I am bending over behind the counter, reaching for a mug, thinking about my boyfriend.
I shaved his head the day before, thinking he would look younger with less of a receding hairline, but now that he is bald, he has changed. As I am wondering if his hair held his kindness, I stand still, grasping the mug.
He is sitting at the counter as he always does—Old Bill we call him—half-empty coffee mug in hand. Grimy old overalls hanging off his shoulders. Eyes firmly planted on my ass.
I turn to face him and a second later his eyes meet mine.
Three years later, I am walking through the Portland airport, pre-makeover, ugly green carpet staring up at me, waiting for my notice. I run into a friend of my brother’s, and he asks me why I did it as he looks at my head. His question was heavy with regret for me—embarrassment—and days later I get a call and lecture from that same brother. He lets me know how mainstream people will see me, how they will judge me. I used to want to f*ck that guy, that is until the moment he looked at me with such remorse.
Fifteen years earlier, I am lying in a boy’s bedroom with a pillow over my head. Two boys are fondling me, talking about me like I’m not there. Commenting on my “hot body” and my “ugly face,” and how great that pillow is. Sixteen years later, one of those boys dies. Then, when I was 25, the other sends me a friend request on Facebook. I decline.
As I look back, the men slowly ooze together, morphing into the same man. Expecting out of me what they have been taught to expect. Distressed when I am crazy with rage at not being considered as I am: a genius, an artist, and a warrior. I feel the power rise in my chest and I know I am more than what they think they gaze upon, no matter what that is, because they are dreaming into me less than I am. They are dreaming into me someone they can manage.
Over time, I became aware that to really be seen might be dangerous, because these men only wanted to see me as simple, quiet, and easy. But I am not, and more than anything, dangerous or not, I long to be seen. I long to know a person willing to sit with me long enough to see past their expectations of me. I long to know a person who will wake up out of their gaze and see me as I someday hope to be.
This is what we lose in this paradigm. This is what we miss in our quest for ideal, in our quest for—ageless perfect beauty. We miss out on our humanity, on our opportunity for connection, on our chance to really see each other, to see and know ourselves.
I never minded that guy’s eyes on my ass. Not really. What upset me more is that, in his eyes, I was one of millions, instead of what I am, one in a million.
There’s a difference.
Author: Sara Young
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson