The other day I was minding my own business, waiting on a subway platform. Three girls, about 15 years old, were about to pass me, and they were looking my way. One of them pointed at me and said, “You’re FUNNY looking!” She and her compatriots roared with laughter because this was the most hilarious thing ever.
Fortunately for them I was caught off guard and I didn’t react. If I had, their delightfully charred remains would have been scattered across the third rail. Alas, I hadn’t expected to be zinged by a trio of idiot adolescents, so I was unprepared. I just stood there, speechless and confused.
I confess, I do not have a thick skin. What can I say, I might be foul mouthed and full of piss and vinegar, but I’m also a dainty little blossom. (Fuck you, stop laughing.)
And because I’m a delicate flower, my first instinct was to cry big sobby tears and hide my face in shame.
My second instinct was to come out swinging.
But by that time it was too late to do anything. The train arrived and that was that.
For the record, I don’t think I’m funny looking. I don’t have any extra limbs, and my eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are all in the proper places. I don’t notice too many people shrieking and recoiling in horror when they see me. However, I am almost criminally self-conscious about my looks and I always have been. Critiques of my appearance, whether insults from strangers or insensitive comments from people I know, wound me deeply. It’s my Achilles’ heel. I’ve battled with it for as long as I can remember.
I know that looks are the least important thing about a person when it comes right down to it. But for so long, I truly believed that my appearance rendered me inferior, that my value as a human being was directly proportional to my physical attractiveness. I’m fully aware, incidentally, that my mishegas is insignificant in comparison to the difficulties of those who are judged because of their race, disability, sexual preference, or something else that people shouldn’t give a fuck about. And this incident got me thinking about how freaked out I get. It also reminded me of this fantastic post written by the divine Jen Tonic back in 2012, in which she listed five things she loves about herself. It all started coming together for me as I tried to think of even one instance where I benefitted from someone approving of my looks. And you know what? There aren’t any.
I know now what would have been the appropriate response to those silly little creatures. I would have started with a sarcastic slow clap and then launched into my reply:
That was an amazing jab. Well done. You are shockingly clever. Really, congrats.
I don’t give a flying fuck if you think I’m funny looking, dear. I don’t know what you see when you look at me and frankly, it doesn’t matter. Because here’s what you don’t see:
I have a big heart, and I’m caring and kind. So kind, in fact, that I’ve decided not to shove you onto the tracks. I’m a loyal and fierce friend and if you hurt someone I love, I will cheerfully cut out your heart and jam it down your throat. I’ll help people whether I know them or not. I’ll offer my time, energy, money, or a sympathetic ear and/or shoulder to cry on. I don’t care which. Whatever helps, I’ll give.
I’m successful. I don’t mean that in a financial sense. I mean that whenever I’ve put my mind to something, I’ve done it and I’ve done it well. Sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants, but my pants have always landed me in the right place because they’re very good navigators. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, both personally and professionally.
I’m funny. Not funny looking, just funny. Whether I’m writing or talking, I can make almost anyone laugh. I take great pleasure in this. I have a good sense of humor and great comic timing. By the way, your fly is open. Ha, made you look.
I’m smart. As in, answering all the questions on Jeopardy! smart. Finishing the NY Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle in pen smart. I know a lot of shit. And if I don’t know it, I learn it really quickly.
I’ve worked hard to improve myself. I learn more every day about what’s important, what isn’t important, and what I’m here on earth to do. I should add that a lot of the credit for this goes to my therapist and to Ben & Jerry. The value of the insight found at the bottom of a pint of Chubby Hubby cannot be overstated.
So go ahead and have a laugh at my expense, Miss Thing. I have a good life and wonderful friends, and I’m going home to my comfy apartment to see my adorable cats and my fantastic husband who loves me no matter what I look like.
And even though looks truly don’t matter, I’ll have you know that strangers often stop me to compliment me on my hair. I have pretty eyes, a hot rack, and an engaging smile, and even though I’m 46, I have not one wrinkle. NOT ONE. Let’s see if you can say the same when you’re my age, little girl.
So put that on your lollipop and suck it.