George), Brienne is pursued by every available douche in camp. They bring her flowers, serenade her, and threaten to duel for her honor. Brienne does not fall for it; she knows who she is and what she looks like. Just before she goes Kill Bill on all of them, they reveal this was all a ruse; they wanted to see if any of them could manage to pop her cherry before they all marched of to war. 

Similar incidents happened to me growing up. Even after I lost weight and felt a little better about myself, I remained deeply skeptical of anyone who showed interest in me. I was waiting for them to steal my journal or throw chocolate milk on me in the cafeteria. Not all men are not like that though (I said it, OK?). There are men who are secure enough to handle women like me. And thanks to Game of Thrones, I now call them Tormunds.

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I met my first Tormund in my early twenties. It took me forever to realize that Adam was not joking when he asked me to sit on his face. I was mostly confused because there were actually other people around when he said this. This guy was not a Jaime Lannister; he didn't moon quietly and then punch anyone who accused him of having a crush on me. He praised my sense humor. He liked that I could hang drywall and tell a good dick joke. Unfortunately, things got in the way and I ended up having to move six hours away. But the ending doesn't matter; I was fascinated that someone saw something in me that I never saw in myself. I just didn't know what that thing was.

When Tormund first sees Brienne, she is fresh from two amazing triumphs, defeating her greatest foe and fulfilling an oath to a long-lost friend. She is glowing with pride. Tormund would probably describe her as fierce or wild, but I think the word he's looking for is confident

I know that — confidence — is the essential thing I have been lacking. More than love, more than love a boyfriend, that is what I want for myself. The courage to hold my head up high and act like I actually like me. When I first met Adam, I just wanted to be his friend, so I never got too clingy or tried too hard to impress him. I was just myself. It was just really hard for me to believe that I was enough.

I am done with that crap now. If my girl Brienne the Beauty can attract a fit ginger wildling (and even if she's played by much prettier actress on the show), I now know the only thing standing between me and happiness is me. 

I will never be beautiful; beauty is a concept with predetermined criteria that I do not fulfill. But that's cool. I'm funny, I can cook, and I have recently gotten very good at backing up a pickup truck. When I picture myself, I'm going to picture my whole self — not just my frizzy hair or severe underbite. 

For the first time, I really believe my Tormund is out there. I picture us meeting at my favorite dive bar, spending Saturdays at Home Depot, and playing chicken at All Ages shows. We will cuddle on the couch and watch Game of Thrones. When awesome Brienne rides in to vanquish her enemies, he will kiss my oily forehead because she reminds him of me.