I Wish for Wrinkles

It is often the first thing I notice in the mornings, when I wake to splash water on my cheeks and prepare for the day ahead. I see it when I powder my nose in the shadowy mirrors of downstairs basements of downtown clubs I don’t pay to get into because I have breasts. I see it when I click through tagged pictures on Facebook and reflected back to me in the sunglasses of my friends on hot summer afternoons, sipping on mimosas and pretending Eggs Benedict isn’t bad for me.

It’s become part of the structure of my face, a defining feature that adds to my visual character, something that most would refer to as a flaw, but I see as beautiful: a wrinkle, quite deep for someone my age, smack dab in the middle of my forehead.

If I hold my face perfectly still and refuse to react during conversation or to concentrate while writing, it is hardly noticeable. But if you’re around me for five seconds, you’ll quickly see that I almost always have something to say, and I say it extremely animatedly. So even if I wanted to disguise my wrinkle, I’d have to try extremely hard with careful thought, and then I wouldn’t be acting like myself.

I haven’t always been fond of this crease – I used to try to clog it up with makeup, somehow convinced foundation would work like cement, filling in this hole I despised. I considered it ugly and distracting, an imprint I couldn’t erase that caught attention instead of my baby blues. I envied my friends with their flawlessly-tanned skin, without any acne scars, without even the slightest indication of aging or sagging to be found on their faces. Some of my friends are blessed by the kiss of a complexion so clear, you’d think they still had the layer of skin they were born with.

It’s easy to feel insignificant and even invisible in the presence of those who have something you want. It’s easy to compare yourself and to measure all the ways you fall short on the levels of attractiveness when put up against someone who you find alluring. I’m still guilty of entertaining self-defeating thoughts when it comes to my looks, but instead of analyzing the bar scene to see if my friend is getting more attention than I am, I’ve started reminding myself that she’s probably doing the same.

We all have insecurities and parts of our bodies and faces that we wish we could change. Even though we’re all familiar with the prevalence of PhotoShop and the fact that models in person don’t look how they appear on the ads – we all secretly wonder if we could look that way. We see the chiseled, defined bodies of celebrities who we know have the luxury of a personal trainer and dietitian to tell them what to eat and what to work out – and yet, we think we can exercise the same self-control they do, sans scary-drill-sergeant, sans certified-brownie-thief. And we all see features on our friends that we wish we had – crispy, white smiles, legs to die for, hair that always shines. But rest-assured, they see something in us that they want, too.

I’m sure my friends or strangers don’t long for my little wrinkle, but I’m also sure they don’t really notice it. Come to think of it, the only person who has ever mentioned it was Mr. P, but it was in the context of compliment during an intimate moment. Contrary to my personal belief, it isn’t the first thing others notice about me, nor something that would be a deal-breaker for a could-be mate. That wrinkle, which is only the first of many to come, is a tiny reminder of the things about me that are beautiful.

It came to be only because I chose to laugh so hard that I couldn’t control the corners of my grin. It came to be because I’ve spent endless hours thinking and writing, trying to put into words the story that’s always lived inside of me. It came to be because I decided to cry when I was sad, to express enthusiasm when I  was happy or inspired, and to verbalize anger when it couldn’t be softened.

I don’t really wish for more wrinkles and I’m not against plastic surgery within reason, but if having no fine lines means never living one hell of a fine life, then I’d rather have those memories outlined on my face for the world to see. For the world to witness all the beauty I’ve been able to find – in its people, in its challenges and joys, and especially within myself.

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I’m Not a Supermodel

I used to have a boyfriend who liked to pop my pimples.

There was something about it that he was fond of. Maybe it was the challenge of ridding me of the occasional back-ne or perhaps he liked the burst. I’m not sure – even to this day – why he got a kick out of it, but once he popped…he didn’t want to stop. What started as an occasional odd plea “Baby, please let me take care of that for you” eventually turned into a nightly routine that eventually, I found commonplace.

In an essence, this was a mark of the level of intimacy we shared. I had grown so comfortable with him and with myself, that I allowed my imperfections to not only be visible but invited (or rather, allowed) him to explore their ugliness. We still made love, he consistently commented on my beauty, and in public, there was no probing or picking. To him, draining a zit was no different from any other mindless task. He enjoyed it and I somehow grew to not mind it so much – especially when I noticed my skin clearing up from being constantly massaged, inspected, and cleaned.

Since then, I haven’t been with anyone who asks this special request of me and honestly, I don’t miss it too much. What I have wondered, however, is how I reach that same level of acceptance for myself that Mr. Acne-Fighter had toward me. If I could see myself as beautiful as he found me, even with all of the issues I see as problematic and unattractive, and view them as “part of the package of me”, then I’d gain a bit more self-confidence.

Yesterday, I joined Mr. Possibility at a birthday party where I met some of his friends and family. Having met most of his group of friends and the members of his clan that are important to him, I wasn’t nervous but rather excited to have an afternoon to relax, eat Italian food that I normally wouldn’t allow on my diet, and spend some time cooing over his nieces. It’s almost like escaping to the suburbia I grew up in, that’s full of love, comradery, and timeless memories, and while I’m not ready to return to that way of life, it’s nice to be away from the rush of the city and go at a slower pace for an afternoon.

