Ugliness As Self Reclamation

When I am having a bad day, a fat day, a day on which I feel as if everyone is staring at me and judging my body, as if I am public property, I put on a baggy tshirt and my oldest, comfiest jeans. Sometimes, when I feel like my life is out of my own control, I shave my head or add piercings. I don’t always get positive comments (everything from “you look like a prepubescent boy” to “this is the last piercing right?”), but somehow it always manages to make me feel better.

Beauty is almost always performative for me. I don’t care what I look like more often than not. Oh sure, I don’t like having my hair sticking straight up or getting my skirt stuck in my leggings so that everyone can see my undies, but past a basic level of presentability I don’t care. Beauty has always been about how others see me. I put on a dress and wonder what others see when they look at me. I cut my hair short and thrive on the comments about how adorable I am. But when left to my own devices, I just spend twenty minutes poking at the fat around my waist and ignore anything else.

There is something liberating about hiding my body.

I feel like I’ve stolen away to somewhere that belongs to me, even if that place is just an oversized sweatshirt. I feel like I’m at once invisible and also throwing the finger up at anyone who demanded anything from me. No, I won’t grow my hair to anything like feminine, and I won’t put on my skirts and dresses today, and I will never wear makeup, and I will be comfortable. Because this body is mine not yours, and because I get to do as I choose with it. I get to mark it in every way, permanent or not, that I choose, whether or not someone else sees it as ugly or trashy or bad.

Being ugly is reclaiming myself.

Oh sure, I’m not conventionally unattractive. I’m white and thin and symmetrical enough that I’ve never gotten the crap that lots of people do. It’s a privilege to be able to slip into an unfeminine obscurity. But hell does it feel good to remind people that I don’t owe them the performance, the work of adjusting my posture and sucking in my stomach, of keeping on the leggings that pull everything in just a little too much.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason I left scars on myself was so that people would have to look away, so that I would have an excuse to cover. Even when I am living in the distortion of depression, I know that what I want is to say that this is mine, this body, the way it looks or doesn’t look. Some people find it empowering to be beautiful. They dress up and feel confident. When I leave the house in sweats and a ratty old t-shirt, I feel untouchable. I have made it clear that I give exactly 0 fucks about the people around me and what they think of me, I have chosen to keep my concerns about my size and acceptability out of the public sphere by simply covering them and keeping them private.

Even for people who enjoy fashion and beauty, attractiveness is something that society demands. It’s a way for the world to exert power over you and your body by saying that there are better and worse ways to be. I love feeling as if I’m actively choosing to do something that I’ve been told not to. It’s a juvenile impulse, but one that all of us need at times in our lives, especially when the rules around us are harmful and arbitrary. It’s the land where farms are barren of fucks to grow, where we do things because we want to instead of because we feel some pressure to adjust the most basic parts of ourselves to a larger standard.

It feels good to recognize that I feel like I belong to myself alone when I choose to dress down or let the world see my ugly side. It feels so good not to care.

3 thoughts on “Ugliness As Self Reclamation

  1. cinderace says:

    I like this a lot. Thanks for sharing!

  2. […] Olivia writes about doing what she wants with her appearance and not caring what other people think: “Even for people who enjoy fashion and beauty, attractiveness is something that society demands. It’s a way for the world to exert power over you and your body by saying that there are better and worse ways to be. I love feeling as if I’m actively choosing to do something that I’ve been told not to. […] It feels good to recognize that I feel like I belong to myself alone when I choose to dress down or let the world see my ugly side.” […]

  3. Jason Ellis says:

    Gives a me an Idea, I learned from this topic.

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