What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Fairest shmairest! Let’s get real about beauty and body image. Mirror, Mirror is a column running every other week on The Frisky. It is written by Brooklyn-based columnist, freelance writer, and bagel enthusiast, Kate Fridkis who also writes the blog Eat the Damn Cake. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatthedamncake.
I was standing in line at the Whole Foods bathroom, and I glanced over and saw myself in the mirror. I was packed in with a bunch of other women, and they were all looking glamorous because it was Columbus Circle and that is how people look there.
I, of course, did not look glamorous, but when I caught sight of myself in the bathroom crowd, something cool happened. I felt this spark of pride. Like, “That one is mine.” Like when your dog is all scrappy and mutty, and you’re like, “Fuck these purebreds, my dog kicks butt.” I felt like that. And now I’ve compared myself to a dog, so we’re off to a good start.
As I get older and turn a little bit more into my mom everyday, I get more sentimental and want to celebrate and commemorate and stop and smell flowers and keep a gratitude journal and basically just take every opportunity to be self-reflective as the world around me is rushing off to grab some McDonald’s and get in line for the new Bond movie.
Which is why I’m going to pause for a second and be thankful in honor of Thanksgiving. I don’t think people are thankful enough. And I don’t think women, especially are thankful enough for our bodies. So I’m going to take a moment here, before the mindless ecstasy of stuffing and gravy, to notice what I’m thankful for about my body.
1. I am thankful that I am whole.
My entire body works, all at the same time. I mean, I can’t do complicated stuff like pat my head while I rub my belly, but I am pretty sure I can do them one after another (it’s just that the occasion so rarely presents itself). We learn very young to criticize our bodies and take so little time to appreciate the fact that they work. Really, it’s pretty damn awesome to have a whole, functioning body. That’s kind of attractive in and of itself.
2. I am thankful that I am feminine.
Not that feminine looks any one way -- there are a lot of iterations of feminine. But I am obviously one of them. Even with short hair and small boobs, you can tell. And I like that, because I like being a woman. I would rather be a woman than a man, so it worked out.
3. I am thankful that I am attractive enough.
I, like many other women, have spent a lot of time wishing that I looked better than I look. Just a little prettier, please. Maybe my lips could be wider or my nose spunkier or my cheekbones more defined or my legs longer. But I’m not ugly. I’m not even unattractive. I look fine. Not stunning, necessarily. But good.
And when I think about it, I’m not sure why good isn’t good enough. I’m not sure when it became so important to be gorgeous. I am a good pianist, too. Not a great one by any stretch of the imagination, but the amount that I am able to play gives me a lot of pleasure. I can play pieces and accompany songs that I like! I don’t really feel the need to bang out some Rachmaninoff.
It’s not crazy to want to be prettier, our culture cares enormously about beauty and places a lot of pressure on girls and women to be as attractive as they possibly can. But I believe we’re capable of autonomy even in the face of a generalizing system. I think we don’t have to let ourselves succumb to the pressure.
4. I am thankful that I look unique and interesting.
It would probably be a lot easier to have one of those faces that come alive with makeup (rather than looking somewhat like an aging but determined prostitute), and hair that can be curled or straightened or dyed. Some people can play with their appearance, almost like they’re a blank canvas. My appearance knows exactly what it wants and it usually gets it. Fighting gets me nowhere -- it’s safer to just give in.
But there is something unmistakable about the way I look. I don’t look like any actresses or famous personalities so I don’t have a doppelganger to put on Facebook when everyone is doing that. But people always remember me when they’ve met me before, and I always spot myself immediately in the bathroom mirror at Whole Foods, so I’m going to go ahead and call that a win.
5. I am thankful that you can tell my ethnicity on my face.
I used to be a little embarrassed by how Jewish I look. After all, the ethnic Jewish look is not exactly one sought out by preeminent fashion designers. My nose is big and bumpy, my face a long oval, my hair gets easily frizzy, and my eyes are round and, I’ve always suspected, too close together. Sexy! Maybe not, exactly. But packed with history. I look a lot like my great grandmother, actually.
“She was beautiful!” my family always told me. I saw the pictures, and quite honestly, she wasn’t. But they remember her as beautiful because she was badass. She spoke at least seven languages and escaped Austria during a time when soldiers at every checkpoint stabbed pitchforks into the hay in the back of hay wagons, in case Jews were hidden underneath. She was hidden underneath, but she survived, and came to America with her little brother. She was 18 at the time.
I remember her amazing jam cookies and her gentle, intelligent voice. Not a bad person to look like. My face has a story to tell, and it’s not a simple one.
6. I am thankful for my butt.
It surprises me that people still make jokes about women wishing their butts were smaller. Why would anyone ever wish that? I’ve never understood. I love that my butt has a, shall we say, presence. It is a part of my body I am consistently happy with. And those parts are really important.
7. I am thankful for my height.
I am exactly average -- 5’5”, and that’s often seemed boring. If I were smaller I could be petite and adorable and curl up even in one of those school chairs with the kidney-shaped half desk. I had a roommate in college who could do that and I spent whole classes being jealous. If I were taller, I could be dramatic and graceful-looking. But in honor of Thanksgiving, I like being exactly average height, because when I wear heels I am tall and dramatic and when I don’t, I can easily kiss my husband, without having to go up on my tiptoes. And that’s convenient. Being average sometimes just means having more options.
8. I am thankful for my belly.
It’s cute. It sticks out and I secretly like it, even though sometimes I think it should be completely flat. But that’s a lie. It shouldn’t. It should stick out a little. And it does. Like a champ.
It’s amazing how much I have to be thankful for when I look in the mirror. Especially considering how often I’ve wondered if I could possibly look any worse. What was I even thinking? I could have a giant hump on my back! I could have been born with a third eye on my cheek that can’t open all the way and is always staring glumly at the ground!
But seriously, when you take a minute to think about what is good about the way you look and the way your body works, it’s pretty awesome how much stuff you can come up with. The things I listed above are just the beginning, for me. But I have to go read stuffing recipes, so I don’t have time to write the next 600 pages.
So what about you? What about the way you look makes you thankful?
Reprinted with permission from The Frisky. Want more?