Getting ready for the day, Mr. Possibility commented that I was taking longer than usual and started rushing me to get out the door. I’m usually not short-tempered but I immediately snapped at him the first time he hurried me, and seeing my frustration, he knocked on the bathroom door to figure out the reason behind my short-wick. Nearing that inevitable time of the month, I’ve found myself oily and broken out, bloated, and overall, not feeling all that gorgeous. And so, I stood in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how I could boost my esteem before being friendly and warm to Mr. Possibility’s network when the only thing I wanted to do involved a huge bowl of buttery mashed potatoes, my yellow blanket I’ve had since I was a child, and re-runs of Lifetime movies that I hate to admit I watch…and sometimes, enjoy.

I opened the door and asked, “Would you be terribly upset if I caught the train?” Confused, he inquired where I was going on the train. “Home,” I replied with a pout. Without a word, he raised an eyebrow, and I heaved an aggravated sigh. “This, Mr. Possibility! See this? On the side of my cheek?? Huge zit that I can’t cover up and if I put makeup over it, it’ll only look cakey and gross. Do makeup companies not make anything that will erase this? How can I meet everyone and be an extension of you, when I look like this? They will wonder why in the world you’re with me.”

Following my outburst, I cautiously met his eyes, only to see him smirking. “Why are you smiling? This is awful. I can’t go,” I continued. He placed his hand on the side of my face, right next to the culprit who was causing so much dismay, and asked, “Do you think you’re going with me because of the way you look? Or do you think you’re going with me because you’re you?”

Not amused by his approach at a sweet tactic, I combated his sentiment by saying, “I know. I know you’re not with me because I’m the most beautiful thing to ever grace the Earth, but I want to feel attractive. And I’m glad you find my attractive, but I don’t and that’s a problem. How can I put on a happy face and go when everyone can see this?

Realizing he wasn’t going to calm me down, he tried a different approach, “Well, they’ll see it. They’ll notice it. And then they’ll move on to get to know you. They know you’re not a supermodel, neither are they, neither am I.”

And in his own twisted way of being rational, Mr. Possibility actually made some sense: I’m no supermodel.

Of course, I’ve always known that – but I’ve also always thought I needed perfectly clear and tanned skin. I’ve thought to be considered remarkable by aesthetic standards; I needed to be a size two (though I’m consistently a four). I’ve thought men want girls who are no fuss, who can roll out of bed with rosy cheeks and breath that smells minty and fresh. I’ve thought to feel comfortable with myself; I needed to always have my best face forward.

But what I’ve really needed to accept is that I’m not a supermodel. I’m never going to be on aVictoria’s Secret ad, a Clean & Clear commercial, or be the one in my group of friends who is complimented for their pretty skin. I have nice eyes, a great figure, and naturally wavy hair that may turn heads, but maybe, my skin won’t. Even when I get it under control and my hormones die down, I may never feel comfortable in my own skin – and really that’s okay.

Because I still love who I am and mostly, what I look like. I have off days where preparing to face the day with a face that’s not perfect is difficult. I have moments where I want to run away from the world so they don’t see that I’m flawed. But my blemishes don’t define me any more than my beauty does.

And if I can meet men who enjoy ridding me of acne and ones who see straight through it and right into my heart, then I believe not every guy needs to date a supermodel to find their partner beautiful.

In fact – most don’t.

The Bravery to Be Me

I attempt to be eloquent as a writer and a lady as a person – but certain experiences are appropriate for being inappropriate. Such is the moment when you look at yourself in the mirror, accept your flaws and conclude that what the world thinks and how they judge you causes you to only think one thing: “They can all go f*** themselves.

Pardon my language or don’t – doesn’t matter. I usually don’t use such a word (I somehow still taste soap in my mouth when I do) but stepping out of the shower yesterday, I was flooded with the beautiful self-assurance that I’ve often craved.

As I touched on yesterday, when you “live” with someone, you can’t really hide much. To be at home, you must be at home – and leave those doubts and worries at the door. I can’t (and refuse) to go to bed with makeup on to cover my acne that has followed me into my 20s. I can’t stop going to the gym or running around the park because I’ll look sweaty and red when I return. I can’t not do those me-touch-up things that aren’t exactly attractive or sexy: shaving my legs and keeping a self-pedicure schedule. I can’t not exfoliate or have a wet head of hair when I go to bed.

And when you’re alone, when you have no one to watch you or to answer to, your behavior is different. You accept yourself more – you pick and nudge at your problem areas but don’t obsess. You walk around naked. You drink out of the carton if you don’t feel like washing a dish (or at least I have, once or twice). You eat things you normally wouldn’t admit to eating. You leave a pile of dirty laundry about your floor and a dozen pairs of shoes lying haphazardly in your apartment from weeks of coming home and kicking off the kicks. You stand on one foot, in lingerie and a green masque, drinking red wine, listening to Florence+ the Machine, and plucking your eyebrows without giving a second thought to anything – especially how you look.

