When I look in the mirror, I see…
…green eyes, a full mouth, high cheekbones, a strong jaw and forehead. Not a delicate or dainty face, but overall, not a bad face. I can’t see that I look any different at 50 than I was at 20. Perhaps a little leaner with age but nothing else seems to have changed.
Am I pretty? I don’t know. I was considered an ugly child. The insults from children and adults were hurtful. I never had a date or a boyfriend. That is really important for a teenage girl, even for one who spent her time playing guitar, drawing and writing.
At age 19, I went away to join the Navy, and found that my face didn’t seem to matter as much. Men seemed interested in me. Perhaps beauty didn’t have the importance that I thought it had.
My husbands told me I was pretty. They couldn’t understand it when I told them I was accustomed to being considered unattractive.
I have my dad’s facial features. Dad was handsome. Perhaps I am handsome? But I don’t know how I’d feel if someone actually called me a handsome woman. It’s unfortunate that Dad didn’t pass on his dark brown complexion to his daughter. I might be considered exotic.
I avoid the mirror except for the necessity of applying makeup or checking my hair. When confronted with a mirror, I will usually look away from it as if I feel shame. I wonder if things would have been different if I hadn’t been an ugly child?
Even now, if someone calls me ugly (I know it’s hard to imagine adults doing this but they probably never outgrew their bullying behavior), the insult will sting for a while but then I remember that at least two men (Richard and Stephen) thought I was pretty. They are the only ones who mattered. So maybe it shouldn’t matter so much to me. Beauty is subjective. But although it shouldn’t matter, I will always feel bad if my face is criticized.
For the record, I am not ugly and probably was not an ugly child. But I’ll never see a “pretty” face in the mirror.
As I was writing this post, I came across the following article from The Guardian. It is an interview with Dustin Hoffman in which he discussed the epiphany he had concerning beauty when he played the part of a woman in the film Tootsie. To see the video, click on the video in the link to the Guardian article.
If Dustin Hoffman can walk like a woman in Tootsie, why can’t all men?
In a week when Wimbledon champions are judged on their looks, Hoffman’s tearful epiphany over double standards for women has gone viral
Posted by Julia Raeside
Tuesday 9 July 2013 08.45 EDT guardian.co.uk
Most people don’t actually walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging them. But in a week when female Wimbledon champions have been criticised for their looks, interview footage has emerged of Dustin Hoffman tearfully recounting the time he strapped on a pair of sling-backs and had an “epiphany” about the way women are judged while preparing his Oscar-nominated role in Tootsie.
A clearly emotional Hoffman chokes back sobs as he describes his reaction to the full makeup and costume needed to play Dorothy Michaels. Pleased with the result, he still wanted the makeup team to make him “more beautiful” – they replied that they’d done all they could do. And Hoffman realised he didn’t fancy himself. But it was more than that. “If I met myself at a party I would never talk to that character,” he said, because, as a woman, he just wasn’t hot enough.
The revelation that he’d been “brainwashed” for all those years into only showing interest in attractive women shocks him. All those brilliant, interesting females he’d barely noticed because they were the wrong side of plain. For all of his award-winning acting talent, his pain looks genuine.
Perhaps not everyone will feel sorry for the millionaire film star when considering all the stimulating chats he’s missed, but it was big of him to admit his folly and to make one of the best films about gender inequality that Hollywood has ever produced.
His story confirms that there’s no substitute for experience. Men can’t imagine the daily tedium of being sized-up and judged on their figure, face and general grooming before they’ve even opened their mouths because they don’t have to. But wouldn’t it help if they knew?
In the 1968 PBS Frontline film A Class Divided, Jane Elliott, a teacher in an all-white Iowa junior school, switched her lesson plan the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King to a stark experiment in discrimination. The blue-eyed children were told the brown-eyed children were inferior and stupid and to treat them accordingly. They got the message after a week of division and subjugation.
We’re not talking Brian Eno’s version of gender role reversal in which “men wear make-up and are aggressively pursued by women in ill-fitting clothes” but more light on current inequality doesn’t hurt. Perhaps the education secretary, Michael Gove, could sneak in a late addition to the new curriculum, outlining an immersive week during which every pupil in the land must live as the opposite gender.
The boys could be judged solely on their clothes and hair, and at break time, they’d get two-thirds of the milk offered to their female counterparts. And the girls could stop shaving their legs, stop caring whether or not their clothes are sexy, and appear on comedy panel shows to their heart’s content.