She draped herself over the unmade bed, a long, loose-fitting t-shirt falling just below her waist. White sunlight gleamed through the dusty window, highlighting the soft outline of her body. She aimlessly hummed a tune as she grasped lightly at the rays that sloped above her head. He lay next to her, watching as she slipped deeper into her own world. He payed close attention to her hand as it danced through the air, to her pale eyes as they flitted back and forth, to her chest as it rose and fell to the beat of his heart. His eyes flitted to the golden wedding band on her left ring finger, glinting in the morning glow. In that moment, he regretted nothing.
We all want to feel beautiful. It’s almost cliché to write about- this need ingrained in our minds to be beautiful. But there’s a reason why it’s talked about so often: because its an omnipresent insecurity that even the most ravishing human beings posses.
Here’s the thing, beauty is unbelievably subjective; it truly lies in the eye of the beholder. I can bet that at least once a day, you walk past someone and think to yourself (in that impressed whisper thinking voice that we all have), “Wow! They are so attractive!” And how many times do you think that has happened to you? More importantly, do you think that this person goes home, looks in the mirror, and thinks “Wow! I am so attractive!” No, of course not! Despite the confident façade, that person looks in the mirror the same way we all do. “Ugh that pimple is so annoying. My entire face is so bloated, and EW my thighs look huge.”
Why do we do that? Why are we so quick to hold others high while at the same time we violently tear ourselves down? Looking in the mirror shouldn’t be a one way ticket to a life sucks mindset partnered with “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” by Moby.
Now this isn’t to say that we don’t ever see ourselves as pretty- everyone has good days, confident days where you know you look bomb as heck. However, they aren’t in the majority. What we see in the mirror can change within hours, minutes even! Flaws disappear and reappear before our very eyes.
Our quick judgements reflect the beauty standards that permeate our society. They change at the drop of a hat- only a month ago it was sexy to have a thigh gap, but now it’s considered unnatural and unhealthy. With every new beauty trend comes a new insecurity, a new flaw to worry about.
We understand that everyone has some imperfections, and yet we continue to hold ourselves to impossible standards. We continue to strive for perfection- something that doesn’t exist in any part of society no matter how hard we search for it. It’s time to stop the witch hunt; the longer we keep it going, the longer it’s going to take for us to feel good about ourselves. And that’s what we all want- to feel beautiful.
Earlier that morning, the daughter of the deceased gently handed a makeup bag to the undertaker. “I know my mom,” she murmured. “She would have wanted to look her best.” The undertaker nodded and showed the daughter out into the frigid winter wind. Later, after the deceased had been properly dressed, the undertaker opened the makeup bag sitting on the table of utensils. He squeezed out a dollop of her foundation and brushed it over the deceased’s skin, bringing color to her face once again. Popping open her blush, he circled it around her cheekbones. He uncapped her red lipstick and painted over her blue lips. Mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, he went through the entire bag until nothing was left. She had an air of dignity about her, even in death.
I squeeze the Gillette shaving cream into the palm of my hand and lather it over my stubble. Carefully, I let the razor glide across my strong jawline, cleaning me of my roughness. Spring light sneaks in through the window, cascading over my fresh face as I reach for my mother’s little black dress lying next to me. Slipping it on, I take a deep, cleansing breath. To complete the look, I reach into her makeup bag sitting on the vanity, pull out her lipstick- Underage Red- and carefully apply it to my thin lips. I stand tall in front of the mirror, back arched, hands at my sides. Gazing back at me is a woman of great confidence, a woman who knows her worth, a woman who is no longer the empty shell of a man.
She’s a wild one. You’ve heard about her before; the girl that commands the room with her confidence, marching straight up to the bar to order her usual Sidecar, ignoring the stares of the lustful men and the envious women. She scans the bar as she’s waiting for her drink, scoping out her audience. Her eyes meet yours- those chesnut brown eyes. They sparkle for you and only you. She smiles that mischievous, red-lipped smile, as if she somehow knows every detail of your life. Desperate to find out the extent of her knowledge, you work your way over to her, avoiding the noisy bachelorette party calling to “You! Yeah you, the hottie with the hair!” But, as every story like this goes, because every wild one’s nature is just so, by the time you get to where she was standing, she’s gone. Her perfume still lingers lightly in the air, mocking you. You scan the room, desperately searching for her gleaming brown eyes, her cherry red lips. Your eyes reach the exit as her perfectly manicured hand closes around the handle, ready to move on to her next adventure. She catches your eye one last time, lips curving into the smallest smirk, and pushes the door open, letting the warm summer breeze take her place.
