Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beauty in reverse

Most people who know me worth a dime know I am not the most humble person in the world. Some would even say I might have an attitude problem; I can be a bad loser (and even worse winner) and I often think I'm better at things than I really am (what do you mean I don't sing like Adele?!).

I have a healthy self confidence as my mother would say, and well, truth be told: I think I'm hot. H-a-w-t.

My husband does too. Trust me, he tells me all about it all the time.

However, I do get that I am not in any way, shape, or form the idealized version of Western beauty.

I'm short (I'm not even 5'2"... although ask me and I'll lie right to your face and tell you I am).

I wear a size 12 pants (double digits, OMG).

I have freckles and white, white skin.

I'm kinda lazy and don't do my hair and most of the time you'd have a hard time finding more than mascara and chap stick adorning this face.

My clothes, except a few items, are meant for comfort and fun. Stripes? Yes! Polka dots? Bring it on!

My shoes are ballet flats and more often than not hot purple with sparkles. I cannot and will not wear high heels. Even an inch is considered a high heel in my book.

My eyes are brown and my hair is brown.

So, yeah, suffice is to say beyond my studly husband I was not garnering much male attention back in the states (um, have you seen my husband, all muscles and sweet smile, do you think I care? No!).

But then we moved to Taiwan and the weirdest thing started to happen, is still happening actually.

People, men and women but mostly men, stare.

At first, I was paranoid. Was there something on my face, in my teeth, did I get pooped on by another bird?

Now, I just smile.

So what are they looking at, you may find yourself wondering?

Well, my radiant beauty of course.

And I'm being so serious.

I've experienced this same episode numerous times:

Yesterday, I was stomping down the hallway at school in the beginning of a complete and total temper tantrum due to one thing: the insane heat and humidity. It was 7:40 am and I was already dripping sweat and my hair looked absurd and I was wearing my ugly brown shorts and black shirt instead of my adorable red and white striped dress because the shorts and shirt dry faster and I basically looked like complete and total hell on two legs.

Then, my team teacher stopped me in the hallway to tell my, very seriously and kindly, how beautiful I looked.

Completely forgetting about my temper tantrum, I broke out into hysterical laughter; I had just looked in the mirror in the teacher's bathroom one minute before and shuddered. I looked disgusting, sweating and flushed with crazy wavy hair, and miserable, grumbling about 90 degrees and 80 per cent humidity, and was clearly one unhappy little lady.

But to her, I looked amazing.

When, clearly stumped, I asked "Really, now?"

She smiled and told me how beautiful my skin looked, so pale against the dark fabrics, and how nicely the shirt made my (rather large compared to Taiwanese standards) chest look.

I did my best to thank her without seeming rude or completely flummoxed and then walked to my classroom, sat down, and lost it. I mean, I had a fit of giggles that made my students worry (even more so than usual) about my sanity.

How bizarre, though, this cultural difference.

I come from a place where being tan and golden is beautiful, where small is beautiful.

And while small is beautiful here and the average sized girl is teeny tiny, this curvy lady certainly gets a lot of appreciation from Taiwanese men.

Strange.

My white, pale skin is a thing of envy to the point that my friend Peter was told to marry me by a fruit vendor at a local market we were visiting so our babies would have pale, beautiful skin.

Last weekend, when Sean and I went out, the staring was for some reason more prominent than normal. It irked me. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt that was the farthest thing from sexy but for some reason most men we encountered were drawn to my breasts and could not pull themselves away. Sean started rubbing up against them to make the point, hey, these girls are taken.

I have 8th grade girls who use bleaching products on their skin to become as pale as possible. It's no more mind boggling than the girls I had in the states who recorded every last calorie they ate so they could stay a size 2 for the rest of their lives.

Strange, strange world.

In these moments of "admiring," as Sean calls it, I never know what to do. I absolutely do not believe beauty comes in one anything, one size, color, etc. I think we all have beauty within us, some people just don't know how to look.

What I do know, though, is that there is something completely insane about Westerners going to tanning booths to have nice golden skin and Asians bleaching their beautiful skin to make it pale.

And I know that sounds judgmental because I am being judgmental because I really think it's sheer lunacy. I feel supremely sad that women have such a hard time accepting themselves, but I guess despite cultural differences that is one thing that spans all cultures and countries.

And I'm extremely grateful for my inflated self esteem and awesome husband because I never found myself trying to play that game in the first place.

Such a strange, strange world.

A hit in Taiwan!


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