Sunday, October 23, 2016

Everyone is beautiful except me. I was sitting at Trotters before, as I do so much I worry the staff despise me, and at the next table was a girl with beautiful hair. She was uni-student age, and her hair was thick and wavy and bouncy and a true auburn colour: a rich, dark red. I wanted to stare at her hair.

I began looking around the restaurant, my eye alighting on beauty of all kinds: someone with a lovely slim figure; someone with long, luscious eyelashes; someone with clear, smooth skin. I'm always noticing and rejoicing in beauty in other people. But I myself am completely repulsive.

It is so disheartening to know that nothing I do can disguise this inherent ugliness; the best I can do is blunt it, or blur the harsh edges of it, so I look okay. I can try to wear my hair in such a way as to disguise the fatness of my face. I can choose clothes that drape tactfully over the horror that is my body. I can try to wear zany, jaunty colours so I look more cheerful than I feel. I can wear makeup to cover my horrible piggish pink skin, and perfume so I don't smell bad. But there will always be a breeze that, unbearably, flattens my clothing against my body and reveals its actual, terrible shape. And my head will always look like a half-melted wax sculpture.

And it's terrible to know that when other people look at me, they are looking at this horrible thing, this foul lumpish object, and they put my name and thoughts and words on it and remember it in their minds and know it as 'me'.

Last week I did a reading, the first public reading from my forthcoming novel, and at the time I felt good about it because people laughed at the jokes and told me afterwards they thought it was funny, and tweeted nice things about it. But then on Thursday, the people who'd hosted the reading put up a photo of me in action on their Instagram. I have a pugnacious expression on my pink, hammy face, two bulging chins, and this horrible girth – my body just kind of bulges out below the armpit to become twice as wide as it is tall.

And they tagged it as me, and I felt absolute horror that my carefully curated Instagram image had been so easily punctured by the undeniable, objective fact of my physical ugliness. I felt an instinctive abjection, the way you might feel when you discover a spider or mouse or some other vermin on your clothes, or in your house: getitoutgetitoutgetitout. I untagged myself and hid it from my profile.

But then there is no getting away from the horror that this is actually how I look to other people. That it doesn't matter how good my work is, or how funny or intelligent I strive to be. I will always look like this. I'll always look ugly.

Sometimes I brood on the idea that I can't ever apply any of the qualities I admire in other people's appearance to myself. For instance, when I admire some cool young girl wearing a floral-print cotton dress with chunky Doc Martens and ankle socks, I'm reminded that if I were to wear the same dress and shoes and socks I would look like a babushka or nonna or yiayia. The shoes and socks would look sensible and orthopedic; the dress would look frumpy.

I also grieve the way that I can't look 'hot', because you just aren't if you look like me. I feel so sad thinking about all the years I wasted trying to dress sexily, trying to get the attention of whoever I was into at the time, when nobody ever saw me 'in that way'. I feel ashamed of feeling attracted to someone because I'm barely even a person to them. I'm just a foul lump of flesh, and I'm just getting worse with every passing year.

Objectively I know other people must be able to look at me and see something beautiful, in the way that I can see beautiful things in other people, but I have trouble really believing this is possible. I seem to belong to a unique category of repellence.

As I told Anthony on Thursday morning in a series of text messages sent from my bed while sobbing, "Nobody would agree to bone me because I look so awful even fully clothed. I feel like a fool for ever thinking anyone would find me attractive. I don't loathe physical contact; I am afraid of other people's inevitable disgust at how bad I am to look at, touch, etc. I try to mitigate it as best I can but believe me I look so much worse naked. I wish I could hide my head and neck too; those Muslim ladies have it figured out. The only thing to do now is to just be very successful using my brain, which is all I have. Better get up and mark more student essays."

He said all sorts of ridiculous things like "You look like Mel, which is good" and "Visual appearance doesn't even work the way you think with dudes" which I know was just him trying to cheer me up.

As a feminist I'm in the predicament of believing I shouldn't have to change my body to be worthy, but also I am realistic about the ways in which men think and speak about women, which is primarily as objects to be looked at. And I feel totally alienated from a culture where women – even feminists, especially feminists! – must perform their sexuality as part of their public selves.

Anyway, it just bums me out to notice beauty elsewhere in the world, because there's nothing beautiful about me.

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