Let me talk for a moment about beauty; I say “Let me talk” because normally, no one is willing to listen to my words over this subject.
It’s not that they think that my words are worthless (not most, at least), but it’s a subject I rarely talk about because it comes with a lot of shame, but honestly, it needs said.
I am beautiful.
I don’t normally allow myself that much of a compliment, but rarely does anyone else. That is a hard concept for many of my twenty-something peers to understand, even once we’ve escaped the vice-grip of puberty.
But, since we’re being honest here, let me go a little further: I hate that I am “beautiful”. I’m not talking about the kind beauty I see in my friends in family, I’m talking about the kind of beauty I see on television, in Cosmo, in every other place than in the truth. I really don’t like Disney, and it never had anything to do with not being like a Princess. Actually, it had everything to do with it.
Let me tell you about Princesses. In the words of my mother, frozen in stone sometime shortly after our first haircut and my father’s inability to comb the curls out (lol), princesses are “lazy little shits”. Great. I was a smart kid; I paid a lot of attention in a lot of different places, especially when it hurt.
I can tell you that body-image and self-confidence is lower in young women that are white than any group of young women of color. I can tell you that young white women are statistically more likely to read the same sort of terrible magazines that are much more likely to encourage them to have an eating disorder or dangerous dieting habits than reading nothing. I can tell you that kindness and honesty was something that came a lot easier to me this semester after singing with my gospel choir on campus, and I can also tell you that many of my friends that are older than I and coincidentally white are terribly ashamed of their sense of fashion, self-concept, and anything that relates to the natural beauty we all have, regardless of our flesh.
None of that is necessary for me to tell you though. If you wanted to know it, I would just drag you with me to my class in a couple hours, Child Development, where we go into detail about it here and there. The majority of the faces in that room are the same skin tone as mine, if we’re speaking broadly.
I want to say right now that I should never have to justify caring about the beauty of others and how it is destroyed daily no matter if I am too young to regret, too “pretty” (barf) to pass, too attentive not to see, and too pissed to speak. That has nothing to do with my character. Studying abroad last semester I had two choices for having blonde hair and green eyes: attention or attention. You couldn’t pick one or the other like the beautiful braids of the ladies that are much darker than me (if that is what they choose, and hell if they choose nothing I still wish I could be more like them). The older women of Chile owned their style like it was fluent. Working in a soup kitchen solely for the purpose of feeding the poor University students there who had made it but barely, the six older women often spoke with me about being young, having fun, the meaning of service, and love as a whole. That sounds too good to be true, but they often didn’t use words, and a lot more came out of wearing fabulously patterned hats while pushing a broom than anything else.
We traded cultures over lentejas or porotos con riendas. I’m serious, Chileans do cold weather food so well it would make your head spin; I still miss the home cooking whenever it rains and I doubt that will ever change.
But femininity means something entirely different in Chile. Femininity means family. It means providing the mechanism to keep your family moving regardless of the situation. It means being savvy enough to remember to give rollos de canela and a bottle of coke to the dumb gringa that forgot to eat all that much before her flight as a matter of habit, solely because it means something. It means bravery and discussing fierce ideas; it means talking about things like sex, politics, money, and fashion at the dinner table over music from the Mapuche people your husband had recorded. It means inviting the dumb gringas to your church and taking care of them when their other dumb gringa housemates forget to pack enough pads (good luck finding tampons; trust me that is not as much of a big deal as some would like to make it). The Chile I saw was whole, it was vibrant, it was so full of color, and in very obvious places.
And wasn’t any more dangerous for girls with blonde hair and green eyes than the campus I’m seated on. It wasn’t any more special in terms of fear, panic, rape, and abuse. Sure, the femicide rate of Valparaiso is probably higher than it is here, we clarified that in our Psícologia Social group project, and in the conversations Nikki and I had with an extremely kind-hearted Chilean feminist, Valentina.
By most textbooks, Chile is a catholic country. Hahaha, no the Chile I saw, but then again, I went to the evangelical church all the way outside of Valpo and in more affluent sister city Vina del Mar, which was made rich by the dastardly dollars of western tourism, especially post-1950s advertisements about its status as paradise. Well, it’s not quite as paradisey as you may expect, at least if you are used to having McDonalds next to gypsies on the beach, bike paths and flea markets, and as many inexpensive but fabulous baked goods as your few mil pesos can buy you. But then again, it is also home (and that comes with you).
The home I returned too was not nearly as escapist. I started this semester knowing that I was going to have a lot of heavy lifting before me. I did not realize quite how much I was in for, but then again, if I could survive being “beautiful” at for two hours on and before midnight alone one night in Chile, coming back from church and trying to make it home while falling asleep and completely lost (with barely any money) and still make it home in the lick of time to not become stranded, I could do anything. That is the scariest experience of my life thus far, and I often wonder if it was made scarier by the fact that the only girls that were beautiful out where I was wandering were mostly social outcasts. I wonder if the curls I would have let my father comb out, the same ones my Chilean Bible study friends liked to play with (and then look heartbroken and say disparaging comments about their own intense beauty) actually made me all that much more endangered. I wonder if the stories of kidnappings and rapes I had heard since I was a child ever had anything to do with the descriptors used in the Amber Alerts; or if the rapes and murders of children that didn’t fit Disney just didn’t make the headlines. I often wonder about whether I have a right to care; whether or not I will get more rolled eyes and silence if I talk about how much I also hate Disney (for the exact same reasons). I wonder whether any of it makes any difference, whether our world is slowing spiraling into places I can’t pass in, which I never really wanted to feel obligated to be a part of anyways. I don’t want to wear blazers, I don’t want to show up and schmooze for reasons I don’t condone and seriously don’t understand. The day I step foot in a country club will be sad; it’s nothing against the people who are members of country clubs, it has so much more to do with the people that aren’t.
