"You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilisation in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female'."
- Diana Vreeland
These are words that I have lived by all my life. I have been fiercely 'unpretty' for as long as I can remember. A tomboy, I didn't get into clothes or hair or make-up and so my skills in those departments are lacking heavily. I never cared about being the hot one in my group of friends or turning heads in the street.
I was always ferociously focused on the other things I had to offer - I like to think that I'm interesting, driven, a good friend, fun to be around. All the kind of things that are actually worth something, unlike the unearned prize of 'pretty' or 'photogenic'.
If I sound scathing I don't mean too - there is nothing wrong with it. After all, a gorgeous person can no more help what they look like than anyone else. We live the hand we are dealt and I was happy to do so, bouncing along untroubled by my uncut fringe and ability to make even the neatest outfit look scruffy.
Until I noticed a little voice in my head that started saying a little more regularly than I would like 'But wouldn't it be nice to be the pretty one for a change? Why am I never the pretty one?'
And I am so ashamed of that voice because that is so incredibly anti-what I actually believe about the world and about a woman's place in it. You should be loved for your laughter lines, for your endless collection of dirty jokes, for the way you fold your underwear or the way you speak to waiters. These are the things that are you - the things that make up who you are as a person.
Life isn't easy at the moment and I look at pretty people and I think - it must be so nice to get something so right without even trying. Pretty looks so easy to me - I am probably a million miles away from the truth here, but that's what it looks like.
Perhaps its 30, close enough that I can hear it whistling away in the distance. And with it the realisation that maybe 'elegant' and 'polished' is not something that is ever going to come naturally to me. Perhaps that's what I'm actually mourning here and what I need to do is learn to straighten my hair and find a lipstick I don't scrub off on the back of my hand within half an hour. Perhaps I'm tired of my rebellion and I do want to address what I always considered the inconsequential outside.
Pretty is not a rent I want to pay. Pretty is a rent I refuse to pay for the satisfaction of others. But it is a rent I feel I owe myself - to dig deep and find my own pretty, just between me and the mirror. Because in that way, pretty is its own kind of strength.