Like all good little cradle-Anglicans of my day, when I reached the age of 12 I signed up for Confirmation class. We met crammed into a too-small but oddly symbolic “upper room” off the church balcony. I remember exactly two things from my weeks of Confirmation prep. The first is the lesson where we read and discussed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The minister who taught the class took it upon himself to challenge us with some liberal theology, and pressed the point that perhaps there was more than one way to make a miracle. Perhaps Jesus didn’t conjure extra loaves and fishes out of thin air after all. Perhaps when the members of the crowd observed one person sharing the provisions he had brought, they were inspired – or shamed— into digging into their packs and bringing out their own secret stash of snacks to share. It had never before occurred to me that people might be invited to participate in the making of miracles. Indeed that we might be expected to participate. That perhaps that was how miracles really happened.
I also recall learning about the sacraments. I learned that Roman Catholics recognize seven sacraments, but that Anglicans observe a sort of “sacraments light”—zeroing in on Baptism and Eucharist. Mostly I can still hear the priest repeatedly intone—“a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual grace.” Kind of like sharing your picnic lunch with your neighbors to show that you are a community.
After Confirmation I promptly stopped attending church for most of my teen years. There was no noisy rebellion on my part—mostly I just had lots of other ways to spend my time that seemed far more relevant and interesting than my parents’ church. As a young adult I found my own way into a faith that was mine, not just a parroting of my Sunday School and Confirmation lessons. And I grew to appreciate more and more what it meant to do things that were visible and external as a reflection of what was going on invisibly and spiritually within.
When I turned 40 I had a huge celebration. Forty is a milestone birthday at the best of times, but it is often celebrated with a wry sense of doom and despair. (“Oh no I’m getting old…”) For me, 40 was a really big deal because I wasn’t dead. I had, by contrast, spent my 38th birthday in galloping kidney failure, being readied for what was very nearly a one-way transfer into intensive care. Through a series of miracles supported by the participation of various members of the medical profession, I did make it back out of intensive care and into the world, but not before I had battled temporary vision loss, taught myself to walk again, and recovered from brain trauma.
Catastrophic as that particular illness was, it was not the first time my body betrayed me. The truth is my body has a long and tiresome history of betraying me. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of two, and spent most of elementary school sidelined in gym class with painfully inflamed knees. After a teaser of a remission period during my teens, the arthritis came back in full force just as I was poised to graduate from university and start a teaching career. As if my bodily betrayal was not enough, one of my professors heaped coals on the fire of my frustration by musing to my face that “perhaps I should consider a less physically demanding profession” than the one in which I had just invested five years of preparation.
Then, in a whole new set of bodily betrayals, my attempts to have a child were thwarted by repeated failure. My first two pregnancies ended in early miscarriage. Surgery for an ectopic pregnancy went wrong, and I nearly bled to death from an internal rupture. My fourth pregnancy ended in fetal death at 12 weeks, but I didn’t miscarry. Apparently my body couldn’t even get miscarriage right. While I did eventually succeed in carrying two children to term, my eldest was born after an extraordinarily long and difficult labour that resulted in a caesarean. The technical term for this particular bodily betrayal was labour that “failed to progress.”
So by the time I hit 40, my relationship with my body was strained at best. But in spite of all the trouble it had caused me, I was still alive. That seemed worth celebrating. I wanted to make peace with this body that had failed me so many times, but that had also rallied from so many close calls. Like an old Timex watch it took a licking and kept on ticking.
So I got a tattoo. I had been contemplating the notion of a tattoo for about three years, but took a while to decide when, what, and where. Having decided on my milestone birthday as a perfect “when,” I found the “what” while gazing around my living room one evening are realizing that ALL the artwork on my walls bore the images of loons—a creature that has always held significance for me. I chose the image of the adult loon with its baby riding on its back—an image that reflected for me the extent to which my body—and my life—had been marked by my journey to, and through, motherhood.
