When I was 5 years old, I went to a friend’s house with long curly hair and left with the Dorothy Hamil haircut. With little to no convincing, my friend put lotion in my hair to prepare me for “my wedding” or “school” or whatever engagements sound grown up to a 5-year-old.
I never questioned what the scissors gracing my scalp had to do with impending adulthood. I was young, trusting, and promised a strawberry fruit roll up.
I remember looking in the mirror and feeling nothing towards my new appearance. The fear only set in when my mother rang the doorbell and I found myself underneath the table, tightly clutching said fruit roll up.
I went to school the next day and a kid told me I looked like a boy. I cried because I assumed this meant I was ugly. I cried because, at 5 years old, I was already a failure to my gender.
Cut to the present and my hair is almost as short, and almost as styling, as Dorothy Hamil’s. I barely wear makeup, I only respect a utilitarian handbag, and I find shopping to be a frivolous chore that is better left to my boyfriend.
Needless to say, I don’t feel pretty on the day to day.
Needless to say, I don’t really try to.
As a “woman,” I resent society’s pressure to tell me what traits I should care about. I resent that the admittance of not feeling pretty is immediately met with well-meaning but generic coos of “yes you are.”
I appreciate your insistence that I have value, people in my life, but that’s not really what I’m questioning.
Because, in my mind, pretty is a pretty thing that exists in pretty people. It affects the way they move, speak, and stylize themselves in ways that are both put upon and inherent.
I do not move prettily. I move like you should get the fuck out of my way.
I do not speak prettily. The word “fuck” is not a curse word to me. It’s a second language.
I do not stylize myself prettily. Again, I repeat the phrase, “utilitarian handbag.” Also fuck.
It is not self-deprecating to see pretty as an adjective that belongs more strongly to someone else. It is self-deprecating to cry when some kid on the playground asserts that your appearance is wrong for both your gender and your identity.
It is self-deprecating to believe that because of your genitals, you have to feel pretty or make an effort to be so.
I feel no ill will towards pretty or the friend that cut my hair almost 18 years ago. She knew me before I knew myself. She knew that I was something other than “pretty.”