I don’t think I’m beautiful. This is not a ploy for attention or compliments it’s just a fact. I don’t like my body and I don’t like the way I look. I don’t much like my face and I’m consistently dissatisfied with my hair. Nothing ever quite seems right.
Oftentimes one of the ways that we gauge our own beauty is by whether or not others find us sexually attractive: can we “get” a partner? Obviously there is more to feeling beautiful than external affirmation, but traditionally we use sexuality as a way to understand beauty. And for me? That attention is more often than not unwanted. I crave the reassurance, I crave someone to tell me that my body is acceptable, but I cannot accept the sexualized truth that I am wanted because I will always feel like an object when someone reminds me of that. Oddly enough even my friends who are not sexually attracted to women still choose to express any compliments of my body in a sexualized form.
So how does someone who refuses to accept sexual compliments find beauty in themselves? How does someone who feels bifurcated from their body come to feel at home, appreciate the lines and curves of their collarbone, fall in love with the feeling of running? How can an asexual identity help someone who has felt impinged upon to feel beautiful?
When I look at my body, I often compare it to magazines, to models, to movie stars, really to any image of femininity that I can find. More often than not these images are sexualized. My body doesn’t look quite so alluring, it doesn’t look quite so sexual, it doesn’t look quite as curvy as those images. I can’t imagine myself plastered on a billboard. I can’t imagine people looking at me and liking it, or touching me and enjoying it (especially with the scars that I have).
I wonder if I can see it differently though. I wonder if I can look at my body without the lens of desire or sex coloring everything I see. I wonder if I can look at it with an aesthetic eye, with an emotional eye. When I look at a picture of someone smiling, I see beauty there, especially if it’s one of those real deep down smiles that reaches far back into the eyes. I see it when I watch my new kitten romping around on the floor, or when I see my boyfriend try a bite of a new and delicious food. There’s something intensely appealing about watching these things, something that I feel drawn to. I have no other word for it than beauty.
I think about the photographs that I love, about the colors that I’m drawn to, about the fact that I like lines that have a nice beautiful curve in them, or about the fact that I can see certain images and simply want to stare at them for hours and hours, not because of any meaning or desire but simply because they’re transfixing. Sometimes I have to stop and stare at a particular face simply because the eyes are too interesting or because the cheekbones are just so or because the hair is too cute. None of these things are sexualized, they are simply moments of seeing how the world fits together and wondering at it.
I want to shift my focus away from attractiveness and sex and spend some time thinking about my relationship to the world and to vision as a new way to perceive myself. Sometimes I stare at the tendons on the back of my hand and wiggle my fingers, watching the funny interplay of skin and flesh. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and my hair has turned itself into a mini mohawk all by its lonesome and I love it. Sometimes I feel the way my lips turn up at the edges and I can’t stop it when something tickles my fancy and I know my eyes are crinkling in the special deep smile way.
I want to sit with myself and a mirror and watch the ways my face moves when I’m happy. I want to watch my toes wiggle and see the muscles flex in my calves. I want to see the line my hip makes when I lie on my side and how my little kitty can play on it for hours. I want to feel the sharpness of my nails and revel in the textures I contain. I want to look at myself as I would anything else in the world, as lines and textures and colors and shapes, and see if the patterns I make draw me in as the rest of the world does.
I think of the desire that I feel for others, the way I could trace someone’s back for hours just because it moves the right way. I wonder if I can desire myself that way: as good, as beautiful, as pleasing. I wonder if we should all spend more time seeing ourselves that way. I wonder if it could heal some people.