The people that are getting strangled by “public defenders”, and have since humans have existed. I’m not talking about one specific group of people here, I’m not broadening it to make it more trivial or make it seem less relevant. I want to emphasize right now that Jesus was crucified by public defenders just like many of the men, women, and children who are dying without headlines right now and always. It is not glib to talk about that, to me it’s the truth, along with the fact that his skin tone was a lot closer to today’s victims than mine.
I really wish goodness wasn’t something that had to die on television. I really wish that hashtags were enough to change the world. I wish that gunshots were less effective, and I wish that martyrs weren’t what it takes for any group of humanity to shut the hell up and listen. I wish that the whole race discussion surrounding this issue was made even bigger; I wish that it was shared radically on Sundays and on the street corner, and that the shame and “embarrassment” (lol) of people that look like me would wither in comparison to the rage for what is being done under office. I wish that our taxpayers would wise up enough to look outside of egos and politics drafted by financial interests and sold in Cosmopolitan, and honestly, that stings this holiday season more than any other I have bottled away in my memory. I was a kid that grew up shopping at goodwill and showed up in 7th grade to be made fun of for having a mullet, but I am also the girl that could impersonate goldilocks better than anyone else type-casted for her role, and it has nothing to do with my character. That shouldn’t need to be mentioned, but generally speaking, it helps people tune out less from the goodness that is being trampled.
It hurts my feelings when other people post articles to social media website to “White People” about Ferguson. That shouldn’t have to be relevant, but it is; just ask the other millions of people that will cite that as the number one reason they don’t care right now. Materialism and crazy is part of us all, but the meaning of Christmas is going to be especially shittily reenacted this holiday season, over the sweaters and socks and bloodied hands that we all re-gift. I am young, but my children will know better. It still hurts to watch.
In dollar amounts, I am no better off than many of my peers that aren’t like me in the eyes of socioeconomic theory. I go to school on mostly on scholarship and working; hell, I’m living at home. I am at the mercy of thousands of little processes that make my life dizzingly unsharable in most places on campus. I don’t have ten grand to buy my way into test files and a meaningless piece of paper, and hell yeah, I’ll be the first to admit I’m totally jaded about that. It gives me rage to know that my degree, the one that I have struggled through clinical depression, unstable love, and chronically externalized apathy to have a shot at will mean just as much as the slip of paper that many of my peers pass go to collect. It makes me so angry I could scream. It makes me angrist to know that the few spaces on campus that accept and affirm identities that are blonde, flanneled and polo-ed are in the spaces like the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and even then, there is nothing many of us can do to counteract the injustice of frigid stares and bitchy harassment; let alone murder.
I don’t wish; I have hope. I know that there is goodness here, because I believe in God. I know that there is peace because I believe he is here in the darkness he rose out of before the void was even put into words. I believe that he sees and weeps with us, that is the entire point of Gethsemane friends, it was Christ’s weeping grounds. Tears in bathwater, tears on TV, they are both tears. I know that there are few things that the world tells me I have a right to say, but fuck it. It is not my story that is on television. It is not my tears that have been poured out like the blood of the cross. It is not my ego that I have to sate to get these words onto wordpress, and fuck it; thank God.
It may not be enough, it never could be. It really isn’t much of anything in comparison, but it is what I was told I could contribute, and so I will. It doesn’t have to be complicated to give a shit. That is the entire point. I don’t claim that these words will have much of an effect, it would not surprise me if they are also ignored; but that makes no difference. They may not even need said, which is code for me to say, they probably don’t need said to you. Let me find other ways of sugar coating that; I have become a master chef at just a spoonful of sugar. But if a spoonful of sugar is used to conceal a bucket of blood, is it really so fucking sweet?
I wish many things for us all, but mostly that there may be peace over this in the face of absolute terror. I hope that that peace is shared by people who don’t have a right to say so. I hope that that peace is infectious and catalyzes even more goodness. Words may have power, and I believe that their power comes from God only. And in moments where there is blood on the sidewalk, I hope that that is enough for all of us. I hope that we fall silent regardless of our skin color and weep, mourning together. I hope that the black of mourning isn’t restricted to the dark of flesh. I hope that goodness isn’t bought this holiday season, and I hope more than anything that the light and peace of God is infinitely re-gifted. Regardless of the blood stains, I pray that you have a beautiful holiday. It makes no difference to me if you’re celebrating Christmas, I’ll celebrate for us both and maybe you can share your traditions with me too. Goodness was always free, even if we bicker about who brought it. Let there be peace.
In all these things, I want to end saying that there is no right or wrong; there is only imperfection, and that is in all of us. For the love of God, let it be so.
In all honesty,