Am I Unattractive or Unapproachable?

I’m sure a vast number of women (and men) have asked themselves this at some point. Honestly, I think I know the answer for myself–both.

Yes, I have pretty severe body dysmorphia; I spend copious amounts of time inspecting my face in mirrors, going over what I think is wrong with it. One of my eyebrows is slightly higher than the other, my nose is too wide for my face, I have low cheekbones, no jawline, my eyes are too small, my upper lip is too thin, my skin is flawed. The discrepancy go on and on with my face and my body. What I would give to not have the shoulders of a linebacker…

My self-esteem has gotten worse with each year. With each week, really. To be honest, I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but 23 has been the age I’ve experienced the lowest self-esteem of all time. When I look for books to possibly aid me, they really don’t delve into physical self-esteem issues; it’s almost entirely about emotional self-esteem issues. And no, I am not one hundred percent confident in that area either, but I am extremely confident about who I am as a person. I know my values, I know I’m intellectual and intelligent. I’m rational yet also emotional. I’m good at communication. I know I’m talented and capable, and I’m a great friend. I know my self-worth.

Except not when it comes to how I look, which seems to trump everything else.

It’s difficult to feel confident in how I look for a lot of reasons. I’ve analyzed my appearance with such scrutiny, and I’ve found “rational” explanations to explain why I’m so unattractive. And yes, my friends occasionally try to tell me otherwise, but they’re biased because they think my personality and who I am is attractive–not necessarily how I look. Also, throughout my entire life, no one ever told me I was attractive. Distant relatives and friends of my parents would comment on my brother and I and they would automatically declare that he was attractive. Me? I honestly can’t recall ever hearing that from anyone. It probably didn’t help that throughout childhood and adolescence, my brother actively berated me about being unattractive.

No one’s ever really complimented me (and it happens very rarely now–although I do have one friend to thank for telling me I look nice ever now and again), so I find it hard to believe.

I also know I’m unapproachable. I definitely have “resting bitch face.” In fact, I’ve had multiple people tell me I actually look like I’m on the verge of murder. At the very least, I know I look angry a lot of the time. Everyone I’ve ever become friends with has told me that before I actually talked to them (and sometimes after), they thought I didn’t like them and that I would be an unpleasant person.

Last night my friend and I went out for St. Patrick’s Day–sort of. I got looped into it, but I was glad I was sober for the multiple and extensive interactions with new people.

Soon after sitting myself down outside, I lit a cigarette and silently observed my over-stimulating surroundings: two very drunk girls standing next to me, a group of well-dressed men smoking a blunt on the other side of the picnic table, a man climbing a hardened snowbank to write something in chalk on the cement wall. A guy sat down across from me, and we made eye contact, so I gave him the inverted head-nod gesture. You know, when you quickly jerk your jaw forward in recognition? That’s usually what I do.

He was also silent, and out of my peripheral vision I caught him shooting me glances quite a bit. Eventually he asked me, “How are you?” I replied with, “I’m alright. How are you?” to which he responded, “Are you sure you’re alright?”

I laughed. “I’m alright,” I assured him. I knew why he was asking–I looked fucking pissed. “I use anger as a defense mechanism.”

We sat in silence again until I asked what was going on with him. It didn’t take me long to realize he was plastered. At one point he asked if I was single, to which I said yes. He asked why and I said, “Have you seen my demeanor?”

Nevertheless, I was happy to have talked to my new and very drunk friend.

Later in the night, my friend and I sat around the fire pit. Two of her friends had joined us as well. A bearded man in a short-sleeve button-up sat down next to my friend.

Listen, I actually love meeting new people, but I’m usually unwilling to break the ice–mostly, if not entirely, due to how I feel about the way I look. This guy eventually broke the ice for us by asking my friend what she studied at school. Then he asked her female friend. He didn’t ask me. So my friend came to my rescue and told him which school I go to, and then he asked what I studied and what I wanted to do.

It’s being an afterthought that really makes me feel hurt. It’s a pattern, and it’s a shitty one.

Soon it became just myself, my friend, and this man. The three of us talked, and we were both enthralled by his personal life for a few very specific reasons. I thought, “This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to a man like this” so I decided that no matter what, I would ask for his phone number. I ended up asking to add him on Facebook, since that seemed more approachable (ah! That word). He seemed to happily agree to this and added the two of us. He also invited us to a party he’s having this weekend.

