All I’ve ever wanted is to be pretty, and I’ve spent most of my life thinking about how to make it happen.
I don’t care if that makes me shallow — it’s an ugly truth. I’ve always known I was smart and I’ve always known I was funny (and clearly a little cocky). But I’ve never wanted anything more than to be effortlessly beautiful.
Every morning for the past ten years, I’ve ran through the same embarrassing routine. Wake up, stare in the mirror, make note of everything until everything looks wrong, then go about my day painfully aware of every mistake I noticed earlier.
It goes beyond just glancing at my reflection when I walk past windows, or fixing my hair during class. I live my life as if I am under a constant microscope or performing in an eternal play.
I am constantly thinking about the way that my face and my body are perceived.
I’ve deprived myself of Crumbl Cookies dates and McDonalds runs, because I never wanted to look hungry.
I’ve covered my mouth anytime a joke caught me off guard, because the crinkle in my nose isn’t sexy.
I’ve counted the calories in my Dayquil every time I was sick, because I’d rather feel ill than chubby.
I’ve burnt the tips of my ears countless times, trying to tame my untamable hair.
I’ve cried gently, to not ruin my mascara, no matter how bad it hurt.
I’ve completely altered my life. I’ve forgotten how to simply exist.
In the last six months, I’ve lost over 35 pounds and gotten my braces off. Now when I look in the mirror, I look grown. There’s less baby fat to fixate on. Gapped teeth are no longer an insecurity.
Almost immediately, people started treating me differently. I’m interrupted less when I talk, men hold doors open for me, I receive better tips at my bartending job and suddenly features that I’ve always had are pointed out and complimented. My eyes have been the same — losing weight didn’t suddenly make them something worth a compliment.
My jokes are laughed at, my ideas are listened to, my grievances are heard.
But these compliments and niceties are meaningless.
I still go through my day overly cognizant of how I look, because I know that in order to be respected, I need to be perceived a certain way. I need to feed into this standard. I need to cater to the aesthetic preferences of men.
I hope that eventually I’ll remember how to exist as a human and not just as a circus act. And I hope that when I do, I’ll be treated with the same privileges that I am now. But until then, I know what I need to be.
I need to be pretty.
Kayla Estrada is a senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is an English major who enjoys rainy weather, “Bob’s Burgers” and asking people who they voted for. When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for odd-looking knick-knacks at the nearest thrift store.