Note: I wrote this three years ago on my previous blog, that I kind of let die in favor of this one… (http://londonboundgirl.blogspot.com/2009/03/self-reflection-on-being-desired.html). But I enjoyed rereading it, so I thought I’d reblog. Enjoy:
As a woman, there was one message that was constantly fed to me: you must be desired. Whether it was my brother, half jokingly yet with the utmost seriousness uttering to my little sister when he was hungry that she must be une femme capable: a capable wife. He meant that she must know how to cook a proper meal for her husband (and should thus practice on him). Whether it was my one friend (who had her share of problems, so her advice was rarely taken seriously) telling me that before I could get that boyfriend I wanted, I must “look the part”. Whether it was my mother angering me by encouraging me to rale sur corps ou, literally translating to “pull on your body”… the actual translation being more akin to ‘take care of yourself more’, ‘pull yourself together’, ‘fix yourself up’.
They were all telling me that there were certain identifiable qualities that would make me more desirable. What was most significant was that in most cases, these were qualities that I did not have: the ability to cook, the small waist that would make me ‘look that part’ of a proper girlfriend, or natural beauty, so I had to put in work and rale sur corps mwe to compensate. Therefore, the conclusion that I had come to draw was that, to my chagrin, I was undesirable.
My family was never one of kind words or affection. I never quite understood where my desire to have warmth and approval came from, because the environment I grew up in discouraged such sentiments. They were mean, and would tell a joke at your expense, even if it offended you. They were not easily moved to tears as I was, which was the most frustrating thing because nobody took my tears seriously. They did not realize that when I cried, I was just feeling strongly about something, I wasn’t necessarily sad. But, God! , they were my family, the only one I had been given. And I had to deal with as they were.
When my family decided to intervene in my favor, to mold me to become more desirable, it was incredibly emotional and frustrating experience. The intervention usually entailed a stream of constant criticism and comparison to my “better” peers. It was always, once again, a venture to fix me, as if I was something broken. What they never realized, and what I had the most difficulty in trying to articulate to them was that I didn’t just want the criticism.
It’s not as if I didn’t appreciate their intentions, but in the end, it always felt like there was nothing good about me. My obstinacy to their criticism was taken as a confirmation of some of my worst qualities, rather than the lashing out of an already insecure girl that felt as if she was being attacked. As miserable as I was and as horrible as I already felt about myself without the help of my family, I needed to know that I was a good person and that I was capable of being loved and desired without having to change a damn thing. In essence, it always sounded like they were insisting that I stop being myself. That would solve all my problems. I was so incredibly flawed that the only solution was to cease being me, slash and burn your personality, your looks, and your quirks and start over new because obviously something had made an unfixable mistake on you.
Here’s what I learned about myself from them: I was sloppy. I looked mean all the time. I can’t cook. I can’t really get along with people. I was way too overweight. I had a bad temperament. I was not wife material. I had a poor sense of fashion. I couldn’t be trusted to dress myself. I didn’t dance right. I had a poor sense of humor. I did not look good with my natural hair out. I was hardheaded. I was ungrateful. I took criticism poorly. And I believed every word, despite how much I fought.
However, when I became extremely insecure and regarded myself as unattractive and undesirable, they had the audacity to get mad at me!
It simply amazes me the two-facedness of this society. On the one hand, we spend our whole lives being fed imagery of what is considered desirable and beautiful through the most celebrated people of Hollywood, supermodel sized mannequins, magazines, television and the most powerful tool of deception: the Barbie. Through the constant bombardment of imagery laced with sexuality, little girls are trained to think that this is what those little boys want. Little boys are trained that this is what they should want.
Well, I held that Barbie (rather Teresa, I like her Latin flare) and learned that this was desirable, this was beautiful and guess what? This was everything I was not. Even if I did trim up, I would still never have that slightly tanned but still very fair skin, long platinum blond hair, or wide doe-like blue eyes. And my booty was far too big for Ken’s liking.
When that little girl doesn’t fit that mold and develops self-image problems and low self-esteem, why is it exclusively her problem? Where did I learn that everything I am was not desirable? From whom did I get these messages? Unless there is something terribly wrong with them, most people do not naturally cultivate self-hatred. So if it didn’t come from me, if I didn’t cause it, why was it my sole duty to fix it? “Oh, you should have more confidence,” people told me without showing me how. Oh [Insert Appropriate Fashion Magazine Title Here], you showed me what Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry were wearing and told me why I should wear it too and and even where to get it… why can’t you tell me where to pick up that confidence you shattered when you said I had an unflattering muffin top?
An epidemic can end, but the cure always comes from the cause… You compete out the bad strain with an asymptomatic strain or you’re inoculated with an inactive form of the bug. So what strain will cure this self-esteem epidemic that I fell into?