I got my first Barbie when I was in kindergarten, for my sixth birthday. She was beautiful–with long, white-blonde hair, flawless facial features, and of course, that slender hourglass shape. For the next six years, I was infatuated with Barbies. Each year, I’d collect more and more, until the box I kept them in was no longer big enough for all the dolls, clothes, and accessories.
Sometime around the age of ten, a shift happened. I began living vicariously through my Barbies. And when that wasn’t enough, I began trying to become one. All around me were images of perfection–on TV, in magazines, in movies. Puberty rolled in shortly after this shift, and I became even more dissatisfied with my body. Much of the dissatisfaction was centered on my stomach area. I considered myself paunchy compared to my peers, remembering a time when a cluster of girls had laughed at me, saying, “Your stomach jiggles when you talk!” In fifth grade, two years after the girls had said this, I made a decision–stop talking, or get rid of the stomach. I decided the latter would be the easier route.
Nobody told me that my weight was perfectly normal. Nobody stressed the fact that everybody has a different body shape, that not everyone can have a flat stomach or a thigh gap. I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could “make” my belly fat go away.
Nothing I did made it just go away. Most of it disappeared at the end of sixth grade, but not all of it. Even to this day, society would never consider me a “bikini body.” But my body insecurities didn’t end after sixth grade. No, once one “problem” about myself was “fixed,” I’d just find another part of myself to criticize.
In seventh grade, it was the boobs. I was convinced that “no boy would ever like me” because I didn’t have a large bust. I thought I’d be stuck wearing training bras for the rest of my life, that it was “too late for me.” Nobody told me that boobs don’t grow overnight. Nobody told me that boys who only like a girl for her body, or criticize other girls for their bodies, should be avoided on grounds of Assholishness.
Eighth grade was the hair. Product after product I bought, trying to make it as perfect as those old Barbies of mine, shut up and collecting dust in the basement. I can’t even guess how many chemicals I put in my poor locks. Then it was the legs–they weren’t tan enough! Feet, hands, every inch of my face–I scrutinized and tried to fix.
I can’t say that I’m a hundred percent satisfied with my appearance, even to this day. But I’ve realized that really, people don’t all look the same, and we’re all still beautiful. Curly hair, straight or wavy, flat stomach or not, tanned or fair, A cup or F–we’re all so wonderful. I won’t let society dictate what beauty is to me anymore–what’s the point? What’s the point of chasing after an unattainable goal that will only leave us feeling empty and even less satisfied? I’m not going on the endless scavenger hunt for perfection anymore. I quit. It’s my decision what to do with my body, and no one else’s–not society, not men, not even my friends and family. My decision, just as it’s your decision what you do with your body. Wear makeup? Great. Don’t wear makeup? Great. Straighten your hair, dye it, curl it, leave it natural–all your choice, all beautiful. If you don’t want to shave, don’t. If you do, do it because you like it, not because society says women have to.
We can’t be Barbies. We can’t be perfect. All we can be is ourselves. So for pity’s sake, be you! You is whatever you want it to be. You are a blank canvas. You are art. And with the things you can’t change, like your bone structure and such, accept them as beautiful. Because they are. Imperfection is beautiful.
You are beautiful.