Body Dysmorphia Dolly vs. Me, Unvarnished

I am not beautiful by worldly standards. I have all of the requisite parts to meet the various averages and norms, am reasonably symmetrical and moderately well proportioned, and have no extreme [visible, wink-wink: happy weirdness doesn’t count here] anomalies that draw attention to themselves or, worse, make other people start in sudden horror and look away with a shudder. I am ordinary, reasonably well ‘put-together’ in terms of neatness, cleanliness, clothing, and so forth, and I have an in-house hairdresser who gets consistently good reviews not just from me, his wife, but from others who marvel that a person as musically, academically, and otherwise gifted as he has yet another impressive and artful skill. But I am not, nor have I ever been, what the rest of the world would consider distinctively beautiful.

My partner considers me beautiful, and I not only revel in that because I know it’s true that he loves me inside and out, but I also feel beautiful in knowing it. That still doesn’t make me the universal Ideal. I am just incredibly fortunate to know that I’m “beautiful” in the ways that matter to me. I’m also human enough to have plenty of little things I’d happily ‘upgrade’ if able: from the mole right in the middle of my face to the jiggly bits around my upper arms and midriff and right on down to my not very glamorous stubby fingers and toes, I can imagine all sorts of ways I could be more like at least my own ideal image of me. While I am working, very gradually, on better exercise and (gasp!!!) eating habits to improve the tone and fitness parts of the equation, I am not so troubled by most of the other perceived imperfections that I feel compelled to fiddle with them. This is just me, sitting here and typing at my desk. Me.

Photo: Me, Unvarnished

Me, unvarnished. Not bad, for all that—silly selfie smile and all!

Nowadays, granted, I hear nearly as much chatter about body dysmorphia and low self-esteem and the evils of the societal pressures, particularly those coming through the commercial and mass media, that feed them, but I still see a remarkable amount of obsession among people of all ages with perfecting appearance in whatever ways each considers ideal. It still frightens me most of all when anyone goes to extremes to meet others’ ideals, for I hope obvious reasons. So I’m none too thrilled to see that the mutant-looking dolls long favored by the young, or at least those who buy for them, are still prevalent and imitated to such an extent by so many.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if there were a counterbalance of, or even a momentary appearance on the market of, Truth in Labeling/Advertising consciousness when it comes to these beauties. I imagine a Beautiful Bobbye doll and [her] many lovely iterations stopping people in their tracks in the toy aisle for new reasons: picture the same “perfect” dolls now packaged honestly as Defective Breast Implant Bobbye, Collagen Overload Bobbye, Botox Paralysis Bobbye, Internal Organ Displacement Bobbye, Heroin-Chic Turned Addict Bobbye, and of course the ever-popular Acid Reflux Sufferer, Early Denture Wearer, & Coronary Infarct Death as Consequences of Bulimia Bobbye.

It’s too much to ask, of course, even to have anything like a balance of dolls with aught besides pink plastic skin and long, straight or wavy hair, never mind the idea of having great ones with visibly not-so-average qualities—like, say, a prosthetic leg, ears that stick out, albinism, asymmetry, flippers rather than arms, a mole in the middle of the face, club foot, or overbite—that are simply part of their good old normal selves just as they can be in real life. Wonder what that might do?

All I can say for certain in my own experience is that it’s wonderful to have a doll of a partner who finds me the right kind of Beautiful for his taste and, best of all, to feel quite fine about myself whether I’m looking in a mirror or not. I might decide to fool around with a hair coloring experiment, because I have silver hair envy and given my genetics, won’t ever get much more than the sprinklings of grey I’ve sprouted here and there among the mousy browns for nearly thirty years. I do bother to put on a little streak of eyeliner on the rare special occasion. I wear high heels sometimes to enjoy being taller and pretend I’m longer legged if I feel like it, and I sport earrings almost always because in my much younger days, lots of people thought anyone with really short hair and a fairly flat chest was male, so I got in the habit to avoid the confusion.

