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22 December, 2007

I'm Too Nerdy For My Love

maymay writes here about the strange dichotomy between sexiness and smarts.

And my comment over there (still in moderation as of this writing) is:

"I was too smart to ever be pretty. It shapes a lot of things."

It wasn't allowed, you know, for the likes of me to be attractive. I could be either attractive or smart, and smart was something I clearly was before the dichotomous choice came up as a visible fork in the road, so I was off down one branch before I realised I was well past the place I could maybe have decided about it.

Because it was forbidden for me to be pretty, it was forbidden for boys to like me (unless they were social rejects beyond the bounds of The Rules). It wasn't forbidden for them to treat me as some kind of sex toy, but kind attraction was forbidden. Crude comments, breast-grabbing and other unwelcome touch, and mockery were acceptable; those didn't depend on me being pretty, just on being female. Perhaps some of that was an outlet for taboo attraction. Perhaps they were just assholes who knew they could play with me with impunity. There's no way to know.

Because it was forbidden for me to be pretty, I spent a long time utterly unfocused and unable to focus on things relating to my own appearance. I had no idea how to attract the attention I wanted, how to construct myself in an appealing manner; I spent years with earnest intensty being the only thing I could offer to a potential partner with any intention. (Fortunately, my husband could handle it.) I had no sense of style, personal or otherwise. It would make no difference, after all, as I was not allowed to be pretty anyway, so why waste effort?

Oh, I was an intense kid, full of want, trying to figure out how to be human.

When I met someone who told me I was beautiful it broke me inside, a little. I didn't know how to deal with it, how to live with it, how to untangle the mess around this boy who broke the taboo for me. It rattled me, shook up my boundaries, left me even more uncertain than I might otherwise have been, and my terribly earnest self was utterly uncertain. Maybe that's part of why the assault ripped me up so much, why it took me completely to pieces, the fact that he was the first to break that rule. Broke a lot of other things with it, in the long run.

... there's more to this, but damned if I know how to write it. I've written in the past that it takes guts to be beautiful and whole and complete, and this is part of why: it breaks the rules. This is why it matters to know how to be beautiful to the people I want to see me as beautiful, why I want to hear it from them and nobody else. There's so much more, tangled up in the fallout from that one thing. I can gesture at it, but I can only trace the shapes with my hands, the curve of it, the way it flows.

I'm too nerdy for this post.


maymay said...

The same thing has had a different effect on me because I am male, but it is no less painful.

Thanks for sharing what you've written. This is precisely why I am writing about these things.

bint alshamsa said...

You articulated a lot of things that I've felt. I spent so much of my childhood being "smart, not pretty". It wasn't until my current partner that I really began to see myself as beautiful enough to feel emotionally able to discover how I wanted my loved ones to see me and powerful enough to be that woman.

bint alshamsa said...

By the way, you shoulda let me know that you linked me so that I could add you to my blogroll too. Why haven't I ever seen your blog before? I'm so lost some days, I swear!

*skipping away to go and add Dw3t-Hthr to my blog*

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I've gone through a couple of waves of adding folks to my list, and I'm never sure of the etiquette of these things. ;)

Anonymous said...

thanks for linking me to this.

the first boy who ever told me I was beautiful...yeah, I've never gotten over him. It took a while to accept pretty, and there have been roadblocks to it, but I think I've gotten better at it.

I always felt like I was with men who were far prettier than I was, and I think I went for that for a reason.

Trinity said...

Old post, but... it's interesting. I was "smart, not pretty" but I wasn't grabbed at/harassed, with one exception. My nerdiness (coupled with my boyishness? with my disability?) made me invisible as sexual... even as something to be taken-sexual.

That, I think, contributes to some of the bewilderment I feel when some women describe harassment. It's not that I doubt it's negative attention -- the little of it I got was awful and made that clear.

But it is that, for me, there was also some degree of knowing that was bad but also on some level envying people who got it, because that might mean not just that they were ripe for bullying but also that they had something recognizable as "sexual" in the first place, even if "sexual" meant "claimable" to horribly creepy boys.