Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pretty Girls in Puff Sleeves

So, you've seen that Dustin Hoffman clip that's been circulating online, right? If not, here it is.

Now let's talk about that. Because the topic is one that people don't like to talk about. About how a woman's value still rests on her beauty as a major factor. A man can be as fucking grossly ugly as possible, but if he's funny? If he's smart? If he's rich? His worth will always be higher than a woman with the same factors.

Hell, that's sort of where the "Invisible" part of this blog's title comes from. Because some days I do feel that because I'm not attractive enough looking, I am essentially invisible. And how sometimes I'd rather just remain invisible than be seen for what I physically am. I can talk "ra-ra-feminism" all I want, but I still struggle more than I walk the walk. I do still have image issues and self-esteem problems like everyone else. Like what Dustin Hoffman realized when he discovered how lucky he was to be born a man and therefore his looks barely mattered- even as an actor. Everyone knows Dustin Hoffman is tiny and has a big nose but it never slowed down his career one inch because he's a man and that doesn't matter then.

I've only recently realized that this underlying fact might be why Anne of Green Gables is often my default comfort story.

People spend so much time making sure to tell Anne that she's worthless- saying that just by being an orphan she's not worth the trouble ("Anne Shirley is a conniving manipulative child, she's pulled the wool over your eyes!") saying that by not being a boy she isn't worth adopting ("You don't want me because I'm not a boy?"), saying that her red hair and freckles are ugly ("Couldn't you send her back?/Her looks are certainly nothing to consider/ she's terribly skinny and homely/ Her hair's a red as carrots" all said in seconds by Rachel Lynde) saying that because she has a temper she isn't worth giving a chance ("That's the kind that puts strychnine in the well!"), saying that he imagination and dramatic ways are silly ("I can't imagine how I let that child worm her way into my affections), and so on.

And she just takes it all and fucking trucks on until everyone is in love with her.

Until they realize how smart she is ("You're a credit to us all and we're all proud of you."). Until they realize how sweet she is ("I thought Marilla Cuthbert was an old fool when I heard she adopted a little orphan girl. Now I see now which of us was the old fool!). Until they realize how talented she is ("After standing first at Queens, you can do no wrong in this community!"). Until they realize that she's going to be able to do things and go further than all the "proper" girls in Avonlea ("Matthew and I are both proud of her. She has the talent to make something of herself.").

And then, suddenly, she's beautiful in their eyes.

Of course, she was beautiful all along anyway. Megan Follows is no slouch and the illustrations on my old copies of the books are all lovely looking redheaded women, too. But I've always adored redheaded women.

I guess I just don't understand beauty. I've always thought my older sister was beautiful and envied her. Her athletic and properly shaped body. Her thick light brown hair that wasn't so dark that hairstyles got lost in it. Her freckles. Her graceful way of dancing and moving. Hell, even the shape of her smile. Everything about her that we didn't share in common, I envied. Wishing and hoping for the day where I'd magically wake up to look like her.

But I'll never forget being about twelve and having my mother tell me that she never really felt my sister was beautiful. And then continued the thought to tell me that I was beautiful. It just left me perplexed. What made her feel the need to say either thing? Was it that I looked more like both my mom and my dad than their other daughter and it was some weird genetic thing? Did she worry that my self-esteem was low and think that saying that would help? She told me that while I was an awkward greasy chubby twelve year old. Then again, my mother was an unbalanced bi-polar mess at the time- so I really shouldn't be trying to figure out what was going on in her head.

But then, years later, I remember listening to my sister and my brother-in-law discuss how they needed to find a cute girl to hand out fliers for a club event they were promoting. I suggested a mutual friend that was extremely social and they both went, "Weeeeell, she's kind of ugly." I stared at them as if they had said, "Weeeeeell, she's got that third eye in her nose that freaks people out." I still would never classify her as "ugly". Not even close. I can't understand why they were both so quick to say she was not pretty enough. This is the type of girl that can make friends without speaking the same language. She has shining eyes and a great smile. She's fit and wears great clothes and jewelry. She wears maybe a little bit too much make-up but that's perfect for a club. I can't understand what makes her ugly in their eyes.

Then again, up until I was about fourteen, I was totally with Anne Shirley on her love of puff sleeves, so... what do I know?
I think the main issue now is just that her hair wasn't yet big enough? Also: it's very "I'm a tea cozy"-esque.

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