As to “where,” I opted for a spot halfway up the side of my right calf. I reasoned that in this position I could show off the tattoo without getting half naked, but could keep it hidden if that was appropriate in a professional context. I assumed, in fact, that I would want to keep it hidden at work. It oddly didn’t dawn on me at the time that hemlines might rise.
To my surprise, I gradually became less and less concerned with when it might be “appropriate” to let my tattoo be visible. I started wearing shorter skirts to work and not caring who saw the tattoo. Somehow, making my body a canvas for this work of art made me more comfortable in my own skin.
I didn’t think about the tattoo as a sacrament at first. Over time I began to realize that what had felt at first like an act of belated adolescent rebellion held a much deeper significance to me. Curious about what motivated other tattoo bearers, I read and heard deeply touching stories—tattoos marking the death of a loved one, tattoos marking a significant life event or choice, tattoos remembering a lost friend, tattoos marking a battle with disease or addiction, tattoos enshrining a powerful memory. I came to understand that I had marked my body in this way as an outward and visible sign of a truth that I couldn’t really put into words, but that I carried deep within me.
Between my 40th and 45th birthdays, my inner truths underwent a profound transformation that culminated with the outward sign of divorce. Searching for the right ritual to mark this transition, I knew it was time for another tattoo.
This time I approached the tattoo more consciously as sacrament. This time I also knew immediately and intuitively what the image would be. Another loon, but in the aggressive stance—wings upraised—of a loon that is charging an enemy. I’ve been charged just so by a loon, while inadvertently canoeing too close to her nest. They are powerful creatures—and bigger than you think—especially at close quarters in their threatening “don’t mess with me and my babies” posture. This tattoo is quite large, and is centred between my shoulder blades. I have to twist and crane in the mirror to see it myself, but I am always conscious of it—always sensing that it pushes me forwards and gives me strength.
Someone once remarked that the image reminded them of a phoenix rising—an apt coincidence, since the inner transformation that the image was crafted to represent was very much a rising from the ashes of my failed marriage—an emergence of new life in the wake of grief and loss.
Now into my 50’s, I continue to negotiate a tenuous truce with my unreliable body. Most recently, my left hip joint has betrayed me utterly, and for its troubles been banished from my body once and for all in favour of a slick new titanium and ceramic replacement.
It’s hard not to call the outcome of this surgery a miracle. After taking painkillers day and night for I don’t know how long, within two weeks of being rolled out of the operating theatre I no longer needed any pain medication. None. Is it a miracle that the research has produced a prosthetic hip that works and an effective process for inserting it? Is it a miracle that my surgeon was skilled, or that his team provided me with such a comprehensive preparation?
I went into the surgery knowing exactly what I would need to do to contribute to my healing: I would need to haul out my own resources and apply them to my healing process. Provide my own loaves and fishes. Perhaps it’s enough of a miracle that after all the times my body has said “I quit,” those resources are still there.
Maybe I should get another tattoo.
Honestly Daily Prompt, I sometimes feel like you are stalking me. This is not the first time you have posted a prompt just AFTER I have posted something relevant to that prompt. So although this was originally posted on November 23, I am linking it to the December 1 Daily Prompt: “Tattoo…You?”
I’ve always been pretty good at math. Not trigonometry, or arithmetic, or whatever people are usually thinking of when they’re like, “Oh, you must be smart! I hate math!” But, combinatorics and graph theory and proving things and figuring out how to put hats on prisoners – I love that stuff. I went to three different high schools, and I did math team at all of them. When I was ten or eleven and my parents needed me to shut up at dinner parties, they bribed me with books of math puzzles. No joke.
During my sophomore year of college, I was dating a Computer Science major, and I took some CS classes out of curiosity. To my surprise, CS wasn’t different from math at all. I took my Intro class in Java, so there was some mumbo-jumbo that you put at the top of your programs that went “public something void main something something”, but once you got that nonsense out of the way, it was all sorting lists and putting stuff in matrices and traversing trees. Easy stuff. And once the CS department switched to Python, it got even easier.
