I’ve Never Once Felt Beautiful

I’m every Jewish mother’s dream. I’ve basically been waiting my whole life for the right guy to scoop me up and begin our grand romance. I daydreamed that my parents and his would go on double dates, how we’d laugh at the altas but secretly just think the whole thing was adorable. It should be so easy, right? I mean, both of my brothers are happily married.

In my dream world, I’m also at my goal weight. Herein lies the issue.

Look, I’m gonna be blunt: My figure is rather zaftig — and by that I mean bigger. There are parts of my body that I obsess over. I can’t wear all the things I’d like to because they don’t look good on me. I’ve essentially been on a diet since I was 12 years old and my father told me that no guy would want to date a fat girl. As cruel as that sounds, in my experience, that’s been proven true time and time again. As bright, witty, and charismatic as I am, none of that comes across if you see me in a crowded room. No matter how great my manners are or how funny I am, I haven’t met someone who cares about those factors, at least more than they care about my appearance.

We all know we live in a manufactured society where so much of beauty is fake — whether by Photoshop or plastic surgery. Women should feel proud and beautiful no matter what they look like. Still, we look to impossible paramours to tell us our worth. The truth is that the average American woman is a size 16, not a 12 or 14, and definitely not a 6. It seems that most men aren’t looking for “average” or even realistic. We hear it over and over again that our self-esteem should take priority, but it doesn’t mean any of us actually believe that. Joan Rivers made a whole career out of men not wanting to sleep with her! It isn’t just size, though; it is any sort of imperfection that somehow make a woman undateable.

I’ve never once felt beautiful. Sure, I’ve had days when my hair looked good or my makeup looked nice, but I’ve never felt confident. When I see myself in the mirror, I look fine or okay. Even when I get dolled up, all I feel is, “this is as good as it gets.” There are many, many articles telling women to be proud of themselves, that try to teach self-esteem, but I don’t believe it is something that can be taught. I’m confident in every other aspect of myself other than my appearance. I imagine a lot of women feel the same.

I don’t just feel this way when it comes to finding a boyfriend, I feel this way in regards to employment, too. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ve been turned down from jobs based on my physical appearance. Sure, a company shouldn’t judge someone on their appearance but they do. Just recently, the Midwest Writers Workshop showed concretely that this is a practice that happens. Activist and self-identified “fat writer” Sarah Hollowell, who’d started as an intern but advanced to supervisor, was unable to secure a role on the organizational committee because of one board member’s fatphobic attitude. Roxane Gay, the famed author, had a thread on Twitter about the incident, mentioning that someone said, “do we really want someone like her representing us?” and that Hollowell was not invited to the board “because of her body.” The board member in question was later fired and the director of MWW plans to meet with Hollowell, but the fact is that this kind of incident isn’t rare.

Recently I’ve been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone to attend Jewish parties and events with the hopes of meeting someone. I always thought that a nice Jewish boy would be able to see beyond the physical. I assumed that with the traditions and family values established in our people, I’d be able to impress the right guy. I’m prime Jewess — I have everything that a man should be looking for, except I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model. There has to be some mensch out there who will like me as I am or, at least, support the person I’m trying to become, right? So far, no luck. It seems Jewish men are just as shallow as the rest. I forced myself to approach guy after guy, to try to entice them with wit, but as soon as a skinnier girl walked by, I was chopped liver. What are women supposed to think?

My best friend has told me that she wishes everyone saw me the way that she does, which is wonderful, but a pipe dream. I believe that women should be proud of themselves at any size, but I’m not. Part of that is that way society views women, and part of that is just my drive to better myself. I go to the gym almost every day. I acknowledge that part of my issue is my confidence. I have to believe if I saw myself the way my best friend does, I would be able to stop feeling like some sort of social pariah. I’m not the type of person to give up, but I think I have to focus on myself for a bit before I can let myself worry about anyone else.

Image via Flickr/andrew leahey

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