Saturday, March 8, 2008

U is for Ugly

The last two books I've read deal with Ugly. Or, more accurately, people's concept of beauty.

I read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. If you've never read his work, I highly recommend it. A couple of years ago, I read Wicked. I thought it was going to be this parody of The Wizard of Oz - Oz from the Witch's point of view. Not even close. It was this whole socio-political landscape of Oz. It was an exploration of Evil - is it something one is born with or born into? It was... amazing.

"Confessions" was equally good. His style of writing is so visual. Telling stories from an unexpected point of view seems to be his specialty. No not stories, fairy tales. Confessions is about Cinderella's family. It's so good, you hate for it to end. In fact, I was at the end of the book and, according to the page numbers, I thought I had about 40 pages left. I only had 15. I was so mad! The rest of the pages were those "book club discussion questions" type of pages. Tricked. Damn!

Anyway, the book explores people's concepts of beauty verses ugly. Is beauty a blessing or a curse. Is is something to aspire to or something to just admire - after all, it's something one is either born with or not (today's plastic surgeons not withstanding). And it's so subjective!

Then I read She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. This was a tough one. I had a hard time getting into it. But after awhile, I realized I was having a hard time putting it down. Like a lot of Oprah's Book Club choices, it's kind of sad and depressing. This girl's life, man. It's like a train wreck and you just can't look away! She has Very Bad Things happen, then she eats her pain and becomes over 300 pounds while still in high school, then other things happen and it seems like just when she's going to get her life under control or catch an even break, something else happens.

It all ends pretty well but it took until the very end of the book. Even after she loses the weight, she never feels comfortable in her body or in her self-worth. She keeps waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I have that same problem. I have never felt good in my body or confident in my looks. Especially now. I'm heavier then I've ever been at around 160 pounds. I'm 5'2". I spent my childhood listening to my mean older brother tell me I was fat and ugly and I always believed it. In my 20's I really came into my own and realized he was full of shit and just messin' with me as older brothers are wont to do. Now I feel like I did when I was a kid.

When I started dating my husband, I almost dumped him after 3 months. I thought, "It's going to happen. I'll dump him before he can dump me." Then, when I was discussing this with a friend of mine, he smacked me in the back of the head. "Why postpone joy?" He asked. He was right.

The first time D and I had a real argument, I thought, "This is it." When we were done arguing, D asked me, "Are you done?" "Yeah," I said snottily, "Are you?" "Yeah." he said, "Let's go get some ice cream." That's the first clue I ever had that just because you fight, doesn't mean you have to break up. Doesn't mean someone's going to leave. Good lesson.

Every now and then D will say something benign like, "Hey, I wanted to tell you something." My heart will stop and I'll think, "Here it is. The other shoe is about to fall." Then he'll tell me something like, "T needs to clean the cat box more often," or something else completely mundane.

He's a great husband and it's just my old self kicking in. I'm mental. D knows it and he's fine with it. I'm lucky!

Anymore, I don't think beauty or ugly is really an outward thing. I've met some gorgeous looking people that were complete assholes (I'm looking at you, ex-boyfriend) and some unattractive people with the heart of a lion. It's all subjective and it, like time, is all relative.

Still trying to dump baggage, Ruth!


Sam said...

I think anyone who knows you would agree that you are beautiful inside and out. Send that baggage packing! ;o)

sophanne said...

Hey- I have that baggage too. You just put it into the smallest amount of words possible. Amazing. I wonder how many people on the planet have to learn that an argument doesn't mean an end. I'm still coming to believe that. Great Great post.

Corwink said...

This is my favorite post of all the ones I have read from you. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.....ALWAYS. I have the Confessions book but I don't have the Wally Lamb. I will have to get it. Yeah I know nothing about eating the pain away.....Yeah right!!! Have ya seen me!?!? As for the baggage....girl I am towing a U-Haul. Glad to know I am not the only person who feels this way.

Nell said...

I'm the heaviest I've ever been right now too. And I'm really struggling with it.

It took me a LONG time to figure out the fighting is OK thing. I remember even yelling at my husband that I'd move out if he wanted. And he was like... Where did THAT come from? His family is much better at fighting and still loving each other than mine is. We have a tendency to stay mad. It's tough to change those habits but I'm trying!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is an important lesson to learn that big angry emotions can come out and be dealt with and life and love can still go on afterward. Good for you.