Hey Venus: The Lamentation of a Flat-Assed Girl
And then there’s special. Super sparkly smart sunny special. Special is easy. It glows in the dark and is never hungry. Special has just what you need.
How do you get there, I wondered, along about the fourth grade. At this tender age, I was just realizing that there were two kinds of special: one was shiny, the other was dull. The former is pretty, the latter is a taunt magnet. The word implies distinction, notice by one’s peers. The only things I was noticed for were about as desirable as a boot to the face. A quick retreat into the dim, cool library, with its delicious, slightly mildewy paper smell, seemed the best move.
From the library I moved toward the bus. I wrapped myself in my dullness, so as not to get noticed. All the way home I would stare out the window and dream of ways I could flip my special switch from dim to shiny. Awkward to grace. Doldrums to delightful. Then my mom went to work for Lady Venus Cosmetics.
According to these people, and the Bonne Bell ads in Tiger Beat magazine, the answers to my problems were contained in fruit flavored lip gloss and the white ceramic bottles and jars my mom brought home every week. I watched her apply goos and whipped creams, dotting and rubbing, plucking and spraying. It seemed to take hours. My dad took a shower, got dressed, and walked out the door. It wasn’t the last time I wondered why I had to draw the girl straw.
My mom wore her vanity on her sleeve. She never walked into the grocery store without lipstick, regardless of what the rest of her looked like. As if that slash of red across her face were her armor, her shield. She worried so very much about what others thought. These same doubts are whipped stitched into my skin. I’ve spent a lifetime wondering why WASPs felt the need to procreate with each other, creating a suburban nightmare inhabited by flat-assed girls like me.
But I write, so I observe. I don my cynical cloak and stand back and weigh the validity of these feelings. Not only the validity, but also the infection rate. Because most of us are afflicted. Even the shiny special ones.
No one ever told me this, they never do. So I created a world where I was ostracized, and then turned around and created one where I could shine. One by one I found other cracked molds and it became us against them. Gang up with the other geeks and strap on your own armor of cynicism. That beats pretty any day, we thought. I can see our faces, we are so squeaky in our earnestness. We made own kind of shiny. My cynical used to be so much more sincere. I actually did take myself dead serious. I’m still striving to bridge that gap, though, between taking myself seriously and letting others do so as well.
Self-awareness is an ass-kicker. How many sweet moments are missed because of this vanity? I watched an icon of my youth crumble before my eyes the other night. After finishing a fine show he returned to the stage for an encore, having taken off the jacket he had been wearing earlier. When he went to raise his hand in the air along with his long-time bass player’s, his t-shirt rose up to reveal a pale spare tire around his waist. Very small really, more like a bicycle tube. Our eyes met for a literal split second and I saw a compendium of doubt and blame and fear run across his face. It was stunning and real, and so very touching. I realized then that the adoration never is enough. It will always fade into the background like a Death Cab For Cutie song, so brilliant in the beginning, but eventually meandering into a tune that sounds like everything else that sounds like it. Better make it real before it’s too late.
It’s better not to need that shot in the arm. And yet it’s hard not to. We often just replace one need with another. I left the desire for the specialness of pretty popularity a long time ago. Now I fling about metaphors and prepositional phrases strewn with excoriatingly hard-fought adjectives, striving to be the cleverest. But I can stop. And remove. If I want to.
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Originally published at stringsikeeppullingfrommyhead.tumblr.com.