I remember the first boy that ever called me ugly.
It’s funny how those sort of things stick in your brain. It’s a little unnerving that I remember what I was wearing that day as well. It was during my skinny jeans and band tees phase (which, if we’re being honest, 21 year-old me hasn’t grown out of yet). I thought he was cute, this boy, and my friend was trying to convince us to date. Except, when my name was brought up, he didn’t answer with a smile.
“She’s ugly. She’s got braces and she wears glasses and she has bad hair!” said this boy.
Yes. I did have braces, wear glasses, and I had long brown hair that I parted somewhere off to the side that hung around my belly button at the time.
I was 16. I cut all my hair off the next day. Literally 12 inches of hair. I had contacts by the end of the year. My braces came off about a year and a half later. I started wearing better makeup, stopped eating so I could be skinnier, I cared too much about how I looked to impress people.
I absolutely despised myself. I was depressed all the time, which could probably be from a combination of not eating right and not sleeping because I’d get up at the crack of dawn to get ready for school. I was sick more often than not that year. I wasn’t taking care of myself.
To that boy, to the boy that said I wasn’t good enough, I say “thank you.” Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have developed the good sense that you weren’t good enough for me. If it weren’t for you, I would have realized a lot later that it’s not all about looks. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have put on my big girl panties and went out into the world and tried again, and again, to prove to everyone that beauty isn’t always external.
I’m not a supermodel by any means. I always go for the potato chips and pop over salad. I don’t put on so much makeup that I literally need more makeup to hide all the acne that the makeup was giving me. I don’t actually usually wear any makeup at all. I go outside in my sweatpants with my hair not brushed.
I am, by no means, ugly. I am kind. I believe in giving to others. I believe in true love. I believe that the world could be a better place if we just shined it up a little. I may not be externally appeasing to every man’s eye, but I don’t have to be. I’m not up for auction. I’m not just something to look at. I’m not arm candy for some guy stupid enough to think that that’s all women are made for.
If I’m ugly, I’m proud (sorry Spongebob). I couldn’t be prouder. I am a good person, a pretty person. I don’t look in the mirror and see too much fat; I don’t hate my eyes for being in between colors instead of a solid one. I don’t hate the five freckles that I have on my face, I don’t wish for more. I don’t have a problem with the smile that went a little crooked again over time with lack of dental insurance.
I don’t need to spend an entire paycheck on a dress that’s short enough to catch someone’s eye, or on a bag of makeup that’s more expensive than my phone bill. I wish that I would have understood sooner that being physically beautiful doesn’t matter as much as being emotionally beautiful.
I try to instill this in my five younger sisters. They’re all beautiful, so beautiful, but someday someone will stand against them and tell them that they are not. I hope that I’ve taught them that they don’t have to see their beauty in someone else’s eyes, they just have to be able to look in the mirror without looking away in disgust.
To the boy that told me I was ugly, and then married the epitome of pretty with a box of rocks for brains, thank you. You dumb, dumb soul. Thank you.