Sometimes I thought that I wanted to look good for guys. Sometimes I measured my attractiveness by how many looks I got on the street. By how many dates I got. By how many guys in class tried to whisper jokes to me when the professor turned towards the board.
I saved my best outfits for coffee with other girls, but I thought it must be the guys who mattered.
Secretly, without even telling myself I was thinking it, I imagined that one day I would get married and stop worrying about the way I looked. I’d have this man who thought I was perfect and gorgeous and sexy beyond belief, and that would be that.
This may come as a huge shock to you guys, but: yeah, it wasn’t. It wasn’t that.
I’ve been married for a year now, and the other night I woke up and Bear was asleep next to me and this is the precise transcript of my thoughts: “Whoa, who is that guy? He’s really good looking. He has big muscles. This is my husband. God, I’m lucky. Wow, I can’t believe this is my life. YES!!!”
But being married hasn’t made me feel hot all the time. Or even reasonably pretty. It sometimes makes me think it’s probably OK if it turns out that I’m ugly. Bear will still think I look good, even if he’s the only one. He can’t even admit that I’m not as pretty as famous actresses and models. He stubbornly repeats “You’re prettier,” as I roll my eyes and feel enormously grateful.
If anything, being married has made me realize how little my relationship with my appearance has to do with my relationship with a man.
OK. I’m not stupid. I could have figured it out. But I didn’t want to. I wanted a neat solution. Which is probably also why I got a nose job. And it’s also why sometimes my mind wanders and suddenly I’m boldly and fearlessly negotiating a contract with Warner Bros Studios. It seems they want to make a series of movies out of my recently published fantasy book. That figure isn’t high enough, I’m saying. I’ll be needing a helicopter. You know how bad traffic gets in the city. They’re saying something about how I get to do the casting. Oh, and would I like a bagel with cream cheese, high quality lox, fresh in-season tomato, and capers? Yes, I would. Thank you.
God, my mind. It’s terrible.
An interesting thing happened when I got married. I started feeling like I had to be pretty or I might let Bear down.
Which is really not fair.
He wasn’t showing any signs of being about to be let down by my failure to be pretty enough. But I felt this new, startling, malicious pressure. I wanted his family to think I was pretty and his friends to think I was pretty and his boss and his coworkers to think I was pretty. And I wanted that to happen so that they would think that Bear was successful and well-matched. I wanted them to turn to one another and murmur, “He’s done well for himself.” And usually people say that about two things: prettiness and money. And usually when you’re a woman, it’s the prettiness that people are more interested in. Also, I don’t have a lot of money.
Instead of feeling automatically beautiful, because I had this man who was telling me I was beautiful every day, I began to feel like it was probably a character flaw that I didn’t have longer legs and more doe-like eyes. Eyes like a goddamn doe, I muttered at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, is that too much to ask?
I had this amazingly antiquated idea of what being a wife should look like. Or maybe it isn’t. I also had a close friend who was married and she looked like a doll called “The Perfect Wife,” and she was always smiling, and she even wore pearls sometimes. I tried always smiling for a while. I felt like people could tell it was a fake smile.
Since it’s been a year now, I’ve started to come to terms with the fact that being married won’t make me feel beautiful. I’m the one who has to do that. As it turns out, there aren’t really that many shortcuts. It’s an annoying lesson to learn.
But feeling really, really loved is great. It might even be better than feeling pretty.
I’m kidding– it definitely is.
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What do you guys think? Has your relationship with your appearance changed a lot through your relationship with a romantic partner? I’ve heard stories from people who really have felt a lot better about the way they look when they find a great partner. It can happen.
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a faux fur vest.