I’m scrolling through my timeline, and there she is. Paper white skin, wine- red lips, long limbs and cartoon curves. She’s standing in front of a mirror with her lips very slightly open, seemingly as transfixed by her own beauty as the rest of the world must be. Her magic is common to all beautiful women- her face and figure agreed to be exquisite by a combination of proportion and consensus- and yet she is still an individual. She’s still a breathing, feeling human with a digestive system and a credit record and a subjective experience of the world.


I look at her and wonder: what is it like to be beautiful? To move through the world with a face like that, in a body like that? To maybe know on some level that people are looking at you and having to remind themselves, if they even think to, that you are in fact fully human?




I am not beautiful. I’m not even pretty. I have good hair, and big tits, and my eyes are a clear bright blue colour, although one of them squints when I smile and I can’t stop it (or at least when I try I look a little demented). I’m fairly clever, and witty, and do my best to be kind, but the only people to ever use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe me were either a (drunk and unusually effusive) parent or a sexual partner. I scrub up okay- ish, and I’ve learnt how to emphasise my good bits- I know my angles. I take selfies that show off the bits I like, again and again, and forget that in real life I can be seen through 360 degrees; from the side, face- on.


Sometimes I try and see myself through the eyes of those who find me attractive. I think of the man who, in a club, after 5 minutes of flirtatious repartee, cocked his head to one side and said ‘you have a lovely manner’, and then pulled me in close like a child protecting a gift. I know what he means and I don’t understand it at the same time. I’m scared that one day he’ll see the degree to which I am faking it to make it, see that the looseness and confidence is a costume I wear; that I walked into the club and paid my entry fee and then ran to the loos to zip myself into that costume, that before my Superhero costume change I had spent the whole day feeling like my body didn’t fit me, that I was too old, talked too much about shit I knew nothing about. That I was as much nothing as I had always been, and that everyone would realise if I let my guard down long enough.


I bared flesh, painted on a manner, wore it like a coat. It worked. It works.




I look in the mirror and I like what I see. It’s mid- morning or late afternoon, and my skin looks clear or maybe even golden in the sunlight, my eyes shine the same colour as the sky. My hair is doing good things, fat shining curlicue things. I like what I see and it helps me like who I am. I walk down the street with my head held high and people look at me as I pass.


I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. My pores are the size of plates. My hair is wispy and disobedient. I have stretch marks and my tits are sagging and skin is loosening and I feel old and defeated. I don’t like what I see and it reminds me that I am 24 hours closer to death, that my achievements on this Earth are negligible.


Unless you count surviving.




I remember all the compliments. A man looking down on me from above as he thrusts, laughing, saying how fucking sexy I am before lifting my jaw to kiss me. Another man, a friend, hunkering down to drunkenly squeal that I’m adorable as another friend stands behind me and aims a cherry- wood paddle at my naked arse. The pointlessly handsome 27 year old who seeks out my company because he loves my sense of irony, the way I see the world. The kind things people- not just men- have said about my writing, my self- awareness, my determination, my intelligence…


I look in the mirror. I’m not beautiful. I’m not even pretty. I’m a fully- formed human being, with a lovely manner and a shitty credit record. I have blue eyes and great tits. I used to look in the mirror and want to carve my face off with a knife because I was so ugly it was unbearable. I don’t now, because I’m a warrior. Sometimes I’m a warrior. Sometimes I’m a fucking mess. None of it means anything. It’s just angles.


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