can you just tell me that you’re gorgeous, please?

I like my women striking. It’s self-centered. It’s because I have a big nose, I think. I’ve been to war and back with my big nose, but the women I think are the most stunning almost always have big noses, too. I can walk by a hundred Victoria’s Secret posters (and I do. Who doesn’t, in the city?), and not care. But when I  meet a woman with something different going on with her beauty, I am immediately intrigued.

Maybe I just like tension. I like love stories about Muslims and Jews. I am bored by romantic comedies where the difference between the girl and the guy is that she is a girl and she has brown eyes and he is a guy and he has blue eyes.

I like beauty that surprises a little.

And then, inevitably, when I get to know a surprising beautiful woman, she doesn’t like the thing about her that makes her surprising.

And even though I am exactly the same, I am a little crushed.

(wait, it’ll make sense in a second)

When I was a kid, I had this friend who I thought was stunning. She was broad-shouldered and sturdy, with smooth, thick limbs. She was strong. She looked like nothing could ever break her. And it was a great look. She was gorgeous. And then it turned out that she’d counted herself out of the ranks of the beautiful long ago, because of her size. Because beauty to her meant tiny and delicate and willowy and fragile. Those were the women who had it. She didn’t.

Except she did. I could see it plain as day.

A few years ago, I met a gorgeous young woman with incredibly bold features. Everything about her looked dramatic, and exotic, and awesome. And she casually mentioned that life would be easier if she was prettier. If she was pretty in the first place. She thought that it was the girls with quiet faces who got to own beauty. The girls who looked sweeter. Beauty was supposed to be theirs, not hers.

But she was wrong.

And of course, there was the woman from my childhood whose nose job devastated me. Because her nose had been perfect, with its regal arch, and then it suddenly flipped up, the way, I learned over and over again, noses were supposed to. I thought I was going to grow up to be like her– beautiful in a different, queenly way. Instead, predictably, I grew up to get a nose job.

And it’s not just about having that dramatic look I’m drawn to. I know women with sweet, open faces who have decided it isn’t them, they don’t have it, because of their stomachs, and women with flat stomachs who have decided they don’t have it because of their height. There’s almost always something.

I remember exactly where we were when the young woman with the incredible face told me that she wasn’t pretty. It was Columbus and 73rd. And I said something, but I didn’t say, “You’re beautiful,” because I was less confident then. And because I didn’t think you could say those things as much as I do now.

It isn’t just a line. I think she’s beautiful.

But, of course, I’m the same. Bear says, “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”

I say, “You clearly haven’t met very many women.”

That is my automatic response.

“Yes I have,” he says.

“Oh yeah? Really! And exactly who are all these women you’ve met?”

“All of them. You’re the most beautiful.”

Yeah, yeah. In my mind, I am standing next to Minka Kelly (the new Charlie’s Angels is terrible, by the way. I tried to watch it on Hulu last night). I am clearly not the most beautiful. Even though Minka Kelly doesn’t look interesting to me. She looks beautiful, of course, but not in the way I am drawn to. So why is it so strange to think that other people might be drawn to quirkiness, too?

(it doesn’t ruin the scene, it makes it more interesting!)

I want the women who are differently beautiful to say, “I am gorgeous.” I want them to believe it.

Because that is the kind of gorgeous I would be, if I was gorgeous. Because beauty is big enough.

I can’t quite do it. I can’t quite say, “I am gorgeous.” Because I’m not, I think. Obviously. It would sound ridiculous.

“I can’t quite do it,” they might say back. “Because I’m not.”

You are.

I’m not.

Just say it!

I’m gorgeous. I’m gorgeous.

I don’t want to be another surprising, striking woman who wishes she was just a little more normal. I want to be the woman a little girl looks at and says, “I could be her, when I grow up.”

I am gorgeous.

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a short skirt.

P.S. HuffPo took forever (three days! It’s ancient history! Democracy Now got the story AFTER me but published it first!) to publish this, and it’s not the sort of thing I usually share on this blog, but here’s a tiny piece I wrote about a protest my friend went to. It’s not exactly unbiased, but then, I’m not exactly a good reporter.



Kate on September 26th 2011 in beauty, being different, body, nose, perfection

26 Responses to “can you just tell me that you’re gorgeous, please?”

  1. andee responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I’m gorgeous!

    That felt really good. Thanks Kate!

  2. Kate responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 12:08 pm #


    Mission accomplished!

