Sometimes you practice your angles, even in real life. And you know what your angles are. You can turn your face just a few degrees to one side or the other, tilt it just so, and look almost like a completely new person. You have mastered the art of improving what you have, of always making the best of every encounter, of never fully letting your guard down about your appearance.
You are used to fielding compliments about specific physical things — your outfit, your hair, your legs — but never the whole package. You’re not called “pretty” or “beautiful” in the emphatic way that actual Pretty Girls are. There’s something about real beauty that jumps out at you, that gets at you viscerally, and it’s never the kind of beauty that’s a rough assembly of good-ish parts. Beauty isn’t when you have mastered the art of contouring, or when you know how to enhance your best features within an inch of their lives.
And yet, that’s all you do. You know that you are right on the border, can occasionally be confused for truly pretty if you do things right, so you cling to the halfway point. The fear of falling to the “ugly” side, of showing too clear a picture of what you really look like, is something that you could never explain. It’s the fear that grips you when you wake up at someone’s house after sleeping with them for the first time and can’t get to the bathroom quickly enough to recreate what you looked like last night. It’s the constant teetering on the edge of unattractive, the feeling that it could happen at any moment. And sometimes it does.
Sometimes, you imagine what it would be like to be decidedly in the “pretty” category. You imagine that it’s a lot better than it probably is, that it comes with the kind of benefits that Premium membership does in private clubs. There would be secret entrances, line cutting, and a wink from the whole world about an inside joke that only you share. You know that your image of what being beautiful entails is probably very silly, but there is something about it that seems so incredibly privileged. Never having to worry about how you look in a photo, or whether or not your failure to properly make yourself up will cost a job — it must be such a wonderful luxury.
You know that you are lucky to be where you are. You are lucky to have a taste of attractiveness, to be able to flirt with the idea every once in a while, to construct it out of your humble foundations. But sometimes you wonder if it would be easier to be fully ugly, to not come so close only to know what you are missing when you wake up in the morning. Maybe you would have built a personality that is so much richer, have learned skills that could take you somewhere because you knew you needed to build your worth from nothing. There are so many maybes, and they haunt you when you lie awake at night. But no “maybe” is more ruthless than the one that confronts you in the mirror, the one that asks whether or not today will be a pretty day.