So I became a math and CS double-major at my tiny liberal arts school in Minnesota, and my senior year, I started looking for jobs. Turns out, only actuarial firms want to hire people who are really good (but not, like, PhD good) at nothing except figuring out how many ways there are to distribute hats from a coat check so that everyone gets the wrong hat back. So, software engineering it was.
After some research and a couple bad interviews and no small amount of panicking, I found a startup in San Francisco that looked awesome. I interviewed, expecting the worst. But for some reason, my interviewer asked me to find the shortest path between nodes A and B in a graph. (Essentially. I think he said some stuff about Kevin Bacon.) I did so. He asked if I could do better if I knew that A and B were exactly six degrees apart. Yep! Breadth-first search from both ends. Oh wait, you should do that anyway, even if you don’t know how far apart the nodes are! Cool. They flew me out for a full-day onsite interview, where they asked me a bunch more questions that involved sorting things and memoizing things and traversing things, and then they gave me an offer. The entire interview process from beginning to end took six days, and I wrote exactly zero lines of actual code.
Some more relevant things they could’ve asked me, but didn’t:
How comfortable are you with Unix?
I can change directories, list things, and run Python programs. Oh! And rename files. Probably.
Describe how Ajax calls work.
Umm, isn’t that what Gmail uses? It’s like, refreshing the page without refreshing the whole page?
What version control systems are you familiar with?
Oh, we used SVN for our senior thesis project. I accidentally triggered a conflict one time. Someone fixed it for me.
How would you implement a [deck of cards, public garage, hotel reservation system] using object-oriented design?
Variables. Variables everywhere. With counts. And maybe some strings.
Absolutely anything at all about databases.
Listen, the very last thing I want is to sound ungrateful. At that first job, I learned all of those things I listed, and more, because the senior engineers patiently sat with me and put up with my stupid questions and never got frustrated with me, even when I got frustrated with myself. But it took me more than a year. And I’ve worked at three jobs since then, and interviewed at many, many more places, and I’ve found that my first startup’s interview style wasn’t a weird fluke. It’s actually extremely common practice. People ask math puzzles to determine programming ability. Why?
In a particularly egregious example of this, when I was interviewing for my second job out of college, I was asked to come up with an algorithm to eventually sink a submarine with unknown (but integral) position and velocity that was somewhere on a number line. (Spoiler alert: to solve this problem, you need to know how to enumerate the rationals.) Once again, zero lines of code. Two weeks into my new job, they told me to write them a consumer iPhone app. Needless to say, I had never encountered Objective-C. I’d written perhaps twenty lines of C in a group project in my programming languages class in college, and all I remembered was that it was terrible and you had to do your own garbage collection or something. My new startup gave me a book called The C Programming Language, pointed me to where I could install the newest version of Xcode, and off I went. Three weeks later, my CTO had a talk with me where he was like, “You’re not getting up to speed as quickly as we expected.” I redoubled my efforts. A week after that, we had the same conversation, but harsher. And then there was a holiday break, and the day after it, I was fired.
I was pretty devastated. I mean, nobody had ever called me a slow learner before. And I had a ton of software engineer friends, and they could all do this stuff. How hard could it possibly be? Why couldn’t I get it?
I promptly repressed my experience at that second startup, talked to nobody about it, joined my third startup (they asked me something about Markov chains), and proceeded to quietly freak out every time I had a 1-on-1 with my new CTO, wondering if I was about to hear that I wasn’t contributing enough, that I’d somehow tricked them into hiring me, that they’d thought I’d be so much better at this.
Recently, a close friend of mine began learning to code, and I found myself explaining stuff to her. Pretty basic stuff, like the difference between static and instance variables, and how inheritance works. And it dawned on me that I was using all these words like “class” and “object” and “method”, and I knew what they meant, intrinsically, without having to think about it, because I’d been using those words and those concepts for years. But every time I said one of those words, I saw her trying to remember what it meant, what properties it had, and how it fit with what I was saying, because somebody had just written the definitions of all those things on a blackboard for her not two weeks ago. And I realized (it took me that long to realize) that I couldn’t just transfer three years of software engineering experience to her by building and building on stuff I’d already explained. Brains, apparently, don’t work that way. Not like codebases.
