I am an only child of divorced parents. I was raised by my mom, and she believed the sun rose and fell at my feet. She told me I was smart and special and could do anything I wanted. One of the most difficult parts of life after college was realizing that a lot of what she’d told me only contained a sliver of the truth—I would not get any job I applied for, I wasn’t necessarily meant for great things. Like most people, I am destined to live a mostly average life.
The mom-lie she told me that is only really sinking in lately is the lie about my appearance. If the rest of the world saw me the way my mom does, I would not be single at 31. My mom believes I am beautiful. When I’m having a conversation with her about cleaning my apartment, she’ll interrupt me to tell me how pretty my hair is even though it’s frizzy and up in a ponytail. When we go out to restaurants, she believes that every man is turning his head to look at me. And when I have talked with her about men I’ve been interested in who wanted nothing to do with me romantically, she never believes it has anything to do with my extra fat cells or big nose or squinty eyes.
I’ve never believed I am hot. I’ve always been humbled by the beauty of my friends and the attention they received from the opposite sex. Growing up, it let me know, at the very least, that I was not destined to be a model or to date the hot guys. And this was good. Because I didn’t garner male attention, I focused on my studies, learned how to be a great friend, and cultivated my mind, a rich inner life, a fierce independence and sense of humor. I think I’ve turned into a pretty awesome person to know, if I may say so myself.
Even though I never believed I was hot, I never thought I was ugly. At least not until recently. After many years of not really hanging out with single women at all, or at least not with single women in a larger group of people, I made a single lady friend. This friend is tall and skinny and tan and blonde—very pretty. People are always telling her how pretty she is, too. They talk about fixing her up with their single friends. They wonder aloud how it is possible that she is still single. Men clearly are giving her the eye. As for me? No one makes mention of their single male friends to me or comments on my appearance at all. I might as well be invisible except for a few silly comments I throw into a conversation here and there.
It’s started to make me wonder just how unattractive I actually am. I think because of my level of security with my personality and intelligence I have body dysmorphia, only instead of believing I’m much fatter than I am, I think I’m thinner. Maybe my hair is scragglier than I imagine. Maybe I have more than just the 2nd chin I see in the mirror. Perhaps people can barely see my eyeballs at all for how narrow they are. Is it possible that my lips are actually so thin that I just look like some old lady without her teeth in every time I talk?
I’ve always wanted to find a man who appreciates me for who I am inside, but is that even possible without a pretty package to lure him in? I don’t have any answers, only dateless nights. All I can do is tell myself my own lies and hold out hope that I can find a man who sees me through the eyes of my mom.