96% Angelina Jolie; 100% Myself
"Iris, in the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you're behaving like the best friend."
-Arthur (Eli Wallach) to Iris (Kate Winslet) in "The
I forget things. Like: I'm pretty. I forget this allllllllllllllll the time.
Last summer, a friend of mine, while procrastinating on studying for her finals, decided to play around on one of those websites where you put in a picture of yourself, and with their "space-age face recognition software" (quotes hers), they tell you which celebrity you look like. Apparently she didn't have a picture of herself on her computer, but she was so committed to procrastinating that she sorted through her files and found a picture that I had emailed her, from my 30th birthday party. And then, she emailed me to report that I was a 96% match with Angelina Jolie, and instructed me to "Go get Brad, girl...then come and pick (her) up."
Ok. No one would ever, ever confuse me with Angelina Jolie. And I think the reason for this outcome was that, in this particular 30th birthday picture, my hair was blown out, and I was wearing a shirt that showed a lot of skin, and perhaps accidentally had some sort of flirty come-hither eye thing going on. But the thing is, I am pretty. And I had totally forgotten it at this point in time, and was spending a lot of (um, almost all of my) time crying over and pining after a guy who was not particularly interested in or able to return my pine, or pursue any sort of relationship with me.
Sometimes I remember that I am pretty. I know this because, Angelina Jolie thing aside, people have compared me to Juliana Margolis, Minnie Driver, and Andie McDowell, and they are all pretty. And also, and more importantly, sometimes I will catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and be in such a mood to appreciate my very own, unique, non-celebrity lookalike brand of beauty.
When I was growing up, starting with a bad haircut at the age of 7 that made people confuse me with a boy, and had train conductors asking my Mom how old her "son" was when she purchased train tickets to know if I qualified for the child fare, I often felt ugly, awkward, and all-around dorky and uncomfortable in my own skin. When I was in fifth grade, I was out sick one day and my friend called me to tell me that this cute boy I had a crush on was telling everyone he liked me during roller skating that day. I was so excited, I mean, could this be true, the boy I had liked forever, who was leagues out of my league actually liked me? Like, liked me, liked me???!!!! Overwhelmed by my excitement, and my imminent status change and overall transformation from dorky-girl-with-a-bad-haircut to girlfriend-of-the-cutest-boy-in-the-whole-wide-world-ever, I called him to confirm this, and he (uncomfortably, for me) told me that he in fact did not like me, and that he had just said that to make my fifth-grade arch-nemesis jealous, who, by the way, he did like. I fell for this routine again a year later when that very same boy, whom I had forgiven, asked me to be his date to the Valentine's Day dance, which essentially meant, in sixth-grade-speak, to be his girlfriend. On a class trip to the mall, I pined excitedly over Valentine's Day cards, finally deciding on and purchasing my very first Valentine's Day card for my very first boyfriend. He wound up canceling last minute as ultimately, this Valentine's dance thing was just another way to get back at my (still) arch-nemesis, whom he (still) liked.
I seem to have this best friend/leading lady disconnect, and still, although less and less, carry this inner dork, this scared girl afraid of rejection, with me, instead of being able to fully own and appreciate my beauty, and have had moments throughout my life when this inner disconnect has been illuminated in the outer world. After college, when I was in acting school, a classmate visited me in my hometown, and we went out for drinks the night before Thanksgiving, where we ran into a guy I went to high school with. He was a year older than me and I had never really talked to him, and I wasn't even sure he had any reason to know who I was. He drunkenly told my friend that I would never give any of the boys in high school the time of day, and that I was so pretty and no one was ever good enough for me to date, whereas, my memory of high school was being lonely and in constant fear of rejection, of not being good, or pretty enough, to date, or to ever have a real boyfriend. And, if anyone ever did like me, in high school, in college, and even after, I could never really believe it was true, and I would wait, in disbelief, for the other shoe to drop, and to find out that ultimately, it was just another joke.
So the 96% Angelina email from my friend reminded me that I was living too small, and somehow, not fully. Why was I pining away for this guy who couldn't be interested in me, living like some inadequate, shy, mousey, rejected girl, when that's not how I have to live, and furthermore, when that's not even me? Why wasn't I out there, metaphorically, getting Brad , remembering who I really am, and living large??? It was a reminder that I could have been enjoying myself so much more, and having so much more fun, and happiness.
Every-so-often I will come across pictures of me from sleepaway camp, a time I recall as one of my most painfully ugly and awkward, and I will see this beautiful, perfectly imperfect gap-toothed big-bright-eyed sun-tanned freckle-faced smiling girl looking back at me, and I feel so sad that I was never able to enjoy and appreciate my own beauty or my own self back then, and how instead I chose to spend so much time condemning and criticizing myself, because, I could have lived so differently if I had known the truth...
And I think, I don't want to make that same mistake again. I don't want to be 75-years-old looking back at pictures of myself on my 30th birthday, thinking, Why didn't I know? Why didn't anyone tell me I was beautiful then? Why didn't I ever bother to tell myself???
I know a lot of women, and I know very few of them who can say (and believe) that they are beautiful. We all feel so guilty, and like if we said it, it would be a lie, and we would get found out, or that, even if we did believe it, it is somehow wrong, immodest, and obnoxious to think let alone say. So many women will, if they do manage to say something nice about themselves, qualify it, justify it, modify it, or apologize for it, to try to make themselves and everyone else around them feel more comfortable, like: I am having a sorta ok hair day, or, I guess my skin looks alright in this light, or, Yeah, I lost some weight but I am such a loser and I can't keep up with my gym routine because I have no discipline so I am sure I am gonna pile the pounds right back on my fat ass in no time!!!
What's with the epidemic of self-hate?
I am beginning to understand that this - knowing, acknowledging, claiming, and celebrating our own beauty - is not only ok, it is our right. And that to do so, gives others permission to enjoy and celebrate their own perfectly imperfect unique brand of beauty. And that it is ok to say: "I look DAMN FINE and I LOVE MY FABULOUS PERFECT ASS/RACK/insert body part of your choice here!" Hey, why not, I guarantee that will bring a smile to your friends' faces, and probably to your own.
So, in thinking about Valentine's Day, and this month of the celebration of love, and remembering back to disappointments and rejections from 20 years ago, I think it is about time to get serious about falling in love. Falling in deep, mad, passionate, unapologetic love with our fine, beautiful selves - our inner confident Angelina Jolies, and our inner awkward afraid dorks, flaws, imperfections, and vulnerabilities - equally.
Remember that you are always, in every single moment, the leading lady in your very own life, so you may as well take some time to act like, and believe this. And then take another moment to remember, luxuriate in, and celebrate, that you, just as you are, are a total f-in' hottie, from the top if your head to the tips of your toes to your perfect-just-as-it-is ass! This month, and really, always, give yourself permission to shine, and enjoy being 100% yourSELF!!!
Happy Valentine's Day, and wishing you heaps & heaps self-love!!!
Lots of love!