It seems like a lot of interviewers think that CS theory and problem-solving skills are the important things, the difficult things, and if you know them, everything else is easy. It makes sense that they think this, because a lot of them have been coding since they were twelve, and they get how to code the same way I get how to solve puzzles. And they probably didn’t learn the theory side of it until college. But me, I’ve been practicing problem-solving since I was ten. So I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to say: programming is fucking difficult. Just as difficult as problem-solving, if not more so. And just because I breeze through your common-elements-in-unsorted-lists and linked-list-cycles and paths-through-grids problems, doesn’t mean that I’ll learn all the new coding stuff I need to know in my first few weeks on the job.
I mean, I’m getting better at it. I feel like I’m finally on the other side of the sheer confusion in the beginning. But I’ve been doing this for over three years now. And there’s still a long, long way to go before I’m anywhere near as good at programming as I am at solving math puzzles. So please, future interviewers, ask me a coding question. You’re trying to figure out if I can code. And I’m not trying to trick you! I want you to know! So there is absolutely no reason for this roundabout nonsense.
Finals? Hahahahaha! Please. I’ve still got an entire week left. Do you have any idea what I can accomplish in that short amount of time? Seriously, there’s nothing to worry about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna’ go paint my nails like little zebras.
Okay, it’s not like I’m mad about finals or anything, but seriously? A comprehensive test? How unfair is that?! And it’s worth, like, 96 percent of my grade. I’m too mad to study. School is so stupid. No, everything is stupid. LET’S START A REVOLUTION!
I’m just gonna’ go over to Tiffany’s for a quick study session. I always do my best work in groups. Oh, and Jennifer, Michael and Josh will be there too, but we’re definitely gonna’ get stuff done. Definitely…
Okayokayokay. Two hours left until the test. I have four Redbulls in the fridge, and I. can. do. this. No need to panic. No need to panic. NO NEED TO PANIC.
You know what? I don’t even care. 200 question multiple choice? Come at me, bro.
Student down, STUDENT DOWN! The road to post-final recovery may be long and troublesome, but that’s why God invented Netflix and Nutella.
How many friends will I lose over this one? What kind of a backlash will I receive by people that have followed my blog for years? Don’t know. Don’t care. Seriously – don’t wear underwear. You see the thing is, I may shop on Thanksgiving. And I’m getting sick and goddamned tired of hearing about […]
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The time has come…I made pho!!
And can I just clarify to all: it’s is pronounced like “fuh,” not “foe.” It drives me nuts when people say it wrong!
Also, I don’t use MSG. For some reason, a lot of my friends asked me this when I told them I was making pho. Pho restaurants typically use MSG to enhance the flavor of soup, but I am not a pho restaurant so I use good old sugar and fish sauce.
I had many requests from friends to make this, so I felt that it was high time I shared my version of the popular noodle soup. Many of you may be accustomed to beef pho, but I personally prefer to make it with chicken. I think it’s just because I like chicken better than beef in general. You can totally substitute the chicken stock with beef stock; the pork bones with beef bones; and the chicken with thinly sliced beef flank (phở tái), brisket (phở chín), or those Vietnamese meatballs (phở bò viên). You’ll probably have to adjust the seasoning a little bit.
I hope you guys give it a try! Let me know how it turns out
Marinate the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onions.
Boil the pork bones to remove the impurities. Pour them out into a sink and scrub them clean while bringing more water to a boil in the pot. Add the bones back in and add more chicken broth and simmer on low heat.
Char the ginger and add it to the soup.
Char onion and add it to the soup.
Add 2 spice pouches to the soup and continue to simmer on low.