Now, of course, males, females, and others wear their hair any length, embrace jewelry from their ears to their toes, or none, wear kilts and sarongs and skirts and pants at will, and indulge in eyeliner or guyliner, tattoos, showy stockings, platform shoes, hats and updos and shaved heads, all while being as masculine, feminine, or other as desired. And I don’t any longer care in the least whether anyone knows me as one or the other, myself, any more than I really care whether they find me beautiful on the outside or entirely different from their taste.

I would far prefer to be thought worthwhile as I am, however I happen to be, as a person. Maybe I can thank my childhood environment where I was free to design and build little houses in the bookshelves and out of empty boxes instead of playing with uninteresting (to me) dolls inside them, and then graduate to building forts in the woods with real, flawed, beautiful playmates populating them. Maybe I did benefit, after all, from exposure to that artificial kind of beauty popularized and supported by plastic dolls and the people who emulate them, youthfully testing their sanity and happiness or lack thereof and shrinking from it. I have my faults, but they can’t stop me from feeling beautiful if I don’t let them.

26 thoughts on “Body Dysmorphia Dolly vs. Me, Unvarnished

  1. wow, that is amazing! so strong and positive! you are a beautiful woman, in every way, I am so glad to have met you, a real inspiration!! love and light to you my friend! 🙂

  2. Well said…and looking great! I live in a house with two teenage girls…who would be considered ‘beautiful’ by any standards yet they feel so ugly and fat. They DID NOT get that from me. (Although I have to admit I don’t have great image confidence myself, I have consciously boosted, praised and admired them all of their lives to date in the hope that they wouldn’t catch my low self esteem). Is it those living dolls on TV, social media… everywhere… that give a distorted image of what they think they should be? (Or do they pick up the vibes subliminally…) (Sigh).

    • Insecurity and self-consciousness are teenagers’ natural state. It’s too bad, but I think it’s not only all around in school and life in general but even emerges unbidden from the depths of hormonal hell as we start transitioning from child to adult. Sigh. It’s hard. Your girls have one of the very best advantages, though, and that is of course You. Your experience, wisdom, patience and love will help them overcome those inclinations better than anyone or anything else possibly can. Well, that, and the occasional non-family member saying something complimentary, because as we all know, no teenager in her right mind will believe most of what her mother tells her, no matter how well they get along, because “Mom *has* to say that; I’m her daughter!” 😉
      xoxo and best wishes to all three of you!!!

  3. There were things I wanted so badly to change when I was a teen. But now it’s those things I wanted to change then, that I love now. And believe it or not my grown daughter has helped me with that too. She is such a strong, wonderful, smart individual. Oh and beautiful too! By the way, I think you are beautiful. I’d trade eye color with you any day! 😉 Your short Tinkerbell hair is super adorable! Great post. Have a lovely evening. Koko❀❀❀

    • Thank you, Koko, you are so sweet! I wasn’t fishing for compliments, honestly! Among other things, I’ve always felt sad at the pressure that “pretty people” are put under to be and act and think certain ways, while a more ordinary soul like me is allowed to just be myself and follow my own path. That’s a much happier way of life, I should think, especially as I *am* a happy person!!


      • I understand what you are saying. I grew up being called names and a family member would say I was fat. I think I was about ten at the time. Those words and actions have shaped me. It’s sad to have to go through that but that’s life. There are people in the world that don’t know how to behave or know what it’s like to be kinds. I strive to be happy. I know I “look” different, but isn’t that difference kinda cool?? I’ve always thought how boring this world would be if we all looked the same. But I do love your eyes and hair. I cut my own hair like Tinks. I got tired of long hair and went into the bathroom and lopped it all off. Good thing I have wavy hair, easy to his mistakes! Hahaha. It was so freeing and especially during the hot months when I’d be working outside i could take a hose to my head! 🙂

        • I did have long hair (*just* long enough to sit on the ends) for many years, but after having fussed over it right through my undergrad studies and realizing that I had always had to wear it up to keep it out of my work, I lopped it, too. And immediately realized that not only did I think I looked better that way, I had actually been wearing my long hair in a French knot or bun or ponytail all the time as much because I looked better in “short” hair than in long as because of the work hassles. Go figure. I’ve tried a couple of times to grow it out again, just for variety, but was very quickly reminded that I don’t like how it looks on me *and* I’m too lazy for it! So I’ve learned just to enjoy it on people who look beautiful in it like you do. 😀

          As for the bullying, it amazes me how as a species we are nearly ALL super-sensitive to others’ criticisms and taunts but very *few* are as sensitive about dishing them out to others ourselves. What fools. Words have immense power over how we view ourselves. It’s comforting to me to know that you have managed to see yourself through wiser eyes and know that you *are* beautiful, inside *and* out!