The feeling of release, the feeling of tranquility, the feeling of true liberation; that’s right, I’m talking about the feeling when you pop that nasty whitehead sitting directly below your nostril. Everyone’s had at least one little bugger who shows up at the most inopportune time possible, pulsing with pus. You can feel him mocking you as he ruins what otherwise might be considered as a semi-aestheticly pleasing face. As he grows, so does your anger, until finally, you splatter his guts against the mirror. Nothing feels better than that moment you feel him burst open, and nothing is more satisfying than wiping away any trace of the murder. However, the homicide is never truly gone; in his place, a scar forms. A permanent reminder of the horrible, engorged mass that once was.
It was one day during Rent rehearsal where my world started to turn grey. He took a seat next to me out of the blue, smiling this doofy smile that I had never seen before.
“Hey Kelso. Scarlet Letter, eh?” Not the most interesting topic of conversation, but it didn’t matter- my heart surprisingly jumped into my throat anyways.
“Y-yeah! Just started it- and I don’t hate it? Is that weird?” I tried my best to keep my cool as I looked into his dark brown eyes, noticing the way they glinted in the dimly lit theatre. As we talked, I noticed the way he ran his hand through his silky black hair, noticed the way he gingerly twisted his sunglasses in his hand, noticed the way he stole quick glances at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. I felt my own smile stretch across my face to match his, felt my heart palpitating as if I had an IV shooting caffeine directly into my bloodstream, felt the world around me slow down until nothing else was moving except for us. . What was this feeling? It had a familiar twang- something I hadn’t felt in about 3 and a half years. Oh shit, I thought to myself. I have a crush.
It was a time of first world hardship. I was staying in an overcrowded dorm during a sweltering Boston summer with nothing but a fan to keep me cool- but in the midst of a true tragedy a symbol of hope revealed itself: the red blanket. It seems odd to me now that amidst the heat I would find a blanket so appealing, however, its comforting appearance put me at ease. No longer would I worry about dying of heat stroke with the fuzzy cloth enveloping me; but first, I had to obtain this prized item.
See, the blanket belonged to a remarkably simple boy with sandy hair and blue eyes: a true New Jerseyite. I wormed my way into his heart, similarly to the way his blanket had mine. I had many an adventure with him, and even grew to love him (as a friend of course); but when it came time for our adventures to come to a close, I made my move. Thinking quickly, I hid the blanket away to where he would never be able to find it. He searched up and down and all around until finally he gave up and hobbled home to New Jersey-blanketless. I was victorious!
That feeling of victory stays with me now, as I strut around school with the blanket around my shoulders. Yup, you heard me correctly: I wear it to school. Not too often, only when I need an extra boost of confidence. Some people can find their power from the fullness of their beard, some from the size of the heel on their shoe, and some from just the simple action of smiling- you know, the normal things. However, I understand that confidence can take many forms, even if other people might not feel the same way.
I admit that I’m quite a quirky human being: I’ve never had an “inside voice,” I wear colorful rainboots to draw attention away from my unshaven legs, and others have described my style as “Yo Gabba Gabba preppy.” So, why should the things that give me courage be anywhere close to normal?
I still remember the first time I felt true confidence; one day in third grade, I proudly marched through the trash-filled hallways of Ralph Talbot Elementary, chin outstretched, showing off a massive pimple sitting right in the middle. See, as a young girl whose only knowledge of teenagers was through those little American Girl Doll books that were titled something like “Your Body and You,” I thought getting a pimple was a mark of maturity. The massive red bump created a shield of courage around me as I paraded across the pee-colored floor, and past the disgusted stares and confused laughter of my schoolmates. I strode up to my friend group, sticking my chin in all of their faces. “Isn’t it wonderful?” I asked hopefully. They stared back at me. I asked again, “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m a teenager now!” Finally, one asked timidly, “Kels, do you need a bandaid to cover that… thing?”