Poach chicken in 1 quart of chicken broth and 1 quart of water. Put cooked chicken aside and add the the poaching liquid into the soup pot.
Simmer soup on low heat for 3-6 hours.
Remove the pork bones, spice pouches, ginger, and onion then strain the soup using a cheesecloth or paper towels and a strainer or colander.
Mix in the fish sauce and sugar.
Pile the rice noodles, chicken, bean sprouts, chopped green onions, and chopped cilantro in a bowl and add soup. Serve with hoisin sauce and Sriracha chili sauce.
Right now I’m sitting in a hospital waiting room. Or, to be exact, I’m sitting in the hallway outside of the waiting room, at a workstation specifically designed for people like me. People who are waiting in a hospital. I am waiting for Joe. At this moment, he is gowned and unconscious, undergoing a surgery called a […]
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
My parents own a condo in a gated community with an amoeba-shaped pool, but they rent it out now. They moved back to what we tongue-in-cheek call the ancestral home in Fort Bonifacio, a town formerly known as Fort McKinley. My late grandfather, a soldier, built a house on the former American army base back in the late ‘50’s. This area rarely, if ever, floods. The American army chose this location because from this high ground, they could look out on the rest of Makati. Now, it’s a depressed town that is right next door to the appropriately named Forbes Park and ritzy Global City. It’s not the most photogenic of places and, in fact, I have not yet taken J. to it. The last time we were in the Philippines together, it was relatively early in our relationship and, to put it frankly, I wasn’t ready.
I hear my father’s voice. Papa? I look at the clock. It is almost five. My sisters and mother are still asleep. I feel like a little girl again, back when I would wake my father at six in the morning so we could go the Surf House in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, for waffles.
I’m outside, he says. K., there’s a lot here for you to write about. Even though I am a teacher, he takes my writing seriously and asks often whether I make time for it. I sit outside with him on the swing that has been around since my uncles were in college. The swing has a gash in the middle and the back of my leg catches on it.
Two young boys pushing a wagon of glass jars and bottles walk by and ask if we have any botes. They will take them to a recycling plant for money. Then a man, who looks as if he is about my age, cycles past us in a pedicab in which he balances a box of fish. It’s all fresh, he tells my father.
Maybe tomorrow, my father says. I don’t think we’re having fish today. It is not even six in the morning and I have seen more than a dozen street vendors. There is a chill in the air.
For years, a woman named U. would call out to my dad. Kamusta? Ang laki na ng anak mo. How are you? Your children have grown up so much. She would always ask me if I recognized her, but of course I do. Every morning, she would play ABBA and Chicago’s Greatest Hits, which I later learned were the only cassette tapes she owned. When I was a child, I used to buy “plastic balloons” from her. (Banned in the US, it was discovered that this gook children put in their mouths was made of rubber cement.) I know her voice well. It is as much a part of the landscape as the laundry she hangs every other day.
She passed away this summer and I attended her wake. Her grandchildren offered me Boy Bawang and popsicles, while a cat pressed itself against my leg. After 34 years of knowing her, I learned only a few months ago what her real name was. Claudia. For a week, from the second floor of my home, I would watch as friends and family played Bingo and Poker in front of her home, the Philippine version of a wake. Even when it rained, they stayed. I was sad when the noise below stopped.
I used to hate the noise. I used to hate our annual vacations in the Philippines. I’d dot my legs with Calamine lotion and complain about how it was so much better in Saudi Arabia where there were no mosquitoes and everyone understood my English. The only bright lights of those month-long vacations were the friends we made: the siblings whose names all began with an R., L. who is now a transgender queen, and the sweet boy named A. who is the same age as my younger sister L. and who, at eight years old, had a scotch-on-the-rocks voice.
My ate (pronounced “Ah-teh,” it means “older woman/sister”) R., only four years older than me, died this summer from complications giving birth to her twins. I loved her, how she cross-stitched designs into my tee-shirts and played Hopscotch with me, even though it must have bored her. At her funeral, I shook with grief, watching as my childhood playmate was gently lowered into the ground.