As the three of us were talking, a young man, extremely plastered, sat down next to our new friend. He asked the names of us “ladies.” After my friend introduced herself, he repeated her name and said “pretty” and licked his lips. Then I said my name. Boom. Not a person of interest, clearly.

We parted ways with our new friend as the lights of the bar came on and the bouncer shooed us out (although he seemed genuinely pleased that I wished him a good night; I’m sure it was a tough night for him). As I stepped outside, a dude said, “Hey girl” but I honestly don’t know if he was talking to my friend or myself.

As I pulled the car up, a man driving by honked at my friend.

Okay, I’m not wishing for myself to be sexually harassed in any way, but I’m the only female I know who hasn’t been (insert laugh track here).

And now I have this party to figure out. My friend actually can’t go, so I have to fly solo. And there’s no fucking way I’m gonna be sober for it, so I’ll have to shell out money for an uber. But that’s not the problem. The problem is, I’ll be alone. I’ve never been to a party myself. That’s terrifying enough, but even more terrifying is the fact that I barely know the host.

However, I’m very much into the host. It may be a little rash to declare that, but the more we talked with him, the more I realized how much I was aroused by him. It didn’t help that he put on an incredible red velvet blazer as we exited. What a dreamboat. Viewing his Facebook photos sealed the deal. Well, for me anyway.

Basically, I can’t determine if he was more into my friend than me. I would guess that he probably was. I just imagine him being disappointed that she didn’t show up. Also, I don’t flirt well. I never do it consciously and when it does happen inadvertently, I’m usually extremely aggressive or become a little self-deprecating to try and avoid actually becoming flirtatious.

This is a conundrum. And I don’t have therapy again until after the party happens, but perhaps that’s a good thing. I don’t know how to end this post–I guess my original statement still stands. The answer is both.

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Dear D

I’m pegging our first interaction as you complimenting my pink sweater in what I think was 8th grade. I recall debugging you in my own reserved, shy way. Fast forward to a year later; we’re holding hands in the middle of the mall.

You were the first friend I loved while also knowing what love means.

Our high school days were full of teenage angst, mood swings, but most importantly, the hundreds of folded pieces of loose leaf paper scribbled with blue pen. Doodles of characters you made up, the never-ending song lyrics that I had memorized; talk of boys, teachers we didn’t like, spiralling emotions. God, we were the epitome of outcast teenage girls.

I don’t know why the universe treated you so poorly. From the moment you were conceived, you were doomed. And, unlike adults with choices, you were a child and you were helpless. You were flung into a household that denied you love and spoonfed you dirt and lies. I’m sorry for the time you hid under the house in the dark. I’m sorry for all the wails against your body. I’m sorry for all the times the people you were bound to by blood turned their back on you and ignored your pleas, your whimpering eyes.

There was one day in February when we were sitting in Dunkin Donuts and you were wearing the hot pink hoodie I had given you. You started crying.

You were in the habit of lying face down on your bed and texting boys until you fell asleep. Shit, I tried to tell you. Not so much in words, I’m sure, but I tried to tell you that you deserved better than to get fucked from behind outside the public library. You deserved better. You wanted love. And they just fucking preyed on that.

God, we had good fucking times. Remember when I ran out of pot and we smoked catnip? Our weed connections were few and far between. I loved smoking with you. I wish I could remember it all, but I remember very little of it. But it brings me a bittersweet feeling.

You always wanted a baby. And now you have one. A little girl. Shit. I knew it would happen but I always hoped it wouldn’t.

Please tell me you haven’t forgotten taking a pregnancy test in my bathroom when you were 16.

Please tell me you haven’t forgotten all the obscene doodles that I would see once I unfolded the pieces of paper.

You must remember when you got shit-faced for the first time on vodka and pissed on your hamster’s grave and I tricked you into drinking water.

I dreamed about you the other night–I know it was a dream, because if it was real life, I don’t know how I would react to you. But in the dream, you were happy. You weren’t doing anything “amazing,” but you were happy. No baby. It was truly like seeing an old friend.

I think about you for a while, and then I don’t for a while.

You’ll always have a place in my heart.

 

Drunk, After Party

I’m a solo cup of rum and butter and cider in and I feel the warmth hit my stomach like a bomb.

