Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Am Beautiful: Why Famed Artist Kate Carroll Has Had It With Me.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” ~Marilyn Monroe

Oh, I'm imperfect alright. Just read the posts where I ramble off the lists of everything wrong with me, inside and out. And madness is my trademark and albatross, though it's kinda charming. And I am anything but boring yet frequently ridiculous. So I have to love this quote from Marilyn Monroe, widely considered one of world history's most beautiful women.

After my best friend, Kate, dyed her hair blond and her stylist tried to cut it in a Monroe style which Kate did NOT want, she grew it back out and now it thickly flows around her face like liquid gold. We all consider Monroe to be beautiful but it doesn't mean we all want to be a size 16 with chin-length, bobby curled hair from the mid 1960's. A lot of women hate Kate, because she's not only brilliantly talented and intellectual, but she's also gorgeous and on top of it all, really fucking nice. She commands attention in a room and is extremely self-confident. She set her sights on her handsome, young Russian professor at Harvard and despite having another boyfriend at the time (or fiance, I forget), she's been married to him for 23 years.

Kate doesn't categorically like other women very much. Neither do I, quite frankly. (Most of the moms at Luke's school hate me. Probably because all the dads seem to love me.) She stumbled upon an interesting fact the other day. Any woman she truly respects, and totally gets along with, happens to be a recovering alcoholic. "What does that say about me?" she asked me. I'm not exactly sure, other than being a recovering alcoholic is a mark of strength and fortitude, and being outspoken about it is a sign of courage and self-confidence, characteristics in other women that Kate does admire. It's the self-confidence problem I have with which Kate takes serious issue and isn't afraid to call me out on.

I like this picture of myself on the beach from my trip to Florida in '09 with Chris, though I've lost more weight since it was taken. It was the first time I'd seen the ocean in my whole life. I like the photograph not because it shows off my figure, but because I'm standing in a confident pose, though I still didn't feel beautiful. I'm looking out at all the possibility in the infinite universe and soaking it all in. I was a year sober in that picture, weeks away from being medicated for bipolar disorder properly, and days away from starting my job at the medical practice. Well on my way to becoming a highly functioning adult for the first time in my life.

I was in love with Chris, and finally got the balls at the end of that trip to tell my supposedly exclusive boyfriend that I deserved his love to be mine, and that meant he had to ditch the 19-year old French college student he was romancing, gifting and sexing from a distance on the side via cyber and phone that I hated and felt in constant competition with. I'm no provincial prude, and free love and all that, and I'm the female version of Woody Allen these days in terms of not giving a damn who I choose to love, but I was done competing for his affections with a girl half my age just so he could assert his own manhood and feed his ego and soothe his own insecurities. (Two months later, he would break up with me, though we continued to see one another, though less often, for another year and a half, on his terms and conditions and things were never the same. I would later retaliate by accepting the romantic affections of someone else once Chris decided to date other people while still dating me, which I had every right to do, and that landed me dealing with his violent jealousy. Incidentally, the French girl later decided she was a lesbian, so way to go, Chris!) Looking out at the ocean, I finally decided to stand up for myself. It didn't get me very far.

Kate and I were talking the other night about my supposed resemblance to Ringo Starr, referenced in the blog I wrote about all of my rings. That I wrote that Ringo and I were both so ugly (I edited it and changed it to "unconventionally attractive" after our conversation) that we were downright adorable. Kate was tired of it. Hearing about it. Reading about it. Me insisting I was ugly when she insisted I was gorgeous. I just didn't see it. She made her point on the phone the other night when I was reading to her some of the blog entry paragraphs on how I perceive the way I look and what I thought of myself and about my apparent lack of my sense of physical beauty.

Kate challenged me about it. I honestly couldn't come up with a believable excuse as to why I thought of myself as unattractive. Kate thought I was full of shit. This list I came up with myself later, sans Kate's input: I have huge green eyes with gold flecks in them that radiate in the sunshine. I have an enviable (yet kinda too thin, medically) body for an almost 40-year old still with requisite curves in the right places. I have great hair (as previously mentioned). I have dimples when I smile. I'm starting to get laugh lines and crow's feet, but that just shows that I've smiled and laughed a lot in life. I have long, thin legs (like my mother used to have) and what's left of my butt is decent. I have a natural chest that a lot of women pay $7000 to artificially have implanted. That's on the outside. On the inside, I'm smart. I'm all of those things I list on my profile on the right of my blog. I am Andrea Caroline Miklasz, much more than a half-loony bipolar addict/alcoholic.

I've just always thought of myself as an ugly duckling. I couldn't get a date in high school. The only date I went on was to a Girls' Choice Dance, where I asked this band/drama geek Italian guy on whom I had a crush, only for the evening to go completely flat and for nothing to ever bloom. Another guy I was in love from afar for years told everyone on the bus home sophomore year that I gave him gas and hated me. The senior soccer player I adored as a freshman thought I was nuts for following him around like a puppy. The edgy heavy metal rocker who was really shy and afraid of girls said no when I asked him to Homecoming senior year, only for us to reunite 20 years later in an unlikely situation recently, whereupon he apologized for saying no to the dance, and though he was still single, rejected me again. The Cuban who looked exactly like Al Franken liked me enough after vying for his attention in Spanish class for most of my senior year, but our personalities were like oil and water and we couldn't mesh at all and things fell apart pretty quickly. Thinking back, I had an attraction to shy guys in general, most of whom probably just didn't know what to do with me.