Those days of boredom in Fort Bonifacio and the Philippines feel so far away now. There are many days and many more nights when I ache for the Philippines. It’s the ache of an old song on the radio; the mistake of confusing a stranger’s laugh for someone you once knew; the melancholy of packing a suitcase to leave; and the pain of the “Departure” sign at the airport. I feel it most acutely during an embrace, the brief limbo between contact and release. It’s yearning that anticipates absence. Basho writes, Even in Kyoto, when I hear the cuckoo cry, I long for Kyoto. Nostalgia in its most potent form, it’s missing a landscape while you’re still with it. After a while, you get used to always carrying that amorphous ache inside you. But it fades for a little bit when you return.
I understand why my parents chose to return to my father’s childhood home, instead of staying at their cushy condo with the koi fish in an artificial pond. Fort Bonifacio has a pulse. It is his lifeblood. The houses so close together, the streets I find claustrophobic, he is comfortable in this world. Carol Shields writes in “Dressing Up for the Carnival,” To live frictionlessly in this world is to understand the real grief of empty space. In Fort Bonifacio, everything rubs against each other: the buildings, the people standing in the open-air market, the commuters sitting skin to skin in the jeeps, the cars stuck in traffic, families who don’t like each other, but cannot stay away, fathers, mothers and daughters in the same room, pasts, presents and futures colliding and melting into each other. It is a kind of contact and pressure that I think exists only in places where people are constantly aware of loss. I become acutely aware of evanescence when I am here. Buildings. Bodies. People. Time. Here I remember they all disappear but I must love them still. My father understands this well, but he does not know he knows.
I haven’t stopped thinking about the Visayas, the Philippines, this entire weekend. Typhoon Haiyan is the most powerful typhoon to make landfall and, just this morning, I read that there was another earthquake. My family lives in Metro Manila, Luzon, which was unaffected by the typhoon, but I cannot look through photos and scan my Facebook mini-feeds without feeling nauseated. These are my countrymen and I love them. I’ve known since I was a young child that the Philippines is in the Ring of Fire with its volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons, floods. I think about this every day when I am in the States but the moment I land in the Philippines, whatever anxiety I had is replaced by an intense, stupidly giddy joy.
From the plane, I can see the rice paddies and the shimmer of Manila’s lights. On the ground, there is always music. On-key karaoke. Bawdy jokes. Melodic prayer. Laughter full, so full.
It is so heartbreakingly beautiful that it is easy to forget how much pain trembles just beneath the surface .
** To help Typhoon Haiyan survivors, please click here for more information.
Every year, the Global Language Monitor’s list of top words offers a snapshot of the English-speaking world. In 2009, when the current US president was sworn into office for the first time, “Obama” was near-top of the list. In 2011, “occupy” topped the chart, thanks to the international protest movement against the 1%.
The top word of 2013 is tellingly “404″—the internet code for failure, commonly seen when a webpage doesn’t load—closely trailed, in the number two spot, by the word “fail.” “Hashtag,” Twitter-speak for the pound symbol, “@pontifex“ (Pope Francis’ Twitter handle), and “optic,” the new term for “narrative,” round out the top five on the list.
Commenting on the findings, Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor, said, ”The recent ObamaCare launch debacle in the US is only a representative example of a much wider system fail, from the political deadlock in the US government, to the decline of the dollar, to the global web of intrigue and surveillance by the NSA, to the uncertainty regarding the European Union, and the ongoing integration of China and other rising powers, such as India and Brazil, into the global economic system.”
The Global Language Monitor rankings are based on word usage across the internet, print and online media, blogs and social media in the English-speaking world across five continents, which includes more than 1.8 billion people.
