Me Be Pretty One Day

When I was little, my favorite movie was Aladdin. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it had more action than most Disney films and had more of an ensemble feel to it. (The Genie had his own separate storyline and the carpet was sort of like the Mad Murdock of the group. I dunno. I liked it.) And every Halloween, when I was choosing a costume, my first thought went to Jasmine.

I don’t know exactly what it was about her that made me want to be her. Maybe her temper. (“I am not a prize to be won! *stomps off*) Maybe her pet tiger. Either way, little elementary school me knew that she was everything I wasn’t. Her skin was this beautiful cappuccino color. Mine was so pale you could see the veins. Her hair was this mysterious jet black. Mine was this mousey sometimes vaguely red but not really brown. Her hands were dainty and delicate. Mine were peasant’s hands: thick, short fingers, dirty nails. Oh, and her waist. Oh, Jasmine’s impossibly tiny waist. My waist was…well, not tiny. Ever.

Before we get into the weight issues swirling through this lovely childhood memory, let’s acknowledge the fact that the little suburban white girl wanted to be one of the brown princesses. In fact, I wanted to be all of them. I think I contemplated being Belle for Halloween once, but opted for Esmerelda and Pocahontas. I have no idea where this strange bias came from. I certainly understood that Belle and Ariel looked a lot more like me. I’d like to believe that it wasn’t some kind of disgusting “Mighty Whitey” complex. I’d like to believe that frankly, they just had better stories. Pocahontas especially. But whatever the reason, the plots or a hegemonic fetishization of women of color, I knew I didn’t look the way I wanted to look.

And that got even worse when I began to actually look at my body. Despite my mother’s obsession with healthy food, my genes condemned me to hobbitdom.

In fact most of family members are this feisty too.

In general, looking like you could fit in the Shire is not really a bad thing. You can make quite a good living as an extra in every rural Irish movie ever. You might even bag a former hobbit.

So much of my childhood was made up of lusting after this dude. Really.

But the truth is, if you’re a hobbit, you don’t look like this. Not even close.

I hear this is what the boys are into nowadays.

And there’s a whole industry (multiple industries in fact) built around convincing women (and now men too) that they can and should look like that. If you get the right tanner, the right exercise machine, the right surgery. It’s all a matter of willpower. You have to want it. You have to hate yourself enough to want to change it.

And somehow that seems wrong. Why does “self improvement” have to involve self hate?

Frankly there’s no self hate more terrifying than the body issues this system of pressure has created. Eating disorders, surgery, and just plain terrible self esteem are the result of looking at your body and finding it wanting. I will admit I don’t know much about body politics in history, but I do know a bit about the history of fashion. It makes me wonder when prettiness became about the ways that our bodies are built, because for a long time, it was a real privilege to see a woman’s body, and undergarments were built to distort the female form so everyone’s body looked close(r) to the same.

It's kind of hard to tell how much she weighs, isn't it?

It’s more than a little obnoxious that in an era when we as a species have more leisure time, desk jobs, and food on the whole, it is suddenly in vogue to wear less clothes and look more athletic or skinny. Remember all those talking points about fat once being a sign of status and sexiness? Well the truth is we find what’s hard to attain sexy. Always have. So in the time of plenty, thin is in, and when everyone’s praying they don’t get caught hunting in the king’s forest, stout is sexy.

It’s easier to put on sculpting undergarments (whether they be Spanx or 15th century corsets) than to run for a half an hour everyday. Seriously. I tried both. And honestly, I hate exercise unless it involves running into people. (As I mentioned before, I love soccer.) So yeah, sometimes I go running. And I walk a lot. And I eat right and I do push ups and all those “super easy little things” that are supposed to help. But that’s really not enough to combat my hobbitdom. It just isn’t.

And I’ve decided it’s time to stop saying “Me Be Pretty One Day.” It’s time to stop running after something that I’m never going to be. I’m not Jasmine. I’m me. And maybe I’m pretty right now.

…Although someday I do want to look like Wonder Woman in this trailer. Because she’s awesome.

I mean if a girl can’t dream of finding out she’s the last of the Amazons and being written by Gail Simone, what can she dream of?

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3 thoughts on “Me Be Pretty One Day

  1. i really enjoyed this post, and connected to it in multiple ways.

    first, i, like you, am one of those gals who has be blessed/cursed with hobbitdom (though i probably wouldn’t have thought to put it that way before having read your post, as i am tolkien-inept), and am coming to terms, myself, with giving up those hateful words: “me be pretty one day.” which, considering they were my mantra beginning at age 10, is no easy task. it is good to read your resolve, and have it strengthen mine.

    second, i, unlike you, never wanted to be princess jasmine. this is primarily owing to the fact of my being pakistani, and having to listen to passers-by inappropriately comment on my beautiful, long-haired cousins, “Oh my! You look just like Princess Jasmine!” even at 8-years-old, i knew it was creepy and fetishistic (there was just a twinge of, “Great, another person commenting on how someone else is my family is gorgeous and I’m not…,” but it was mostly revulsion) and when i read _orientalism_, it took on a whole new meaning. that being said, it’s interesting to see this whole princess jasmine thing through your memories of being a child. and i appreciate your acknowledgement of the complexities that inhabit these desires and experiences.

    thanks for the great read! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for reading Saadia!

      I think one of the interesting things about my obsession with Jasmine (which did become shameful after I found Said in college) was that it wasn’t just the well packaged Orientalism of Disney that fueled it. I truly believe that even as a kid I was convinced that to be beautiful I had to be radically different from what I was, and for a curvy North Italian/Scotch Irish girl, that meant wanting to be a person of color. It’s messed up in sooooo many ways.

      It sounds kind of silly, but in every scientific survey about perception of attractiveness, researchers always say the biggest factor is confidence. I’m not sure I believe that getting rid of “me be pretty one day” will turn me into Megan Fox, but I’m pretty sure it will make me happier. May we both find happiness and smash beauty norms.

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