          Bless you, my lovely!

  4. I wish the entire world could read this post Kath. You are such an incredible and beautiful woman and I admire you so very much!
    Have a beautiful love filled and happy weekend.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

    • At long last I’m back to checking comments, after a too-busy several weeks, and you have once again brought a huge smile to my face, dearest Mandy! I hope you and Pete are having a splendid time in Swaziland right now!!! Much love,

    • I always find it intriguing how much of our true selves we hide—even *from* ourselves!! And yes, I agree that the outward expressions of happiness are our best ‘fashion statement’ no matter what we look like to ourselves or anyone else.
      Cheers! Hope you have some good fishing expeditions planned for the coming months. 😀

    • Thank you kindly, my sweet. I am very late getting back to Comments—busy times at the old salt mine—but your generosity is always a balm to my heart. Hope you and yours are doing wonderfully these days, Diana! You are both beautiful to look at and a bringer of beauty to the lives of all of us fortunate enough to be in your company.

  5. I am so far behind in my blog reading, but glad I finally made my way to this post. I love the overall positive quality and reasonable approach to accepting yourself for … well … yourself. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve managed to let go of the horror of sharing photos of myself online. Not sure if that means I no longer care what people think, or that I’ve just grown to accept the body that I live in … either way, it’s a more comfortable way to live. I do love your photo, and especially love that you feel comfortable enough to share it with us, here. It’s fun to have a clearer image of who we converse with on this wonderful world of the internet, especially after we’ve already become acquainted through shared words and deep thoughts … and all those silly thoughts, too. I’m glad you feel beautiful, because, you are, for sure. Yep.

    • Takes one (beauty) to know one! Your loveliness is visible in your words as *well* as in your pictures. Prettiness in and of itself is so indefinable, being dependent on our tastes and how we feel about ourselves or others, it’s basically like trying to define what is art and what isn’t. And just as pointless, in the grand scheme of our existence. I’m so glad we can have variety and not all like the same thing. Yay! 🙂

  6. Kathryn, how uncanny that I was working on a post about beauty a week ago, or rather, someone who was born lacking of it, and has grown with the shadow of its ugliness, quite literally, glaring in the presence of others all her life, someone who has not and who has tried so earnestly everyday of her life to reconcile with and move past such congenital abnormality…

    I would have finished my post by now had I not left my iPad which contains the said draft on the plane to Dubai a few days. But, no fear. I will bug you to read it once it is retrieved from Dubai International Airport Lost and Found Department.

    As for beauty, your beauty, Kathryn, quite rare that I meet a woman who has it all—your porcelain skin that is unblemishedly and enviably smooth as a newborn baby (what do you use?); your heart of gold; your brain, oh my goodness, the brain of yours; and your all-encompassing wisdom. You have it all, Madam.

    • Dearest Xiaobo! How can you be so generous. You, so incredibly intelligent and learned, so kind and charming. And, well, also one of the few people I’ve met who from the first made me realize that supermodels *do* come in brainy and polymath-talented packages. All I can say is Thank You, and the admiration is entirely mutual.

      And, by the way, my good skin is thanks to good luck and heavy drugs. Really. I had bad enough acne in my younger days that my dermatologist put me on super-powered Accutane when I was in grad school (and willing to sign all sorts of waivers because it’s so bad for your cholesterol, so dangerous if you get pregnant, etc, etc). For me, totally worth it; I don’t know if with that skin I would *ever* have stopped feeling horribly insecure about my looks, even though I tried not to obsess about it. Nowadays it takes little maintenance, just my home-mixed light moisturizer that the same doc taught me to concoct, and wearing makeup very rarely.

      And keeping company with people like you who make me feel happy, which is the best possible treatment for both insecurity and feeling pretty. 😀

      Much love, and I hope you’re having a FABULOUS time with your special traveling companions!

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