When I was a kid, my grandmother would utter one of those withering grandmotherly comments when I did something stupid. She'd say, "Where were you when God distributed brains?" And I'd roll my eyes and think, Where was I when God distributed grandmothers?
When I became a teenager, she proclaimed that I'd better be good at being smart, since I was not a great beauty. So I figured that she got it wrong; I had been busy catching brains when God was distributing beauty. It was my grandmother who told me that my face was too narrow, I had baggy eyes (that I got from my father, who was incidentally her son), my hair was too unruly, and I looked malnourished. I also had nonexistent eyebrows and equally nonexistent breasts, and I was short. I guess she was relieved that she did not have to worry about suitors swarming her ancestral house.
I don't remember anyone telling me otherwise, and so I suppose I believed it. I wasn't beautiful; get over it and do something else you are good at. I went to college, got good grades, graduated, got a good job. And somewhere along the way I figured that I didn't have to look like a beauty queen to be a beauty queen. I learned to be confident. I made a lot of fashion hit-and-miss before I discovered that it's hard to intimidate someone who can run in stilettos, and so I started to love 5-inch heels. :-)
I married my first boyfriend. Well, there's your reassurance, grandma. I caught a man! And it must have been good for me, because now, one has to try really really hard to make me insecure.
And now we've come full circle. I have a teenager. Not much has changed; people tell you thin and tall is beautiful. Big boobs are beautiful. There's TV, social media, and all those clothing advertisements. There's Victoria's Secret Angels. In this place and time, it is so easy to get insecure because you're a bit on the heavy side, you wear eyeglasses, you're not very tall, and you have blackheads.
And while I have never told her she was ugly, I might have forgotten to tell her she is beautiful. Maybe not right now, not on the surface, but deep inside, in ways that matter, she is.
See that picture on top? It's from Dove's 'Campaign for Real Beauty' in 2005. I'd like to tell my daughter that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. It's in the eye of the holder. If you believe you are beautiful, if you believe in your goodness, why, then, you are.
I still have a flat chest; I still draw on my eyebrows when I get ready for work in the morning. And why not? That's what I caught when God distributed breasts and eyebrows. And I am more than breasts and eyebrows. Beyond that, I believe I'm a hell of a woman. My grandmother would have been proud.