I think every little girl wants to be “pretty.” We want the pretty dress and the rings and all the glittery things we see. We twirl and we stomp our feet, trying to recreate Shirley Temple on the linoleum.
The jelly shoes and the tiny non-heels that sound JUST LIKE tap shoes?
No? I'm really alone here?
Yes, that’s me at 4 or 5 or so, making a racket in the kitchen with my “tap” shoes, messy blond curls and an undying envy of Jessica, my best friend, who wears dresses to school EVERY DAY!
Grown-up self squints a little at that one. Every day? Really?
5-year-old me is insistent. EVERY DAY!
My mother makes little me dresses for special occasions, like my birthday. “I want a long red dress, Mom,” the five-year-old pleads, big eyes, serious. “Long. To the floor!”
Most days, it is blue jeans and a t-shirt. Maybe shorts. It’s hard to rock the blue jeans as a 5 year old. Jessica could probably do it. She is cool enough and pretty enough, except she wears dresses.
EVERY DAY! 5-year-old me has her chin set, lower lip thrust out.
Probably best not to tell her that the dress only goes so far, that the frizzy mess of hair on her head and her penchant for dirt are equal barriers to the flounce and flutter grace of a Jessica. She will learn that soon enough. Right now, the only difference she sees between herself and Jessica is that flounce and flutter dress.
Grown up self acknowledges that memories of this Jessica are mostly flounce and flutter. Unfair, perhaps. But the tap-dancing 5 year old is in love with flounce and flutter. And we keep only fragments of our five-year-old selves. I kept that, and the perfect click-clack of plastic heels on hard surface.
I still love flounce and flutter, if I’m honest. I run my finger-tips over the edges of skirts in the department store, the sequin tops in the evening wear section, the occasional floor-length extreme. There’s a red dress in my closet that I try on from time to time, sucking in my tummy and turning sideways toward the mirror. Then it goes back on its hanger and into the closet, and I’m blue jeans and t-shirt again.
I’m grown up enough to admit I’m too tall and too thick and that, for me, heels are one rolled ankle away from death. Yes, I am the freak who spends every minute in heels calculating the risk factor of ankle x sidewalk / curb + city bus = death.
And I think I sort of like life.
Life as in tennis shoes and t-shirts, and a good book. That’s good stuff.
I think I am finally beyond being “pretty.”
And please don’t tell me I am pretty, or beautiful, or smart or any of the very nice but generic things people like to throw at the problem. I’m not looking for reassurance.
It’s not about that, not really. It’s not about self-confidence or recognizing those things about myself that are worthy and valuable and important. I’m actually a bit of an egotist in certain respects.
It’s about “pretty,” that flounce and flutter obsession so many little girls hold onto through their teenage years, their twenties, some of them for forever.
It’s about wanting to be that girl, to be Jessica, to be someone other than who I am.
It’s about desperation and need and the I’ll-do-anything mentality that had me hopping diet to diet and then the weeping and the gnashing of teeth (might as well admit to the melodrama) when each one failed. It’s about hair, and the realization of scalp. It’s about rash-red skin and the odd mole. It’s about all the little things coming together into one giant never-gonna-happen epiphany.
And it’s about being okay with that. About being okay with me.
And I won’t lie. I’d still like to be “pretty.” If offered the proverbial pretty stick, I’d accept a good thumping.
But that need is gone.
I’m still trying to eat better and exercise more and, yeah, if I lose a few pounds, that’s great. But if I feel better, if I can breathe easier walking up the stairs or if I can just make it through one session of the boot-camp program without modification or mercy, then I’m good with that.
I’m good with me, the me that loved Shirley Temple and the sound of her shoes and loved her without the expectation of being her, the me that reads books and likes boots and mostly hates taking the time to do make-up. The me that wears t-shirts and writes random crap for a blog she’s been ignoring.
And I think I’m finally ready for more jelly shoes.
If they made my size, totally there!
I bet they sound GREAT on tile!