Once I blossomed a little in college, cut my long 80'as hair and developed my own non-Park Ridge, urban non-style, guys started paying more attention to me, though I still wasn't exactly the pick of the litter. I allowed myself to be taken advantage of by a few drunken fraternity guys who at least planted a kiss on me, though they were uniformly all pretty gross, or sleazy, or too drunk to care (remember that line, "Everyone's attractive after 2am?").

College, though, was life-altering. People liked you and based their opinion of you on more than just your physical appearance. It was where people started noticing me for my soul instead of my face, or worse yet, my big rack. Once I finally had a boyfriend, Craig, it seemed, everyone wanted to date me. I couldn't imagine why; I was kinda chunky and had crooked teeth (which I still do, which I can't help but they're part of what make me ME) and acne and my father's chin. Even given that, though, nobody else looked like me (unless you count my mother, who was widely considered stunning as both a young woman and at my age now). That much I recognized. There were plenty of sorority girls who all resembled one another, plenty of preppy, cookie-cutter types floating around, and all the athletic girls looked alike, but the artists/writers/musicians all looked like true originals and didn't conform to any given type of appearance. Knox being a progressive, liberal arts college, one thing you were taught outside the rudimentary requisites of your textbook education, was how to be comfortable being yourself, in whatever form that appeared.

At best, as I told Kate on the phone the other night, I guessed, I was "cute." "Cute?" Kate said. "You're not cute. Crafts are cute. (Kate hates arts & crafts, as a serious artist.) You're not CUTE. You're BEAUTIFUL." She laughed at me. She thought me crazy. She felt compelled to remind me that one of the men who loves me with passion could literally have any woman he chose, is slammingly gorgeous and a genius, and is encountered by literally hundreds of "cute" girls every day, yet he chose me as his muse. (Unfortunately, our situation is sort of pragmatically impossible, though insanely romantic, the kind of situation that follows me around like white on rice, for while his heart is torn into pieces, of which he makes no bones, he belongs to someone else.)

"And that other one?" Kate said. "He's so crazy about you, he'll do literally anything you tell him to. THAT guy's your slave," she said, laughing. (No, he's not my "slave." He's just very accommodating to what I ask of him because he's a nice fella. I sort of hate the word "slave" since it was the identity Chris assigned me when we were together, and I don't want to be associated with it anymore.) I knew who she was talking about. I told her before that I have literally no idea if he finds me physically attractive or not, because I guess he doesn't feel allowed an opinion. He's never said either way, other than to compliment me politely when I look nice. She said he's insecure himself and reminded me of a story I told her months ago where I misheard something he said and I thought he said he was "ugly," not "juggling," and he blurted out that he looked in the mirror and routinely thought he was ugly. "He's very confident professionally," I said. "Yeah but fuck that," Kate said (paraphrasing), "Trust me, he wonders what YOU see in HIM, not the other way around." That may very well be true, I don't know. (This is the guy friend my new therapist blurted out and asked me if I was sleeping with on Friday, to which I replied, "OH GOD NO." To be honest, I don't think of him in that way, though objectively, there's something cute about him. (In this regard, Catholics would blame Vatican II. Progressive intellectuals would blame La Douleur Exquise.)

I got an email on Facebook a long time ago from one of my Knox male admirers, who came out and said "We didn't date in college WHY, exactly?" to which I replied, "Two words. Craig Bechtel." Before Craig and I decided to marry, and we took a very short break to date around a little (well, I dated around anyway. Craig sat and waited patiently for me to come back, which I did in a month or 2.), I became friends with a gorgeous German pre-med student, who I'm still proud to say I deflowered (separate story). Had life turned out differently and I hadn't married Craig, perhaps today I'd be a surgeon's wife in Austria. But frankly, I'm completely glad things turned out the way they did. I'm glad I chose Craig, for if there was no Craig and Annie, there'd be no Luke, and that would be royally sucky.

It'll take a while to look in the mirror and replace what could be labeled as body dysmorphic disorder clinically and see a thin, beautiful woman instead of having visions of myself still weighing 200 lbs and pinching my thighs, thinking they're fat, when they're totally not (just not toned per se) though as I said above, I do recognize some of my attractive physical attributes. But I think I'm ready to release that lifelong label of ugly and start appreciating my outward as well as inward beauty, largely thanks to other strong, confident women like Kate.

Being the Christian Hindu with Buddhist Tendencies that I am, I have to agree with the Buddha on the following, about how you feel about yourself: "You, yourself, as much as anybody in the Universe, deserve your love and affection."


Kate said...

This woman is so beautiful , so talented, so open minded , and has the best sense of humor I have ever seen , I am happy she is finally seeing herself the way all the rest of us do.

Annie Miklasz, Offbeat Drumming Lunatic said...

If not for you, Kate, I would still be hiding under the ugly duckling protective wing. So thank you.