We were going to party in Vegas, and what I needed was a cocktail dress in which I would look smashing as we partied. I wanted something with sequins, because you think Vegas, you think shiny, shiny sequins. At least, I do. I spent a lot of time looking for a reasonably priced sequined dress that would not make me look like an awesomely crazy canasta-playing old lady or some kind of high-priced whore–both of which are perfectly valid looks, but not this time. I was running out of weeks when I ran into this black satin dress from Pinup Couture.
It’s a spectacular dress, and a spectacular model, and I am embarrassed to say that I know for a fact that looking at that girl, with her big boobs and her lovely round hips and her general, overall sexiness, convinced me somewhere in the deep and secret crevices of my most hidden innermost heart, that I could look like that, too. I would put on the dress and I would be va-va-va-voom, sexy and banging, wielding dangerous curves that would leave you with whiplash. I would be a womanly goddess.
I am not built like a womanly goddess. The morning of the trip, I
stopped into Victoria’s Secret to get a new black bra. In the dressing
room, I went through a whole sample box of the B cups, frantically
plumping up my breasts and readjusting the cups and fiddling with the
straps before I finally admitted that I wasn’t a B cup, any more. I
walked out with two A-cup bras, and something in that, ridiculously,
felt like failure. Your bra size is not supposed to be a value
judgment, and I still left the store feeling as if I had been demoted.
The next night, I put on my A cup bra and climbed into my satin dress
and I looked at myself and felt–well, I’m not going to say I thought I
was a horrible beast. I thought I looked good. But I didn’t feel sexy.
I didn’t look like that model on the website, with cleavage you could
lose yourself in and hips built for sin and then birthing. It felt like
I wasn’t doing the dress justice. It felt wrong, to be wearing a pinup
girl dress when I was anything but a pinup girl.
Of course, cameras at the party, and people posing. Mo Pie
and I, both looking so fancy, posing like showgirls with our hands on
our hips. Who took the picture? I don’t remember. But they turned the
camera around to show us, and I cringed, because I did not want to see
what I looked like next to Mo. She has the boobs, the emotionally
magnificent curves, all the va-va-voom, and I did not want to see
myself, looking scrawny next to her. Later, she told me she hestitated,
too–that she did not want to see the picture of the two of us and feel
as if she was too large next to me.
We looked at the photo, and I think we actually gasped. Someone might
have said wow. We agreed–we looked beautiful. Not just beautiful. We
both looked hot. Smoking. Thermonuclear. We were gorgeous, and so sexy,
and it shouldn’t have been a surprise, and shouldn’t have felt like
Christmas morning, but there it was, and it was wonderful.
An epiphany: there’s this beauty ideal, right? It changes, sometimes,
but let’s say for now that it’s the Barbie body, six feet tall, long
glossy hair, giant tits and little waist, a flare of hips, legs ten
miles long. That is what beautiful is supposed to be, right?
It really is beautiful. But it’s not the only beauty. It is not the only beauty. It is not binary, not you are a one or you are a zero. It is not either or.
You don’t have to look like that. You can be short and round and
boobless, or boobtacular, bootylicious or boyish, and you are still
gorgeous. This is so simple–so ridiculously, insultingly obvious–and
it is still something we forget, every single day. We still spend hours
and days and years of our lives berating ourselves for not matching up
exactly to a single, lonely, teeny tiny facet of beauty. We waste so
much time because we think we are not beautiful in the correct way, the
proper way, the right way, and it is bullshit. The correct way to be
beautiful is to look like yourself. Write that down. Remember this.
I will remember: in the photograph, we look so happy, and we look so different, and we are both so beautiful.