  3. Nidia responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    I am gorgeous!

    Thanks for the reminder Kate!
    I enjoy reading your blog, keep up the great writing!

  4. grace responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    am so going to borrow this line (and credit you of course… “I want the women who are differently beautiful to say, “I am gorgeous.” I want them to believe it. Because beauty is big enough.”


  5. Rebecca responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    my spouse tells me i am beautiful… striking sometimes, too… and, when i look deeply into those pools of blue liquid, i believe that i am beautiful… and it is more than enough to fill that moment… and many, many more. i am working toward the day – when i look out of my green eyes and see myself in a mirror – that i think i am beautiful… period. i am not there yet, but i am so much closer than i once was.

    thank you for a fabulous reminder that beauty is so much more than we have been raised to believe. you are a beautiful person… and it shows in your writing. thank you!!

  6. Sooz responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I never believe people when they say I am beautiful. Because I am short and round and brown. My whole body is one big blob of cellulite. Nothing about me is flat…except the bridge of my nose. I simply cannot wrap my brain around the idea that beautiful and me go together.

  7. Beth responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    It takes courage to say “I am gorgeous.” I don’t know that I ever feel that.

    I CAN say, “I am striking” or “I am sexy.” But for some reason “gorgeous” doesn’t describe it. I’m not sure if that’s really negative because it might just be a connotation thing since I can totally describe my physical appearance with so many other positive terms…

  8. Deanna responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    The other night I had a terrible dream. I dreamed I was 23, had never dated and was absurdly homely. I’ve had this dream before which worries me a bit because I am not 23 and I’ve been married for many years to the same man.

    I think somewhere in my psyche I believe I am unattractive. I was told as a kid that I had a nice figure but ugly face or that I looked too Jewish or had a big nose. At that time, there were no role models on TV or the movies that looked anything like me and the ones who did were considered comics and not sexy.

    Anyway, one thing that is nice is knowing that I’m not alone. Many women..even beautiful women have doubts about their looks. Some women give up entirely and stop caring while others try to find some acceptance.

    I went out with some friends the other night and I wore a short skirt and high heel boots. I got a lot of looks from men…I have very long legs so even if I am not a beauty…my legs are pretty okay.

    Thanks Kate for bringing us women together of all ages, backgrounds and geographical locations…we all still care very much about this but we are tired of the media shoving its own version of beauty down our lovely throats.

  9. d-day responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    I’m not sure when I first noticed it, but for some time I have been convinced I have an “ugly side” to my face. friends and family deny it and think I’m insane, but I can’t help seeing two different faces when seen from different angles – one of them pretty, one not. I try to remember that asymmetry is not only natural, but interesting, and can be beautiful.

    When my husband tells me I’m beautiful or gorgeous, there is usually a bit of incredulity behind my flattered smile..

    I love this post Kate, and, deep breath–!

    I am gorgeous (no caveats today).

  10. Jen responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I put a new picture on my yoga schedule blog IN PROFILE, so go ahead and check out *this* nose, sister.

    Confession: my nose bump is somewhat disguised by my glasses, and this shot was taken from my “better side.”

  11. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I am strong. I am striking. I am gorgeous.

  12. Sally responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I’ve always felt like my crazy (but still incredible) curls have excluded me from being pretty, but not my sisters funnily enough. So here goes….

    *takes deep breath*

    I am gorgeous.

    Oooh that felt good.

  13. teegan responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    it’s a lot easier for me to believe that i’m gorgeous or striking or bold or strong than to believe i’m pretty. ‘pretty’ and (often) ‘beautiful’ seem to mean that regular, sweet, normal standard kind of good-looking. the others (gorgeous, striking, etc) are the kind that are less easy to pin down. it’s what ani difranco means when she talks about not being photogenic because she has ‘the kind of beauty that moves.’

    i’ve been thinking about this not in the concept of women, but in words. i just read ‘atonement’ and ‘on chesil beach’ by ian mckewan because everyone says he writes beautifully. and he does write in that nice little flowery way that overwhelms you with talk of the light and the wind and the way each little leaf moves. but the prose never hits you. it’s never striking. i was never overwhelmed (in a good way) by it the way i am, for example, by thomas wolfe or hilda dolittle or faulkner or allende. and so, while both stories where interesting because they were stories i’d never heard before, the writing was nothing i’m going to treasure forever.

    and that’s how i feel about good looking people. the best ones aren’t the ones that you take for granted as beautiful and move on. they’re the ones you can’t forget, the ones you feel you’ll never completely appreciate. we all talk about how sometimes we can look in the mirror and see near-perfection, but others it’s the monster from under some poor kid’s bed. our looks are mysterious. fleeting. inconstant. evolving. pretty people don’t have that. it’s kind of boring for them, i imagine.

