“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.”—Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (via thatkindofwoman)
“I will wait for you.”
“Take your time.”
“You make my day better.”
I say those words to my slow-moving, happy-go-lucky, Noticer of life child.
I watch as grateful eyes light up and tiny shoulders relax.
Those words are soul-building words to her.
“Mistakes mean you are learning.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
“Okay, you can have a few more minutes to work on your project.”
I say those words to my driven, contentious planner and pursuer of dreams child.
I watch as pressure escapes from her chest and aspirations soar higher.
Those words are confidence-boosting words to her.
“I appreciate you.”
I say those words to my hard-working, often underappreciated love of my life.
I watch as tensions loosen, eyes meet, and conversation comes easier.
Those words are affirming and connective words to him.
“It’s good enough for today.”
“Be kind to yourself.”
“Today isn’t over—there’s still time to turn it around.”
I say those words to my own perfection-seeking, worrisome heart.
I watch as my clenched hands open and tears fall as scars come to the surface.
Those are healing, hope-filled words to me.
If you are female, expressing hatred for your own body is not just acceptable, it’s practically de rigeur. Failure to indulge in the requisite amount of self-flagellation – my thighs! my skin! my face! – isn’t just negligent, it’s unfeminine. Self-hatred is fundamental to how femininity is constructed, more fundamental than any of the more obvious external symbols (dress, make-up, shoes). What matters is not that you are beautiful, but you know your place in the beauty hierarchy (and since every woman ages, every woman’s place will eventually be somewhere at the bottom).
Young women are encouraged to bond over their dislike of excess body hair, surplus flesh and “uneven” skin. They are meant to do so in a jovial way, egged on by perky adverts informing them what “real women” do: worry about having underarms beautiful enough for a sleeveless top, celebrate curves with apologetic booty shakes and cackle ruefully over miserable Sex-and-the-City-style lunches of Ryvita and Dulcolax. It’s a gendered ritual; men get football and booze, women get control pants and detoxes. We are supposed, of course, to be grateful. Hey, you don’t have to be perfect! Just know you’re not perfect and act accordingly, with the appropriate levels of guilt and shame!
Fairy tale after fairy tale tells us that what matters is being beautiful “on the inside” but what does that really mean? It means submission, obedience and the suppression of one’s own desires. Don’t be haughty and proud. Clean the hearth. Kiss the frog. Love the beast. Suck it up when you’re replaced by a younger model. Sure, you may look fine, but you mustn’t feel fine. You mustn’t be vain. You mustn’t be angry. All fury and pain must be turned back on itself. That way you’ll be a real princess: silent, fragile and never threatening to challenge the status quo.