Beauty’s only skin deep, yeah yeah yeah…

When I was 19 years old, I met a woman from Paris named Francoise. She was a movie editor for Orson Welles, which is obviously cool enough. But what I remember about her was not what she did for a living. It was her attitude: She exuded confidence, something I sorely lacked. Francoise was tall — I’m guessing 5’10” — and she probably weighed at least 150. She was large boned, small breasted and wide hipped. She was about 30 I suppose, and her face was pretty enough. But there was something about the way she walked, a sort of womanly swagger. She knew she was fabulous, and she figured everyone else could see it, too. It was riveting.
I have always wondered about people who are comfortable in their own skins. You’ve met them, right? Even if their looks don’t conform to the standard set by the media, they see themselves as worthy and desirable. People like that are astounding to me. Francoise blew my mind.
I grew up with an older sister who was a ballerina. She was beautiful, tiny, long-legged and graceful. Here I was, short and sturdy, large breasted and round shouldered, funny. There are photos of us where she is in her dance outfit striking a ballet position. I’m standing next to her in my corduroy romper trying to copy her, and failing. Around this time my mother laughingly told me that my sister’s ballet teacher suggested I try music, since I obviously didn’t have the right stuff for dance. Not to put too fine a point on it all these years later, but my mother should never have told me that.
I’ve spent my whole life wishing I had a different body. Instead of appreciating the miracles of a healthy immune system and my ability to think and love and laugh, I focus on the physical imperfections. It’s shameful, really, how much time I’ve wasted comparing myself to models and movie stars. I wish I could tell you I’ve stopped doing it, since I recognize the how superficial and ungrateful it makes me. But I still struggle to love my “meat suit” as my friend, Spencer, calls it.
I don’t have a daughter, but many of my friends do, and I have nieces. I have made it a point to befriend all the young women in my life. I always tell them the same things: You are beautiful just the way you are, and you must always believe in yourself. You deserve to be loved, cherished, respected, and if somebody doesn’t treat you that way, head for the door and don’t look back. I so wish somebody had told me those things. Maybe I would have believed them.
The last time I saw Francoise, she was swimming in a hotel pool in Phoenix on a hot afternoon with her top off. I don’t remember for certain, but I don’t think anybody had the guts to tell her to put it back on. She might not have looked like Beyonce, but she was definitely fabulous.


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