Some of these things I wouldn’t necessarily do around anyone – man or girlfriend. But being in the company of someone else each night and every morning, when you’re the least done-up or covered-up, charges you with challenge to accept your imperfections without making excuses for them.

As I finished up in the shower and spent an excessive amount of time in Mr. Possibility’s bathroom, desperately craving some pampering time, I realized not just how comfortable I was becoming with him, but how comfortable I am with me. And really, the latter makes me happier than I could ever be about the progress of a relationship with a man.

It has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with myself – to really see myself for who and what I am, without making excuses, without comparing myself to other women. I still have off days, I still feel incredibly short when standing next to a statuesque blonde, and I still pray for clear skin each night. But overall – I like who I am. I find myself to be beautiful. I’m not the best and I’m not the worst, but I have something to offer that’s more powerful than perky breasts, long slender legs, and hair that fall just right.

And that’s the bravery to be me. In front of anyone – even the guy I hope finds me the most attractive or the women I’m jealous of. With or without my “face on,” with or without looking airbrushed and radiant, with or without those five pounds that nag my hips – I’ve found a peace within myself, within my looks, within my heart that gives me beauty from within.

So take me as I am, find me lovely or loathe me. I am who I am and I take me as I am, as I go. And if you aren’t a fan or see my flaws as a deal-breaker, I won’t use any more profanities than what I have already in this post, but I will use the phrase that will forever remind me of this blog and this period of growth in my life: frankly, my dears, I do give a damn…about me, but not about what you think.

And Then, I Surrendered

You would think with yesterday’s post – I would have attempted to be a little more upbeat about my appearance.

Maybe it’s the grime in New York or my hormones are all screwy or I’m PMSing, but for some reason my face keeps breaking out awful. Even worse than it has ever been in the past. I figure, I’m 22 years old, when does this preteen/teen zit-face crap stop? I mean, seriously? I go to an interview or attend a networking event and I have such a lovely red pimple on my cheek? So professional.

Ughhhh.

So of course, I wear makeup. And I’ve gotten really good at picking makeup that doesn’t look cakey, but of course, with a zit, you put more on (even though you’re not supposed to) to cover it up. End result? I feel like I’m unattractive. And thus – my confidence goes down.

I woke up Friday morning with a new sucker on the left side of my cheek. And just by the feel of it and how it is starting to sprout, I know it’s going to be a big one. Years of getting them teaches you how to prepare for them. So, already, just by looking in the mirror when I get up, I feel awful. And then, I get mad at myself for feeling this way when I know I’m trying not to with this journey.

I put on my makeup, go through the motions, and already feel oily and gross –but I put on a cute outfit and just go for it. By lunchtime, I’ve seen myself in the bathroom mirror several times (thank you, Starbucks) – and each time I find a different flaw. I quickly combat my thoughts with positive reinforcements, but it fails to make me feel prettier.

I go out to H&M to buy a new jacket (the cold weather finally got me), where I was bumped into excessively and got further annoyed. After I paid, I made my way to Guy & Gallard for their soup and half-sandwich deal that I love so much. While I was paying, this rather attractive man started chattin’ it up with the very-obnoxious girl in front of me. She had tanning-bed written all over her and she was leaving nothing up to mystery…if you know what I mean. And he was intrigued? I then felt more unattractive and stomped out of the store, nearly spilling my soup in my carry-out bag.

As I walked down the street, I noticed that no man took note of me. That’s a lie – no man I would remotely be interested in took note of me. I started to wonder, why don’t I turn heads? Is it because I wear makeup? Because I’m not hanging out? It is 50-degree weather, why would I bare-it-all? Is it because of this massive oncoming zit? Guys like natural, we all know, but what if you don’t like how you look naturally?

Again, I say: ugghhhh.

I walk up the four flights of stairs up to my office, literally stomping as hard as I can – because I can and no one is around to notice the temper-tantrum I’m throwing for myself. I even half-way punch a wall on the way up (because I can’t really punch) and then get petty with my co-worker J via IM when I sit down to eat.

And then, as I’m yelling at myself, putting myself down – I stopped.

I stopped analyzing and dissecting myself. I stopped looking at the mirror and searching for reasons to pick out flaws. I stopped getting angry because some man didn’t look at me. I stopped making myself believe that I was not worthy of attention because of a zit.

I simply said, “Lindsay, this is you. It isn’t changing. You are beautiful and if you wear makeup, you wear it. Your hair gets blown in the wind, so be it. If you get a pimple, you do. It won’t be forever. If a guy can’t take you or find you attractive when you’re having a rough breakout or it is cold outside, then screw him. You deserve much more than that. So stop it. Go rock out in your heels in the street and accept yourself, your zits, and your insecurities. You got this.”

And just like that, with that boost of momentum, I listened. The negativity slowed down, I touched up my makeup. I breathed. I carried on

all the way to the Flat Iron district to a double sushi-date with drinks. And I laughed, I smiled. I gave myself encouragement and I told those me-hating thoughts exactly where they could go.

Yes, ladies (and gentlemen, if you’re reading) – I surrendered.

Guess there is a first time for everything. Onto Step 4? Hmm. Let’s see.