04 December 2016

On Being a Happily Unsexy Penguin

A Yo Yo Ma concert is a weird place to realize you’ll never be sexy.

I mean. I’m not sure there’s a really normal place to have that thought? And I’m not sure what sort of thoughts classical cello is meant to inspire. Nevertheless.

The thought itself wasn’t Bach-related. There was a stunningly beautiful woman seated ahead of SadistFaction and I. She seemed more interested in taking selfies than in the music, which bugged me, but it bugged me in different way than the guy on the other side of me texting did, which is how I knew I was jealous.  She carried herself with the full knowledge of her beauty, a degree of confidence that felt shocking and invasive to me. Tight pants, and a bra peeking out from under a fitted blazer with just one button done up. Sweet Jesus. As a queer, insecure girl, when looking at a woman like that the line between attraction and envy for me can be so fine I never know what side I’m on (the real answer, of course, is that I’m usually straddling it). I looked at her, and I thought… “Damn. I could never be like that.”

When I say I’ll never be sexy, I don’t mean, of course, that I don’t think anyone will ever want sex with me. I don’t even mean that I don’t think anyone checks me out, or likes it when I post scantily clad photos. But when I try to be consciously sexy – the pout, the posture – I am trying. Hard. It is an effort. And more often than not, I’m asked instead… “Why aren’t you smiling? You’re cuter when you smile.”

And I am, you know. Super cute. Devastatingly cute. Lovers fall prostrated before my cuteness, dontcha know. I can be hot, too. I have some low-cut tops and some bras that create a truly glorious illusion of cleavage. I have serious hips, hips that don’t lie, hips that if they knock you down, you stay down.

But sexy? I’ve wanted to be sexy since well before it was a healthy idea/ideal for me to be aiming toward. I tried being thin, and being overeager. I tried being innocent, and I’ve tried being bold. And every time, it was like putting on a skin that didn’t fit. And I thought I just needed to try harder.

That’s not the answer, though. There’s not a magical weight, a magical amount of self-confidence, or a magical posture. I am not sexy, in the same way that I am not athletic. I can work hard and trick people’s perceptions for a moment, in the same way that I can run fast for terribly short distances.

I used to sob after gym class, every time, because I was not used to failure. I worked so hard, but my body is meant for other things (tripping while walking *up* stairs, primarily.) For years, as a competitive, people-pleasing perfectionist, this devastated me. My brain could always do anything I asked it to. Why couldn’t my body?

Eventually, though, I accepted that I could be a klutz, a dork, a graceless penguin, and… I could still do sports (I mean, not a lot, as evidenced by the expression “do sports”). Actually, when I stopped pressuring myself, they started being kind of fun. Did you know that if you can laugh when you accidentally hit yourself in the head with a tennis racket instead of hitting the ball – and yes, I’ve done that – it becomes funny instead of embarrassing?

I need to learn to laugh at myself more. That’s never been my strong suit, but unlike innate sexiness, I’m fairly sure it’s an attainable goal. I need to learn that if I’m happiest when dressed like my Hard Femme Pretty Princess self, combat boots and flowery tights and 50s dress, then that’s when I’m my best self. I need to learn that appreciating what I have is healthier than bemoaning what I don’t.

They took pictures of us at work recently for our website, and we just got them back. I hated mine. It was taken from alarmingly close-up (like, do people checking out my office online need to see my pores?), and I thought I looked a bit like a chipmunk with too many chins storing nuts for the winter. I asked a co-worker what she thought, cringing as I waited to hear the bad news.

“Oh my god, your smile is amazing!” she said. “You have a smile that makes me feel like you’re everyone’s friend!”


I think I’ll leave the sexy pouting to the professionals.

With great love,


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