Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Prettier than"

I have always enjoyed the look of silver more than gold. I think gold is lovely (as is bronze), but silver has always been my favorite.

I nearly began this with "I have always been of the opinion that silver is prettier than gold," but "prettier than" is a tricky little thing. "Prettier than" is in the eye of the beholder, and can be sort of mean. I spent a lot of my super-young years obsessing over "pretty" and "prettier than," and it isn't a very nice thing to think about. I am one of the youngest in a semi-large family, and I compared myself to my elder sisters and younger sister far too often as a kid/teenager.
Once, at around age 12, while bemoaning my lack of "prettier than" quality out loud, a particular beau of a particular elder sister even told me once, "----- is beautiful, ----- is pretty, and you're cute. When you're a little older, you'll be pretty, and when you're a little older than that, you'll be beautiful." So in my mind I accepted my current appearance because it wasn't my turn to be "prettier than" yet.
It's a little odd, and maybe it didn't happen as often as I remember it... But people around me (people at church, elder relatives, friends of siblings, etc.) had a pesky habit of telling me how beautiful and talented my older sisters were. "It's not my turn yet..." I'd tell myself. But then when I seemed to be the correct age for it to be my turn, people started telling me all about my little sister! I was shook. I was supposed to be the "prettier than"/"more talented than"/"special-er than" one! But, no. Nope. Not my turn... And maybe never my turn?

It was such a silly thing, and so much stress over utter ridiculousness. Why on earth did I care? And it didn't help a ton that my best friends growing up tended to be many/all of the following: skinny, witty, competetive, talented, and beautiful. (And occasionally mean, depending on the "era," as it were). I felt awkward among them because I was a curvy, people-pleasing, shy and insecure kid. I decided making people laugh was my only chance at being likeable (since being deemed "pretty" and "talented" by my peers seeemed to be so simultaneously important and impossible for me). I had decent experience being funny-ish, after years of trying to make my older brother and my younger sister laugh. And in my adolescent years, being the funny, "smart-ass" (pardon my French) friend, as I was often referred to, suited me well. Different expectations are placed upon the "smart-ass." I wasn't pressured in the same way that other friends of mine were. I could fly under the radar among the bustling crowd. I accepted the "Chanel 5"/"Chanel 3" position. (Have you seen Scream Queens?! I've only seen the first season, but oh man... It's entertaining. And it also calls attention to the nonsense of popularity/beauty/competition over shallow things). I've never been a Chanel or a Chanel 2. Or, if Scream Queens references aren't your jam, maybe Mean Girls? I accepted the "always a Karen/Gretchen, never a Regina" position.

Honestly, thank goodness my family moved to Utah when we did. Having grown up primarily in Alaska, I was thrown into a completely different cultural standard by moving to such a different place. The people surrounding me now were generally kind-ish, but sort of not? (Utah is lovely in many ways, but several people here operate in a very back-handed and passive-aggressive nature. Adjusting to a High School environment packed with that at 16 was far from a joy). My humor was too mean for these people to handle. I did not look like I had any older siblings who worked as beauticians. I was not tan, nor bleached, nor did my hair resemble in any way alien Britney's 'do in the "Oops I Did It Again" music video. I thought the term "sloughing school" was stupid. I thought the term "what the crap?" was stupid. I thought seminary buildings next door to high school buildings was a little much. I started to resemble Katerina Stratford from "10 Things I Hate About You" (especially once my little sister began to thrive in her middle school environment and began resembling Bianca Stratford - it was too perfect). That jolting move to a new state robbed me of my comfort zone of powerful friends who already accepted me and thought I was funny. Now I was just a blank canvas who couldn't hide the insecurity and awkwardness I felt so plagued by. I blanched and basically just started glaring at people a lot and never took my coat off. My little sister told me once that she'd been hanging out with a group of older boys (boys my age) and when they realized who she was describing as her older sister, they said "YOUR SISTER IS THE ALASKAN ASSASSIN?!" To be quite honest, as much as it meant that a lot of people who I didn't know at all thought I was super-weird, I kind of loved that nick-name. And the Kat Stratford resemblance. I felt so free of needing to be pretty, because suddenly the beauty standards were no longer a norm to me. The beauty standards were weird, and people in Utah were going to judge you no matter what you looked like, for one reason or another. I was such a grump, but I felt so free during that time.

That freedom propelled me into becoming involved in whatever I wanted, and no longer attempting to fit into other "socially expected" groups (I had attempted cheerleading once upon a time. Woof). I actually thrived when I let go of needing the approval of the crowd. I recall, as a kid, feeling a certain expectation on my shoulders to be nominated for some dance royalty during my high school years. (My Mom had been nominated for Prom Queen, as had my eldest sister, and my other older sister had been nominated for Homecoming Royalty). Well that didn't happen. But I was in a couple of musicals, and I discovered talents and strengths that I had previously struggled to believe in. I made friends who I am happy to see now, when I see them (as rare as it may be, unfortunately). Perhaps that was a part of my non-desire to attend my Ten Year High School Reunion. My high school experience actually taught me that I didn't need that. I didn't need validation from my past peers that I'd really become something special. And I didn't need to see them in order to remember that I loved them. (Moving at 16 years old had also taught me that you can let go and still love those you've left behind.) My experiences surrounded by people clamouring for whatever their notion of "the gold" was had taught me to love "the silver" prize. I think I learned so much more by never really seeing myself as the top/best/special-est person around. Maybe I always liked silver more, or maybe it represents this okay-ness with not being some sort of "Regina George," but regardless, I'm super grateful for all the not-gold (and for the glimmers of gold here and there instead) in my life.

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