“No, silly! Why would I want to cover this?” None of them answered. They just smiled weakly and stared intensely. And guess what?
I still didn’t get the hint. My entire perspective of the situation was warped. The fact that I felt like I was marked by Jesus himself turned what were actually grimaces into grins. I believed that acne was a mark of beauty for the entire year, and I didn’t understand how anyone could think differently- but soon I reached middle school. There, after my beauty marks turned into boils, and I started to search for a new mode of bravery, I saw how something could work for some people, but not for others.
It was the last week of sixth grade. I sat in Mr. Toussaint’s math class one morning, staring at the white walls that stood in for the windows, daydreaming about what would happen if the projector were to just fall on his head. Bleak, I know, but my mood tended to match the room. We sat at dilapidated tables of 4, where we all fought to stay awake. That day, one of our desk mates was absent- or so we thought. She made her entrance 15 minutes after the class had started, strutting through the threshold as if she had just been crowned Miss USA. Holding her head high, she avoided eye contact with everyone as if we were her inferiors- see, she already knew everyone was looking at her. Once Laura had gracefully placed her ass into the cold metal chair, she said, as if nothing were different, “So, what did I miss?” I stared back at her. She asked again, smirk plastered on her face- she knew she had me entranced- “What did I miss?” Obviously, I couldn’t just let this go.
“What’s that… on your eye? Did your hand slip?”
“Are you kidding? This is a cat-eye, Kelsey. It’s the new thing?” Laura scoffed. (Yes, because looking at little sixth grade me, you could really tell I was a kid in touch with the trendz.) Anyways, even after the enlightening explanation she gave me, I still didn’t understand what this black wing was on her face or why it gave her so much confidence- all I knew is that I wanted the same strength.
The next morning, I stole my mom’s eyeliner, and expertly recreated the look. I came into school with wings that can only to be compared to Hermes’ shoes. Beaming, I sauntered down the halls, perfectly at ease- but that was the problem. I was only at ease. There was nothing bubbling from within that made me feel like the ruler of the known universe. For the next few weeks, I tried so hard to perfect the wing, and to get the courage from it that I desperately wanted- scratch that, needed. Alas, it never came. I was utterly perplexed; if the cat-eye boosted her confidence, why didn’t it do the same to mine?
The conundrum that this tiny- or in my case GIGANTIC- cat-eye had presented threw me into a funk; I couldn’t wrap my mind around the simple fact that people are different. No two people look alike (I realize identical twins are a thing, but that ruins my point so just shush), and no two people feel the same emotions for the same circumstance. Even if two people are in love with the same person, those people experience love extremely differently- it is the same with confidence. To this day, winged eyeliner gives me nothing but pleasure. People who know me will find that hard to believe, seeing as I don’t step foot outside of the house if my eyes aren’t ready to fly me anywhere- but come on, have I taught you nothing?
Lets circle back to what you’ve all been waiting for (or, more likely, have all forgotten about): the red blanket! I never would have expected to find so much power from this extremely odd souvenir; however, whenever I wear it, I remember my grand success from the summer. See, this summer was when I began to socially flourish. I started to put myself out there, create some of those “good vibes” the teens are always talking about (I truly understand now the meaning of the phrase “bad decisions make good stories.”). This red blanket reminds me of a time of adventure, a time of music, a time of love; but most importantly, it reminds me that I can get away with- excuse me, accomplish anything if I work hard and put myself out there.
So, I wear it when I need an extra boost! Of course, I’ve heard some snickers and gotten some looks– after all, it is something I hug to sleep at night- but there’s not a single fiber of my being that gives a shit. I’ve learned from experience, as you’ve seen, that confidence takes many shapes. Your power source is your power source; whether it be your friend group, your laugh, your cowboy hat, your bedazzled jeans, your fuzzy bathrobe, your acne, your eyeliner, or your blanket, keep letting whatever it is give you the courage to be who you want to be. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll see you on the street huddled underneath your own confidence cape!