I just can’t escape the trenches.

I ask her, “Do you want to leave?” because, despite her sobriety, she’s nodding off on the damp stoop.

“I’m fine,” she says. That’s all she ever says.

So, okay, I go beer after beer deep.

On my third (?), a tall lanky guy who introduces himself as _____ stops in front of us. I first notice his costume; mistake it as Waldo “humping” a leprechaun but he corrects me–he’s riding a leprechaun. He comments on my t-shirt, he asks what I thought about the remake. We talk. He seems stable. Nice. Sober, because he has to drive an hour and a half home.

“You drove over an hour for this?” I ask.

Fast-forward.

The warm feeling has burned out but the inebriation in my brain is full force. I’m socially lubricated and my body is loose. I’m leaning against the wall, I’m laughing at stupid things I overhear. I’m talking to a kid who is younger than me but graduated with a four-year degree sooner than me. We went to high school together. I’m friends with his ex. I have reason to dislike him; I do dislike him.  Yet, his stupid banter and commonality between academia is much needed at this time in the night. Him and his girlfriend are even more of a social lubricant.

“Gangster.”

“Can I buy a cig off you?”

“Mugwort.”

“The competitor of Uber.”

They start playing a live rendition of “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer and I tap my foot against the stoop.

My old neighbor, younger than me, probably has an IQ of 150, has travelled all over the world, is as lifeless as I remember him being even back when we were small and played house and I got a mouthful of sand and dirt in my mouth and he kissed me.

His house was full of secrets and dimness and smelled like sugared cereal.

I have moments of introspective drunkenness.

It hurts. Vaguely.

My ex-neighbor sort of encourages me to take a Jello shot. Sure, I’m all about having more vivid dreams. I like to remember pain. I usually forget. I swallow a slice of clementine. The Jello is slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and a vivid orange. Where’s Waldo joins me–this pleases me.

I feel dumb.

She and I go back out for one last smoke. I tell her, I’ll talk to him before we leave. Before we leave, though, he’s walking out and we’re telling him to have a good night.

There’s a certain kind of loneliness the stems from being intoxicated, even if you’re having a good time. There’s a moment–perhaps you’re in the bathroom, or you’re having a cigarette, or reaching into the fridge for another beer, or standing against the wall. But it’s there. It reaches up into your  brain and tugs on your flaws, your insecurities, your hopes, your dead dreams.

In two years, two months, two weeks, two days, two hours, this moment, this night, this experience–it will not matter.

 

Down in the gutter.

It’s always a little disappointing when someone asks I am and they immediately disregard what I’ve said and delve into a whole spiel about their own misfortunes, in this case, something I’ve been hearing about for a long time. To me, the solution is simple.

The terrible rap music pulsates against my eardrums, gyrates in my skull. It is not fitting for my defeated and agitated mood and I’m tempted to change it but what would be the point? It’s only four more minutes out of…

I hear the word “boyfriend,” in a vapid attempt to relate to my expression of loneliness and dissatisfaction, and I literally roll my eyes to the roof of the car.

It’s a good thing that it’s dark outside.

“He’s a bum,” I want to say. She’s said it herself. I’ve agreed. But I still want to say those exact words in a bitter yet confident tone. I don’t want to say it to be cruel. I want to say it because I know she can do better.

Because, honestly, he’s like all those empty beer cans he’s probably recycled for five cents apiece.

I know this person. I know him very well. I know his manipulations and pathetic attachments and inability to help himself, or perhaps, his lack of desire to help himself. I know he will drag himself into the ground, and, if she’s not careful, she will be dragged down with him.

As she said, “I put up with everything.”

“Settle Down, Wikipedia.”

My best friend said this to me last night after I told her I think she has chronic bronchitis. It’s like a compliment wrapped up in a slight insult, but regardless, sometimes I feel like the “Wikipedia” in the friendship. I have an array, not a wide one but an array nonetheless, of information about psychology, drugs, literature, art, biology, and a few other things, including information pertaining to the LGBT+ community, since, well, I’m a part of this community.

My best friend is transgender, yet she’s always been adamant about not being a part of her own community. She doesn’t care about any of the LGBT+ issues. What worries me the most though, is that as a transgender person, she doesn’t care about the issues that pertain directly to her.

