Smarts vs. Looks

By the age of 10, I had the entire Catholic Mass memorized, knew every song in the songbook, and could recite the Apostles Creed in my sleep. I grew up Catholic. I attended Sunday school, went through reconciliation, got my first communion, and sat in the front row of church pews every week for the 9AM mass. In short, I was a part of the tribe.

And I loved being a part of the tribe, until the age of 15, when I grew a sense of independence and rebellion. That was the year I was supposed to get confirmed. For those outside of the flock, this was the last ceremony I had to go through to become an adult in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The procedure was easy. The bishop would put a cross of oil on my forehead, and I would be a grown up. Yeah. But the part leading up to the bishop was another story entirely. That involved sitting in Confirmation classes every other week. It was school on the weekends.

But these classes were not with my fellow super nerds who threw hissy fits if they got an A- instead of an A on a test. Oh no. These classes were with normal teenagers who loved comparing lip gloss and prayed at the alter of nail polish, forever 21, and Covergirl. They were a foreign species for me.

And I was caught totally off guard. I thought the worst of the three hour lectures would be hearing about what it meant to be an adult in the Catholic church. That would have been paradise.

These girly girls were my own personal form of hell. I hated each and every one of them. Because I was a teenager. And I could hate people and hold grudges with the best of them. Thankfully, the foreign aliens didn’t acknowledge me for the majority of our time together. Or they never said anything that directly effected my life or self esteem in any significant way.

They did cause the death of hundreds of brain cells. But I suppose I can let them off the hook. Since that was mainly from me banging my head against the wall after talking to them.My parents learned to live with my explosions of frustration. But if I ever got really bad, they were not above reminding me that I would be disowned by my extended family if I didn’t get confirmed. That would shut me up. Eventually May arrived. I survived all of the classes.

And was almost done with my freshman year of high school. And this day was the day of the rehearsal for the actual confirmation. And we were all standing around, waiting for the rehearsal to start, when one of the popular, brain cell killing girls walked over to me. Priscilla was one of the girls who claimed she loved God and Jesus, but she didn’t have all of the prayers memorized, and she didn’t go to mass every sunday, so I had my doubts.

Priscilla smelled of hair spray, nail polish and strawberry perfume, an olfactory explosion that could be detected from a mile away. And she walked over to me, and she looked me up and down. And her eyes settled on my face. And she looked at me as if I was a poor mangy puppy lost in the rain. And after a moment, she said, “Sarah, you could be so pretty, if you wore makeup.” Cue me punching her in the face. No no. I didn’t actually punch her.

Instead I smiled and said, “Oh, thanks so much Priscilla. That’s so sweet. You could be so smart, if you didn’t care so much about your looks.” Cue the “I hate your guts” smile. On both of our faces.

And I fumed about it to my parents. And then I pretended that what she said had no impact on me. But let’s face it. It’s six years later, and I still remember her saying it like it was yesterday. And that comment, I am sad to say did send me into a crisis about my looks. But I guess it’s just a part of growing up. And on some level, I’m thankful she said it. It made me grateful for my friends who lived in the world of Shakespeare and algebra equations and the laws of gravity.

And though I cared, and still do care, I’ve realized that all women, Priscilla included are insecure about their looks. And that all of us are pretty with or without makeup. We are each of us damn beautiful.

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