I’m not a great beauty. So what?
“Will you go out with me?” George asks from under his fringe. I stare at him, dubiously. Even at 11, I’d learnt to be cautious playing this game. I say yes, largely out of curiosity. He shrieks with laughter. Ah. The joke was me.
I found out the hard way that I wasn’t pretty, like Daddy said. Frizzy dark hair, wide big eyes and a deeply unsaxon nose made me an easy target for unkind boys. Vampire. Hermione. Alien. Freak. I was devastated. What was a girl who wasn’t beautiful? I was the plain servant girl the camera brushes past in the credits. Even today, my boyfriend calls me froglet. I’m amusingly average.
It took me a while to like my face. I’m unorthodox. I like my strong bone structure. I love the white of my eyes when I pull a face. I’m proud of my small, cynical mouth. I look like me. In every group photo, I’m the odd one. That’s cool. Memorable. Expressive.
Even if I didn’t, my face was never my selling point. I can write. I can sing. I can dance. I can play the piano. I’m academic. I can act. I can even make you laugh, on a good day. I am an ideal Victorian Lady. I can even speak a little Yiddish and German. I can do everything a plain man can do. Not being a great beauty isn’t a tragedy.
Was it so great to be the sexy one, anyway? The dazzling femme fatale men drooled over behind her back? I like men who take the time to engage with me on my knowledge of Hellenic theology, Gilgamesh, etymology or selective phenotypes. Failing that, just the latest Boris faux pas. Even that book you read in Barcelona. Talk to me. There is a brain in this body and not having an exterior that distracts from that is often liberating.
Fine. I’ll admit one small sadness. I’m not going to play Cinderella, Cathy Earnshaw, Esmeralda or Stella Dubois anytime soon, even with the most abstract of directors.
But I will have interesting friends, boyfriends who actually love me, and I might be given an interesting part instead of a bimbo. Who knows, maybe I’ll write the screenplay someday.
No doors shut for this dame.