I was just watching an estrogen update video by a MTF (male-to-female) YouTuber I watch. She talked about the emotional swings caused by the hormonal changes, weight gain, the beginning growth of breasts, and also her intent to get SRS (sex reassignment surgery). She lives in Canada, but in order to not be on an extremely long wait list, the cost out of pocket for her is about $80,000. That’s a lot of money to come from one person so she did something many trans people have to do, which was to set up a GoFundMe page.

The point of this retelling is, I don’t think, in fact, I know, that my best friend doesn’t have a grasp on reality. Despite presenting herself as a woman since middle school, she didn’t even make an appointment for a consultation (the very first baby step) for hormones until this past November, at the ripe old age of 20. And this wasn’t until after meeting the only other transgender person she’s ever met, my friend Lauren.

I don’t know why my best friend has waited so long to even make the first step. Her body and facial hair are some of her biggest confidence issues, as well as her broad shoulders. The longer she waits, the more “manly” she will become, which is why I’ve been slowly urging her more and more to make these steps. I’m glad she finally made the call for the consultation, but I also worry she thinks hormones will fix everything, when they won’t. She’ll probably need to get laser treatment if she ever wants to completely get rid of her body and facial hair. And I don’t know if she’s ready for all the other effects of estrogen, like the YouTuber mentioned, such as mood swings.

Another thing I’m worried about is her not grasping how much of all of this will cost her. We live in the United States, so she’ll be paying out of pocket, to some degree, for almost everything. I know she wants to just wake up with a vagina one day, but that’s not reality. First there’s hormones. You’re on hormones for a while. Then there’s expensive top surgery. Perhaps laser hair removal sometime in between. Then complete SRS surgery, which will be extremely expensive. Then the management of the surgery, including dilation of the newly formed vagina.

I’m not transgender and yet I know all of this and she knows none of it. That’s what scares me. My best friend has distanced herself from our city’s large and friendly LGBT+ community and therefore distanced herself from friends and resources and knowledge.

This isn’t meant to be a rant about my best friend’s ignorance, although I think, undoubtedly, that’s what I’ll call her attitude. It’s a post about my concerns, which I have expressed to her to some degree.

I may be her Wikipedia, but unless you utilize the information you get from me, I’m useless.

-Zara

Megan’s Birthday

My good friend Megan’s birthday is actually the 30th, but she, Susanna, Bennett and I planned to celebrate as a group Friday night. I spent close to an hour making Megan’s card, drawing Caterpie, Metapod, and Butterfree (her favorite Pokemon) in colored pencil and writing a heartfelt note. As Bennett prepared her classic meal of chicken Parmesan, Megan opened her gifts, expressing adoration for the card. I also got her a cherry-flavored penis-shaped lollipop, raspberry-flavored lube, and a rare and very adorable Butterfree-shaped coin purse. The lollipop actually tasted like the coating of a candy apple and the lube tasted like synthetic raspberry. Susanna got her Freddie Mercury’s “Mr. Bad Guy” on vinyl, and Bennett got her some thrifted books and a fuzzy cat pin.

The meal was good, as Bennett’s chicken Parmesan is always delightful. Immediately after, Megan and I did some shots of vodka. I planned on getting shitfaced. Eventually Susanna and Bennett went into the basement to play pool, so Megan and I stayed in the kitchen sipping mixed drinks. The alcohol was seeping into my system now, with me slurring my words and coherent sentences becoming more difficult to form. Megan asked if I wanted to go into the hot tub, to which I replied ecstatically. We quickly put on swim suits and grabbed towels and I made two more mixed drinks for us.

“We always talked about going into the hot tub during winter and we never did it, but we’re finally doing it,” I said to Megan as we stepped into the porch, my heels hanging over the backs of her moccasins.

Despite the frigid temperature of the air and the fresh snow melting under my feet, I felt warm. We used what upper-body strength we both possessed to hoist the cover off of the tub and I situated the little step in front of it, climbing up and over into the luxuriously-warm water. I lit a cigarette and situated myself in one of the corners, submerged up to my neck.

It began snowing as Susanna and Bennett came out and stood by the door smoking. Megan caught a snowflake on her tongue and I tried to do the same, as Susanna told me I looked like an idiot with my tongue hanging out, but I caught one nonetheless. Susanna and Bennett went inside. Megan brought up the idea of rolling around the snow and then getting back in the hot tub, to which I, again, expressed excitement over and declaring that finally I would be one with my Finnish roots.

