Monday, September 28, 2009


Like many people, I have a hard time accepting compliments, especially about the way I look. I actually used to be much, much worse about this than I am today. It drove one man I dated absolutely nuts--he would tell me I was beautiful and I would say, "No, I'm not" reflexively, as the knee bounces when hit with the little testing hammer. It took years of time and effort to get from "No, I'm not" to "I believe you think so." I've evolved enough now to just say "thank you"--or not say anything at all. (I don't believe compliments require a verbal response. A smile works, too.)

People I know are complimenting me on a daily basis now and I'm finding it disconcerting. "You look great", "you look fantastic", and even today, "You're so beautiful." My response is usually, "Thanks, I feel good!"

Part of it may be the word: beautiful. Gorgeous is even worse; if someone says I look gorgeous (which has only happened a couple of times in my life--NOT a common occurrence!) that has to be a lie. I consider myself an average-looking, if not plain, middle-aged woman, and of course, there's the weight issue. My awkward phase was epic and fantastically bad--it lasted at least twenty years. (Come to think of it, I'm not quite certain that it's over yet.) Beautiful is a loaded word--not as loaded as perfect, which I basically consider a curse word (I have no problem using actual curse words and probably enjoy it more than I should, but that's another issue altogether). Perfect is a curse word, to me, because it is impossible. The opposite of perfect is imperfect or flawed--which defines every single solitary human being. No one can live up to perfect.

I could be complimented on my looks every day of my life and it could never erase how ugly I have known that I was. This belief goes much deeper than fat; when I am sick or down, I don't just feel ugly, I know I am ugly--I don't want anyone looking at me at all, even people I love and who I know love me. Some folks consider fat and ugly one word: fatandugly. Most fat people have heard themselves assessed in such a way at some point in their lives, and many have certainly thought it about themselves in darker moments, when it is difficult for it not to seem true. But fat does not automatically equal ugly, any more than it equals lazy, stupid, desperate, or a number of other negative traits with which fat are often associated.

I know I am a beautiful person--because I work rather hard at being one--but it isn't the same thing. I'm not always even a beautiful person, because no one is. It is something to strive for, certainly, but the word always in this context veers dangerously close to perfect, and there we are back at impossible. I spent too much of my earlier life thinking I had to seem happy and nice and funny to make up for the way I looked, but again, it went so much deeper than just looks--I felt like I had to compensate for the very air I breathed because of where and what I came from, among other things. Another thing it took time and effort to realize in my adult life was that not everyone I encountered could see the ugly on me, that they might meet me and think I was normal and okay. This was, and sometimes is still, a revelation.

My most fervent wish as a child was to be invisible, because it would have been the safest option: I knew ugly was no good, but neither was pretty because the attention pretty got was not necessarily the best kind. There was also the definite possibility that pretty could lead to the worst kind of joke--the one on me.

I don't long for invisibility as much as I once did--ironic, since women seem to become increasingly invisible as they grow older (such a shallow world). I should be happy that people tell me I look good or they find me beautiful and I am; I'm not unhappy about it by any means. However, I also cannot trust it. That is more a reflection on me than anyone else, and it serves as an illustration of how much work I still have to do, work that has nothing to do with how many grams of protein I ingest in a day or how many pounds I have lost since the surgery.

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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