  14. San D responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    My name and the words “gorgeous”, “pretty” and “beautiful” have never appeared in the same sentence or been uttered next to each other. And, I have never tried to make them fit, because they don’t. As far as I am concerned there isn’t one word to describe who I appear on the outside. One of my favorite paintings is of Gertrude Stein by Picasso ( He captures her in a way that I hope I would be captured if someone were to paint me, in a “state” of self assuredness.

  15. E responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    I am gorgeous!

  16. Dane responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    I’m tall and dark and built like a brawler, and it has taken me a long time to come to terms with my version of beauty because my mother is a tiny scandanavian pixie, but I can now confidently say that I am fucking GORGEOUS. And I can kick ass too!

  17. Kate responded on 27 Sep 2011 at 12:28 am #

    You’re awesome.

    You guys seriously rock

    @San D
    And I also like what you had to say here. You don’t have to be gorgeous :) You can just keep being self-assured!

  18. bethany actually responded on 27 Sep 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I missed this yesterday, but I’m going to play along today, if that’s okay.

    I’m short and broad-shouldered and have a poochy tummy and thick arms. My face still bears faint scars from the bad acne I had as a teenager, and my torso is covered with stretch marks from my two pregnancies. My nose is not cutely upturned. But my body is strong and well-proportioned. I have a straight nose, beautiful, multicolored eyes and expressive eyebrows and white, straight teeth. I have the kind of smile that lights up my whole face. I’m gorgeous.

    Also, I’ve been wanting to tell you that because of you I’ve been specifically noticing people whom I think of as beautiful who have big noses. And guess what? There are a LOT of them. :-)

  19. Kate responded on 27 Sep 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    @bethany actually
    I LOVE your description of yourself. You sound gorgeous.

    And that’s awesome, about the big nosed beauty you’ve been noticing. I feel sort of special now :-) Thanks for telling me!

  20. Rachel responded on 27 Sep 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I actually had a revelation after my second son was born. He was strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, I was holding my older son’s hand, and we were walking with my husband to a restaurant for dinner. I saw a reflection of myself in a shop window, and I saw that I have a strong body and a body that has nourished two human beings and a body that tells the story of my life and of my heritage. And for the first time in my life, at the age of 29, I knew that I am gorgeous.

  21. karelys responded on 28 Sep 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    last night I ate the damn cake after dinner. And I had a really good breakfast. And some crappy lunch. Then, when I was done with the cake I looked at the remains and I stuck my fork on some frosting because it looked better than the bread. And I was so happy I did that without tripple guessing myself.

  22. Cindy responded on 29 Sep 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Wow. This is tough for me and something I struggle with almost daily. I know I am my own worst critic.

    I loved this though. It is a great reminder to know that the thing that I hate most about myself, maybe someone somewhere find it appealing.

    Great post by the way!

  23. Kim responded on 30 Sep 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Ok, ok….I’ll say already!


    I love my green eyes and big ole bright smile. I love my sense of humor and my round curvy rear end. I love that I had the guts to get my belly button pierced, even if my stomach isn’t flat. I love my 39/29/39 body (who said 36/24/36 was perfect anyways!!). I love that I can eat cake and ice cream every night if I want and still get into my jeans.

    My husband always says, “If only you could see yourself the way I see you, you’d never leave the bathroom.” ;)

    Thank you, THANK YOU, Kate!

  24. shevrae responded on 30 Sep 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Off-topic, but have you ever seen the movie Arranged? It’s about an pair of ladies, one an Orthodox Jew and one a Muslim, who become friends and bond over their impending arranged marriages. I really enjoyed it. Your comment about romances between Muslims and Jews reminded me of it. . .

    I always like the way I look glancing up into the rear view mirror in my car. I look sexy at that angle. :)

  25. Jasmine responded on 01 Oct 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I’m gorgeous!

  26. Halley responded on 05 Oct 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    The way you wrote this was perfect! Everyone seems to discount their own beauty but they don’t need to.

    Thank you! This is what I needed to hear.