Last Sunday my best friend, Barby, and I sat across each other in Dean and Deluca, talking about boys. I know, I know. In that moment we were one mimosa away from becoming a Sex and the City cliché. But it seems to me that when you get two single, straight women together in a room the conversation just can’t be avoided.
Barby is inarguably beautiful: flawless skin, long black locks tied up in one of those stylishly messy buns, bright eyes accentuated by the perfect winged eyeliner – a five-foot-three embodiment of pure Asian beauty. But it’s not just that. She is also one of the most authentic, intelligent, talented, interesting, and compassionate people I know. To sum it up: the real deal.
Yet as she tells me about her short list of romantic what-ifs and could-have-beens, she arrives at the conclusion that she simply doesn’t think she’s beautiful enough. And I just about lost my mind.
The truth is that this is the way it has always been. We see ourselves through a glass, darkly; a grossly distorted version of what’s real and what isn’t. Imagine moving through a row of funhouse mirrors in your mind for decades. Barby meets a cute boy and immediately doubts the odds that he might possibly like her back and that makes me so angry — but on some days, on some really bad days, that’s me just as well.
Throughout different points in my life I have been asked by friends, family, and, yes, even strangers, to lose weight. Even after I shaved off 30 pounds or gained it all back after getting diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome), it seemed to be the one thing people have wanted most from me. I’ve been told a wide variety of things from “No one will want to marry you if you look like that” to “You should be horrified by how much you’ve let yourself go.”
Don’t worry. This won’t be a sob story… but just to level your expectations, it won’t be one about triumph either.
As Barby and I talked about all the loves we never had, she asked me how I felt about myself and why I wasn’t prone to sinking into my own pool of self-deprecation. And the truth is: I don’t know. I think about this every once in awhile because there is a very clear imbalance between how I look and the level of confidence I possess.
Here’s what I’ve realized: being repeatedly told that you aren’t worthy of love or attraction gets pretty exhausting and I just don’t have the energy to bear it any longer. I have arrived at a point in my life where I am too lazy to surrender to the soul-sucking nature of despair. It feels easier to take the path of less resistance: to accept every inch of me (even when I’m running on the tiniest bit of delusion) and, on the good days, celebrate.
The truth is that I like the defiance. I like that I can stand in all my unconventional, non-billboard, non-model-like glory, and raise a metaphorical middle finger to the narrow, one-dimensional construct of beauty that society worships. On some days it feels like a small and powerful rebellion to go ahead and not hate myself. I think I’m getting better at it. This is the struggle of almost every woman and, therefore, has become my personal brand of subversion.
I know I am not most guys’ type and that isn’t as heartbreaking now as it used to be. Because the truth is that I feel like there are still about twenty layers of me worth uncovering that have very little to do with how I look and I think the people who choose to miss out on that because of some contrived sense of superficiality are boring. I want to be able to speak up for who I am because, if life experience has revealed anything to me, it’s that not a lot of people will. Sometimes, I guess, you have to be your own advocate.
It’s going to sound simplistic but it’s going to be honest: whoever likes me, whether in friendship or in romance, will like me because of a hundred intangible things and that is undeniably true about you, too.
I think about Barby and the fifteen years I’ve known her. Our friendship is marked by a strange collage of moments held tightly together by a persistent I’m-staying-in-your-life-for-a-really-long-time type of love. I think about the days we lamented about being too fat or too ugly or too insecure. I think about the pounds she has seen me gain and the depression I’ve watched her wade through. She is most beautiful in the light of complete honesty and even if I can’t convince her of the fact, it’s my job to keep trying.
There is no cookie-cutter ending to this. I did not meet a boy who likes me just as I am nor did I completely eradicate every single cell of self-loathing from my system. I’m not sure that’s even possible. But I eat better these days. When I do find the time I even attempt to exercise. Barby sips her weird turmeric drink and we laugh about being undesirable even though we know it’s not true. In the end, we’ve made it this far by laughing at ourselves together. We bring up bad skin and stubborn love handles. For a few minutes, we own our flaws. And it is a lot like sticking our tongues out at our funhouse mirror selves and I can’t help but think that this right here should be everyone’s idea of sexy. Because sure, we may lack sex appeal but, man… we are glorious.
PS: Barby’s still single so if you’re interested, hit me up.
Featured image by Madel Crudo
When she isn’t writing, Isa Garcia is a teacher in a private college in BGC. She is also the author of Found: Letters on Love, Life, & God, published by OMF Literature. You can read more of Isa’s thoughts and writing at her blog, Isa Writes.