I still didn’t feel cold when I got out of the tub, but when the snow hit the soles of my bare feet I hesitated. Nonetheless, I leaped in a circle and despite my body telling me not to, my drunken mind overcame every rationale and I face-planted into the white powder, then immediately picked myself up and climbed back into the hot tub.

“It was worth it,” I told Megan.

It began to snow even harder and faster and in my drunken state, it made me dizzy. I didn’t want to leave the warmth of the tub, which I described as “a womb,” but I couldn’t look at the snowflakes raining down any longer.

After changing back into my clothes, I continued to peer-pressure Susanna into drinking. She told me if I did a shot of the UV Chocolate Cake vodka and chased it with a spoonful of the canned strawberry-flavored frosting Bennett bought to frost Megan’s brownie cake, she’d get drunk. So, being who I am, I did the shot, and had to force back profuse gagging. I made Susanna a mixed drink and the four of us proceeded into the dining room to play Pictionary.

Normally I am a straight-up bitch when it comes to playing board games, especially Pictionary. But in my drunken state, my level of competitiveness was subdued and even though Susanna and I lost by a landslide, I didn’t really care at all.

What happened between losing the game and the rest of the night is a blur. I don’t know when Bennett went to bed, but she went to bed long before the three of us did. We put on some music and danced in the living room. I know I’m good and drunk when I’m willing to dance. Megan and Susanna copied my moves, which they described as “dad moves.” If you’ve seen the video for “Hotline Bling”, then you know exactly how I dance.

The three of us eventually ventured upstairs, where the blankets and pillows from our last sleepover still remained. Susanna got between Megan and me, since she needs as much warmth as possible. She may be totally cold on the outside, but when she’s drunk and lying next to you, she enjoys being cuddled, so I wrapped one of my legs around her. I fell asleep quickly and easily, and didn’t wake up until around 9:40 the next morning, dry-mouthed and nauseas.

After lying around for an hour, Megan, Susanna and I (Bennett had to work an early shift and was long gone) got dressed and then got into my car and drove to the Atlantic, a diner we used to frequent more than what is healthy.

I ordered water and the sausage gravy and biscuit. After gulping down half of my ice water, another wave of serious nausea came over me, so I slid out of the booth. Trapped behind a heavy woman and her tiny daughter, I made my way to the restroom. Someone was inside one of the two stalls, and the heavy woman told me to “go ahead” into the second stall. I hesitated, wanting to be polite, then muttered, “Okay” and went inside, then realizing she had planned to use the diaper changing station all along. I faced the toilet and pulled my hair back with my left hand, but the nausea had subsided. So I sat down and peed.

I had to inch my way out of the stall so I didn’t bump into the woman and the little girl. It smelled like literal shit, and as foamy soap sat idle in my hands, I held my breath, trying to get the water to come out of the automatic faucet. I took another breath, inhaling the stench of child-feces, and moved to the other sink, quickly rinsing and then drying my hands. Back at the booth, I ranted about my dislike of children.

After eating, I still felt like shit, but I managed to smoke a cigarette. We went to Target per Megan’s request, as she wanted a pregnancy test. I bought a 12 dollar black tunic and an 8 dollar black dress, since I needed more work clothes. Then we walked down to Dick’s, also per Megan’s request, since she needed yoga pants. After that we stopped in the small Barnes and Noble, where I glanced at a magazine with David Bowie on the cover and then was coerced by a barista into buying a more expensive iced coffee.

All in all, it was a good celebration.

 

Christmas Card from My Best Friend

“Zara,

You are my best friend, and I would be lost without [you]. This last year has been a tough year for the both of us, but for you especially. Change is imminent, but it seems like this year especially there has been an overwhelming amount of change in your life. I know that there were times this year when things seemed very dark and mainly impossible, but just think, you made it through all of them. And despite all of the shit that happened this year there were also some highlights. I wish you could see all the beauty and strength that you possess, but I know those things must be realized in time. Hopefully 2016 will be a better year, and it will bring some more positive change with it. If I died tomorrow I wouldn’t be sad, because I know that I had you.”

Excuse me while I shed more than a few sentimental tears.