You know how a lot of women – a really upsetting number – have body dysmorphia, whereby the sufferer believes, whatever the physical evidence of their glossy hair, soft skin and joyous smile, that they are fat or ugly or repulsive?
I think I have the opposite of that. Whatever the physical evidence, I think I’m really, really hot.
When I’m putting on my eyeliner and looking at myself in the mirror, I’m thinking, “Wow, what a classic face. When I leave the house, heads will turn.” I ponder the unfortunate possibility that men, women and maybe animals – mesmerized by my nose or eyebrows – will miss their footing and fall, or that a distracted driver will cause a small pileup. I have to confront the truth: there could be a body count.
And then I’ll put on my anorak, bobble hat and rucksack, walk to the station and be genuinely mystified as to why no one seems to notice that one of the world’s most entrancing women is walking past, sashaying in a pair of old Doc Martens with orthotic insoles to correct her flat feet. Don’t they want to enjoy my face? I am.
Of course, this is the point where I should go, “Haha, I’m only joking! Of course I know I look like a ham with a wig on it. Don’t worry, world, I obviously know my place in the comeliness order and I’ll just self-deprecatingly pop myself back down to the bottom, next to Lady Kluck from Disney’s Robin Hood and/or any nursemaids from Shakespearean plays.”
But… it’s all true. I’m just really happy with how I look. I have no caveats, like, “My eyes are too small,” “My wattle is very prominent,” or, “My upper-arm skin is so loose that, if I stand with my arms out, I look like a pterodactyl.” If I don’t want to get roasted on social media for being deluded and vain for saying all this, I probably ought to.
But the reason I’ve genuinely spent three years working up the nerve to write this column is because I don’t think I’ve ever seen another woman say, simply and happily, “I think I’m beautiful,” and this seems statistically berserk when there are almost four billion of us.
Whether you’re Penélope Cruz (“I don’t think I’m beautiful”) or Margot Robbie (“I am definitely not the most beautiful”) or Salma Hayek (“I don’t actually have a good body”), every woman, no matter how unarguably gorgeous, has to hate herself a tiny, delicious amount. Just 10 or 15 percent. That’s a vital part of being a good, likable woman. You show you are a good woman by bullying bits of your face and body in public: “I have weird elbows.” “I hate my knees.” “My ass is flat.” A staple of interviews with famous women is, “What are your least favorite features?” It is absolutely presumed that there’s a self-loathing button you can press on a woman and stuff will pour out. Oddly, men don’t seem to have that button. They are never asked that question.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen another woman say, simply and happily, “I think I’m beautiful.”
There’s a lot of weird psychological math involved in this issue. To say you are beautiful seems to imply you think yourself superior to your sisters. That by claiming a presumably finite supply of beauty for yourself, you’ve somehow spitefully stolen it from others.
Of course, perceiving beauty doesn’t work like that. We can appreciate an infinite number of lovely things. Just as, every day, I see dozens of beautiful clouds and gardens, hear wondrous songs or eat delicious things, I also see 30 women, minimum, I want to run after and say, “I hope you know you’re amazing! It looks like it would be fun to have your face.” There are millions of beautiful women.
It’s just that no woman is ever able to say she’s one of them.
Instead, the rules are that you have to wait and be told you are beautiful, which seems dangerously arbitrary. What if everyone around you is stupid? Or the current “fashion” isn’t for girls like you? It’s a risky business, emotionally, when the ownership of beauty is something given to you by others, rather than something you can just… claim for yourself.
I can’t bear living in a world where 13-year-old girls have to stand on the threshold of womanhood and wait, hope and pray that other people will tell them if they are allowed to like their faces or bodies for the rest of their lives. What do those other f***ers know, anyway? Darling girls, you don’t let other people decide whom you fancy. So why let them decide if you fancy yourself?
The opposite of dysmorphia would, I think, be “eumorphia”, which sounds like euphoria. And that’s what it is. How could you waste your life thinking you – alive and bright and in your bobble hat – are not beautiful? What would be the point of that?