Getting My Mad On

For the past two weeks, I have been trying to avoid the terrifying thought that the last dose of anesthesia zapped the writing part of my brain. The mechanics were possible with words forming sentences and sentences becoming paragraphs, but the unnamable quality making words into more than the sum of their parts was beyond me. Fortunately, as the past tense indicates, I got my mojo back. In the middle of a concert.

I should probably thank the musician who caused me to lose my temper waking the writing part of my brain from its slumber, but I’m not sure it would have the desired results. “Time after time, I have heard you put down your looks and while I assumed you were probably making it seem worse than the reality, I concluded you were probably of average looks. Then my friend informed me that you are adorable. I sort of lost my temper which finally woke up the writing part of my brain that I thought had gone into a permanent coma. Thank you so much for helping me get it back.” Yeah, that would backfire.

On the surface, my anger seems simple to explain. This man puts himself down in order to get positive feedback from others. Immature, but he’s twenty-seven and male, so it’s understandable. The fact that he is making people feel sorry for him reinforcing our society’s obsession with appearance equally justifies my anger, but also doesn’t quite cover it.

No, I got my mad on because he seemingly hates his body more than I dislike mine with far less reason. Every day in a myriad of ways I am told that how I look is unacceptable. I invested and continue to invest a great deal of time and energy in counteracting that message. In the past year, circumstances have forced me to integrate loss of eyes and the advent of prosthetics into my body image and I can even see the light at the end of that tunnel. I work my backside off to have feelings about my body separate from what I’m told to think. The effort is completely worth it because most of the time I walk through life happy with myself.

Then there’s this adorable twenty-seven-year-old who referred to himself as ugly. How ungrateful and lazy bringing new meaning to the term ‘self-deprecating.’ I truly would like to shake some positive body image into him. Jump up and down until he understands what he has and starts valuing it.

Please don’t misunderstand. This isn’t about one of us having it ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. Simply put, I am proof that you don’t have to accept societal beliefs about appearance. Why, then, is he doing it? For that matter, why does most of the human race do it?

Maybe I’m incredibly fortunate to have lived at the edge of socially acceptable appearance. It allowed me to clearly perceive the subjectivity of our standards of beauty and how they are imparted to us. Then again, there are tons of people who also inhabit that extreme edge and they pursue changing their appearance with single-minded determination. Perhaps the combination of blind and unusual looks offers the answer. Whatever the case, I am truly lucky to have found a way to not hate my body.

Back to the musician. What can I say to someone like him? Offering my own experience up as an example of “It can be different” would probably engender pity not elucidation. Telling him he’s adorable would simply re-enforce his behavior of putting himself down.

Guess I’m stuck listening to his put-downs and offering up prayers to whatever higher power is out there that he one day gets it, puts the sentiments into a song, and changes the world by playing it everywhere.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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