Other high-ranking words from the list indicate a focus on an especially difficult year in US politics: “surveillance,” “deficit,” “filibuster,” “deadlock,” and “stalemate.” “Toxic politics,” “federal shutdown,” and “global warming/climate change” are the top three phrases of the year.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 33% of Americans say dissatisfaction with the government is the country’s most important issue. It’s the highest percentage since Gallup started tracking this trend in 1939, and far surpassing the economy (19%) and unemployment (12%).
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long while now, because I think it is something important that is worth saying, both on my part and on the part of anybody else who feels this way about themselves, and to anybody who finds that this way of thinking is a sad thing that denotes low self-esteem, when it actually has more to do with self-identification and wanting to self-identify in whatever way we want.
So, here goes:
I am ugly.
Naturally, this is not the first time I have said this. As somebody who has had the severe misfortune of being a teenager before, I used to declare myself ugly all the time, just like pretty much everybody else around me. Back then I said it primarily to gain sympathy and maybe a denying comment or two. “You’re not ugly Gillian, what are you saying?” “C’mon, I’d kill for your hair/legs/eyes.” “You’d be stunning if you lost some weight,” etc etc. I enjoyed these comments, although to be fair they did not come very often. Certainly not as often as they did to the prettier people around me.
Anyway, it has been a fair few years since then. My appearance hasn’t changed much in the past decade or so, apart from my weight fluctuating a bit. I’ve always had the same thin hair, red cheeks, weird body shape, substantial amount of “extra, unnecessary, dangerous” weight, small piggy eyes, bad posture, I talk out of one side of my mouth, I could go on. While I am aware that attractiveness is very much a subjective entity and what is seen as attractive changes with the comings and goings of fashion, in early 21st Century Australian/British society I have a combination of aesthetic features that are not pleasing to the eyes of people who do not know and like the person within. These features are pleasing to people who know and like me, because they associate them with the me that they know and like. But to complete strangers, yeah – I am ugly. And today I would like to put forth the radical notion that that… might actually be okay.
I have pretty much always identified as ugly, I would say. What has been interesting to me is how my attitude towards this self-identification has changed over the years. As a teenager I hated it almost as much as I hated being fat, and I can’t say I was thrilled about it during my early university years either. But as I got more into fat acceptance and the like, I grew to be more accepting of my ugliness as well. Nowadays I think I am just about at the stage where my ugliness is a part of me. I don’t love it, but I definitely don’t hate it either. In a weird way I find myself almost attached to it, because it is a part of how I see myself.
There have been a few times where I have been wearing my “fat” necklace and been asked about it. I tell these people that I wear it because I am fat and I’m not ashamed of it. And more than once, the person I have been talking to has quickly said “but you’re not fat!” And I found myself getting really annoyed. Being fat is a part of me, and when they say I am not fat, it is like they are refusing to acknowledge a part of me and a part of my identity.
Having said that, I would not necessarily feel as annoyed if somebody were to say “but you’re not ugly!”, because, as I said before, ugliness is a subjective thing. While it can be seen quite blatantly that I am definitely larger in girth than most of the people around me, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that there might be some people out there who genuinely think I’m the epitome of hot stuff, and I’m hardly going to begrudge them for that. But they will have to understand that I, and most of society around me, do not share their opinion. But that is okay. It does not make me any less of a person or incapable of enjoying my life or the world around me or whatever else.
The point I am trying to laboriously make here, is that I choose to self-identify as ugly. Not because of my low self esteem or because I am a woman and therefore should not under any circumstances dare to think of myself as beautiful (a topic for another blog post, I think), but because I am not stupid or blindly unaware of what society deems attractive in this day and age, and I know that I do not fit that mould (a mould that is actually not necessarily as restrictive as people may think. That might again have to wait for another blog post). I have the right to self-identify as ugly, and I will fight to ensure that that right is not taken away from me.
Yesterday, all across the country, elections were held. It felt almost nothing like the last big election cycle, but that’s probably largely because, as an off-year election, this time, it was local (read that in your best movie trailer voice). I know, I know, all politics are local, but these were the localest! Mayors and […]
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