Funny Girls, Dancing Hippos and Me

by Crystal Torres on December 29, 2012

dancing hippoI told you that story, so I could tell you this story. Well, not really, not exactly. It’s just that this is the third blog entry in a row, all on the theme of beauty, losing it, or envying it, or putting it in perspective. This started out as the blurb to explain the last poem and sort of took on a life of its own.

I wrote about funny girls in the first person, but not beautiful girls. It’s just that really I can’t honestly say that I’m all that funny. There’s this tiny little window, between my being awkwardly reserved and overwhelmingly a spaz, where I sort of zoom through funniness. All my best lines come to me long after the company has gone. When I’m really On, when I’m the center of everyone’s attention, there is this little voice inside my head trying to reel it back in, “shut up Crystal, stop talking now, don’t be a spaz, oh Gawd, why am I so loud?” I’m not any good at being clever, I stammer, I get tongue-tied and I tell my stories in the wrong order. Yet, I’m totally okay owning my role as the funny one. The funny one is likable. The funny one is non-threatening.

I think that’s the key, for me anyway, it’s important to me to be non-threatening. I don’t recall ever being labeled the pretty one, but on occasion I’ve been treated like the smart one. I’ve never felt particularly smart. There are so many people so much smarter than I am. I can’t be the smart one. Well, it’s just that, to be honest, I’m not particularly funny. There are so many people so much funnier than I am.

So why do I reject one role and embrace the other, really? It occurs to me now, now that I’m trying to break out of these labels, that all I really want is to be likable. It’s so much easier to like the funny girl. We root for the underdog. If someone thinks that they’re, “so smart,” we don’t seem to mind seeing them knocked down a peg or two. So I knock myself down before anyone else gets the chance. I guess I’m not too stupid to see the benefit of making sure people know I’m not too smart. I get something out of not being the smart one.

So I must get something out of not being the pretty one. Again, there are definitely people prettier than me, but we’ve proven that that isn’t the point. I’m afraid to even try to be pretty. I want to apologize when I’ve fussed over my hair and make-up in a way that you can tell that I was trying. Inside my head is this mean girl voice and she is all like, “who does she think she is?” I feel ridiculous, like the dancing hippos in Fantasia. I love the dancing hippos, but I know they’re a joke, so I love them in that way that makes me laugh with tears streaming from my eyes. If I knew I could be beautiful, surely I would choose that over being funny, over being the punchline that’s trying too hard to be something it’s not. Everyone loves a beautiful girl.

I’m lonely. I want a shoulder to rest my head against, a hand to hold, a chest to bury my face in when I need to cry, warm arms that wrap around me. I want someone that I can tell all of my triumphs and excitement and happiness to at the end of a great day, and someone to complain to at the end of the horrible days too, someone I can confess my dark secrets and shame to and plot my grand adventures with. I want a partner in crime. I want someone who challenges me, who kickstarts me when I’m idle. I want someone who can keep up with me when I’m strong and take care of me when I’m weak. I want passionate kisses that make me forget where I am. I want someone who I can be a friend, a partner and a lover to. Don’t we all just want to love and be loved? Yet, so many of us are alone and lonely.

The kind of men I’m attracted to are smart and funny and have a playful twinkle in their eyes. I want to absorb their knowledge the same way I used to ponder libraries as a kid. Their lives, their thoughts, represent volumes of books with pages I have yet to read. I want them to teach me what they know, to tell me their stories, to let me listen to their songs, to take me to they’re favorite places. Make me laugh, make me think, treat me with kindness and desire and I go weak in the knees. Except, it’s just, I have no reason to believe men like this could really want a girl like me. What do I have to offer to such a man as can set me to daydreaming and giggling like a schoolgirl?

I reject myself for them. I don’t get my hopes up. Why would such a man want me? Of course, he wouldn’t, he couldn’t, he doesn’t. I know how I look. I’m too old, too fat, too tired, too plain. Sometimes if they are very kind, especially if they remember how I was before I got too old, too fat, too tired, too plain, maybe they are good for a flirtation. I’m not above cashing in on their fond memories of what I once was. Still, I know it can’t last, it isn’t real. I’m not that girl, I’m this girl. It’s just that that girl was lonely too. That girl, the girl I was at seventeen, felt she was too young, too fat, too tired, too plain. I didn’t believe I was beautiful then, just like I don’t believe I’m beautiful now.

I can minimize this feeling to comfort those who would comfort me. Tell me I’m beautiful and I’ll only crinkle my nose for a moment as I try to say thank you graciously. Do I really believe that the woman in the mirror is beautiful? Well, yes and no. I believe that I am beautiful the same way that the dancing hippo is beautiful. My enthusiasm is real and it is beautiful. My joy is real and it is beautiful. My compassion is real and it is beautiful. There is something so heartbreakingly earnest about us both. We move with all of the passion of a real dancer, but the tutu doesn’t fit. We aren’t that kind of beautiful. We just aren’t.

So I am usually the funny one, sometimes the smart one, but I am never the pretty one. Some of that is the hand I’ve been dealt, some of that is how I’ve played it. Some if it is my tragedy, but some of it is my armor. There’s something very easy about being rejected for my looks. I can walk away telling myself that I am funny and kind and loving and they are just shallow. Let them have the beautiful girl they are looking for and all the difficult temperament I’m sure that beautiful girl will give them. I don’t have to take responsibility. I don’t have to change. I just have to wish I was beautiful.

It’s either that or own up to the games I play, the mixed messages I give, the lies I tell myself. Maybe I should be a grown-up and quit with the drive-by flirtings, the plausible deniability of maybe I didn’t mean it like that. It might be kinder to let go of my assumptions that, whether they know it or not, the objects of my affection are better off not getting stuck with my attention, kinder to stop acting like I’m the only one who’s scared, vulnerable, uncertain, enamored. It might be the right thing to do, to figure out what I want and be honest about it. I don’t know. It seems like it would be a whole lot easier to just keep wishing I was beautiful.

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