It was a time of first world hardship- I was staying in an overcrowded dorm during a sweltering Boston summer with nothing but a fan to keep me cool- but in the midst of a true tragedy a symbol of hope revealed itself: the red blanket. It seems odd to me now that amidst the heat I would find a blanket so appealing, but it’s comforting appearance put me at ease. No longer would I worry about dying of heat stroke with the fuzzy cloth enveloping me; but first, I had to obtain this prized item. See, it belonged to a remarkably simple boy with sandy hair and blue eyes: a true New Jerseyite. I wormed my way into his heart, similarly to the way his blanket had mine. I had many an adventure with him, and even grew to love him (as a friend of course); but when it came time for our adventures to come to a close, I made my move. I thought quickly and hid the blanket away to where he would never be able to find it. He searched up and down and all around until finally he gave up and hobbled home to NJ-blanketless. I was victorious!
This red blanket reminds me of a time of adventure, a time of music, a time of love; but most importantly, it reminds me that I can get away with- excuse me, accomplish anything if I work hard and put myself out there.
A beam of afternoon sunlight leaked through the grimy window, casting a golden angelic glow over the crumpled, scuffed-up Sondheim sheet music littering the footprint-covered floor. Melody sat cross-legged in one of the choir room’s ordinary blue plastic chairs, watching the clock as it murdered the time she so desperately needed, a history book spread across her lap. A cold breeze swept over the ground, awakening the dust that coated the furniture, causing it to dance wildly in the spotlight for a fleeting moment before getting the vaudeville hook. In the background, she heard her friends chattering away; but the clock demanded her attention. She wanted to listen to Randi tell his insane stories, wanted to laugh crazily with Javier, wanted to take part in the frivolous felicity that was passing by her, but her enemy robbed her of that joy.
Melody knew she shouldn’t be in the choir room again, but she couldn’t bring herself to miss out on the merriment. Images of failed tests and bleeding papers floated through her brain, faintly calling for help. Distress bubbled inside of her as she forced herself to look down at a picture of Andrew Jackson giving his inaugural address. The soundwaves from Javier’s booming laugh blurred her vision, shaking her eyes; but she restrained herself from looking across at the joyful scene unfolding in front of her. She smelled the green tea that Quinn drank every afternoon in order to “keep her voice silky smooth.” The smell engulfed her in a green haze, in which she could see her friends lounging in their usual places on the royal blue couch- Javier at one end, tears of joy streaming from his twinkling dark chocolate eyes; Quinn at the other, intense smile accentuating her well-defined cheekbones; and Randi sprawled across the two of them, ludicrous tales spewing from his gigantic pink lips. Beaming, she reached out to the image, wanting to insert herself into it; but just like that, it faded away, and she was left staring into the cold eyes of Jackson once again. She viciously added bite marks to her already shredded pencil, each laceration adding to her stress level. She could hear her purple macerated planner from inside her florid backpack, taunting her with unfinished tasks, as if she were a cat gazing at a ball of yarn dangling just out of reach. The assignments sat in her mind like a cinderblock, restricting her from letting loose, reminding her that she could define freedom, but not experience it.
“OMG, listen!” Randi yelled over the boisterous cackles that filled the air. “Midnight madness, guys. It was a time! Mel, you’re gonna wanna hear this one for sure.” She grimaced as Randi’s voiced drowned out her desperate desire to engage. Gazing helplessly back at the clock, she begged the blood red hand not to move any further, feeling the worry building in her chest each time it ignored her pleas. Another eruption of resounding laughter caused her chest to tighten. The sunlight that had once radiated through the room disappeared, playing hide-and-seek behind the grey clouds that floated past. Going against her own instincts, she glanced over at the babbling group. Instantly, they enveloped her, pulling her into the vortex of distraction.
As Melody sank deeper into the realm of irresponsibility, she begged herself to leave them, to finish her work, to be sensible; but just like the murderous clock, she ignored her own desperate pleas. After all, why do today what you can do tomorrow?