Mashed Potatoes

 Welcome to Self-Loathing 314: Not For Amateurs

This is my problem. I know who I am. I know what I’m good at (singing, photography, edification) and what I lack (conventional attractiveness, the desired body type, nuance). I also know that I tend to lean quite heavily toward the “self-loathing” end of the spectrum and, while I’ll say thank you to people who compliment me outside of my comfort zone, I never actually believe them.

These past couple of months have presented me with a new equation with which I am having trouble coping. Wait, let me back up.

I have never been one to whom the typical attractiveness compliments have been copiously used. I’m not “beautiful.” I’m not “gorgeous.” I’m not “sexy.” I’m not “hot.” There were times, back say, 25-30 years ago, when I might have been considered those things because I had a conventionally attractive (bombshell-type) body, I was young & fit, I had great hair and was pretty attractive. Here, I’ll throw in a picture of me at my height of attractiveness. I was 22 and hot enough to appear as a stripper in “Gypsy.” I was tall, thin, muscular but not jacked. You could see my collarbone. Hell, you could have taken a drink out of my collarbone. But even at this point, when most people would have agreed that I could be described as any of the above adjectives, I wasn’t. They might say I was “striking” or “statuesque,” but never the others. So, by default, my brain because accustomed to the idea that they don’t apply to me. I’m not a beautiful woman. No, I’m not a woman who would cause one to turn to stone, but I’m not beautiful.

While I always WANTED to be the beautiful one (or the sexy one or the hot one or…..), I accepted that I am who I am and, honestly, I’d rather be accepted, liked, LOVED for who I am inside rather than for any subjective definition of attractiveness. Really. But down deep, like probably a lot of women, I would have been nice to be the hot one for once.

Now, believe me, I  know that to whom it matters, I am beautiful. My husband believes that and says so all the time. So I do hear it. But sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have the physicality of my 22 year old self along with the strength and power within myself that I have at 49 and be able to wield that in the world. To flirt with whomever I chose without fear of being shut down with disgust. To draw attention when I entered a room and to know what to do with that attention. To know that I was good enough to pick up any person I was out with if I chose…..and then choose not to. I wonder what that would be like. Because when I was attractive, I had no confidence and was sure no one would be interested because there was always at least one other girl who was the “hot” one and it wasn’t me. I would never flirt with anyone, really, because I was sure I had no worth. On the other hand, now, at 49 and mumble pounds overweight, I have the confidence and power within myself to flirt and trade barbs with anyone and I know the power I have as a woman and I’m not afraid of it. It’s interesting to contemplate.

Anyway. :sheesh: cut to a couple months ago when I started rehearsals for Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I am in this cast of unbelievable people. I mean, like WOAHMYGOD. Not only is every person in this show talented beyond belief, they are all attractive. Of course, 90% of them are under 30, so that helps, but they are also BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS, SEXY people who dance like Beyonce and sing like Sam Cooke & Sutton Foster. And those of us elders in the cast (4 of us) are not unattractive either. I would sit and watch these people rehearse their dances and, literally no exaggeration, my jaw is hanging open and I’m gobsmacked. Because I can’t believe what they can do and that they can look so amazing doing it.

As rehearsals continued, my interpretation of Ursula emerged. My Ursula is a combination of Tim Curry, Lafayette Reynolds, with a little bit of Patsy Stone, and a whole lot of plus-sized VAVOOM. She’s sensual, sexy, bawdy, and loves to masticate her words. And I think my interpretation surprised a lot of people. For some reason, I started hearing people call me “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” “dead sexy,” and other things like that. Which…….I don’t know what to do with. I’m not those things. Ursula might be, but I’m not. I would poo-poo it and just blame it on the Tim Curry as Dr. Furter voice.

But it kept happening. People repeated it. New people said it. Straight guys in their early 20s. Gay guys in their mid 20s. Women of all ages. They’re using these WORDS at me and I don’t know what to do. BECAUSE I’M NOT, Y’ALL. You don’t understand that I’m not. You’re not allowed to use those words at me. It’s false and if you keep it up, the earth will open up  and eat us.

I should have known. Because there’s only one thing more potent than the loving words of others.

Photographic evidence.

When I processed the pictures that our social media manager had taken at a dress rehearsal (I without makeup or my wig), I stopped short and literally felt a kick in my stomach. There it was, the proof that not only was I NOT THOSE THINGS, but that everyone had been lying to me. And I shattered because, for the first time ever in my whole life, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe their words a little bit. And now I was faced with the proof.

Yes, they’re bad pictures of me mid-song with no makeup and a wig cap on. Yes, I look awful. AWFUL. But beyond that, I saw that the vision I had of myself in this costume, in this ROLE, wasn’t true. I wasn’t dead sexy, I was like a pile of mashed potatoes in a corset. My breasts and chest gooping out of the top like a bad cafeteria meal. My arms are the size of hams. My underarms are bigger than the thighs of others. I’m HUGE. Which is great for Ursula and she rocks that body. But it shattered my perception of ME. And sometimes it really, really hurts to accept the truth about yourself, especially if you’ve allowed yourself to feel good for a little bit.

I honestly think it’s easier just to view yourself negatively. That way, truth bombs don’t shock and shatter. I don’t know. Yesterday was bad. It was hard to come to terms with. But today I’m better. Because I accept it. I am a very large woman. I am nearly 50. I  am not beautiful or sexy or gorgeous or hot. I am a beyond middle-aged housewife with raw bread dough for abs. I could probably change that a little if I wanted, but very minorly due to my knee problems. It’s best if I just accept who I am and stop trying to be a different, younger, more energetic, more electric, more vibrant version. At least that’s how I feel right now.

But I least I can live through Ursula. Right?

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