Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ugly

The light in the dressing room of the community playhouse was low-budget fluorescent, and I leaned into the mirror to glean away dried-out mascara clumps from my lashes. David, a flamboyant red headed performer in the ensemble was eyeing me as I stood up straight and blinked away some strays.

“You know,’ he mused ‘you have the facial structure of a drag queen.” There was an uncomfortable pause in the dressing room with the rest of the teen theater group. “But with nice makeup.”  He Added.

The truth is that I never have needed reminders that I’m not considered pretty, or not ‘conventionally-attractive’. Ninety-five percent of the time I hate myself vehemently and think I am one of the most grotesque people on the planet. Add a twenty-pound weight gain, a pimple break out, and a slouching posture I’ll practically feel suicidal when I force myself to look in the mirror.

In issue #3 of Sandy, ‘SLUT’, I wrote about some of my experiences being born and raised within a family that followed Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s cult, The Unification Church. Within their church culture, it was an easily divided hierarchical system of who the REAL chosen people were and the viable attributes they possessed. Being a Korean, Reverend Moon proclaimed the Koreans, not the Jews, were the new chosen people. In speeches he would revere the beauty and the gracious character of all Asian women, and as a result many male first generation followers vied to be matched to a Korean, Japanese, or Chinese wife. Many of the children I grew up alongside were White-Asian mixes, and to be a cute ‘half-ie’ was a badge of honor.  My own father was no exception, and had articulated to my mother early on in their engagement that he wished Reverend Moon had matched him to a Korean or Japanese wife.

American Caucasian women were considered the worst of the draw for the matching ceremonies Moon organized.  White women were described as selfish money-driven creatures that had sex for pleasure. In a speech Moon gave on September 8th, 1996, he declared; “American women feel superior to and scorn prostitutes, but in reality these prostitutes are earning money, this is their job. However, American women are even worse because they practice free sex just because they enjoy it.” Ending up with an American woman meant you were further away from the Messiah’s true blood lineage, and as a result 100% Caucasian/Western daughters of my generation (2nd generation) were less desirable as a match partner for sons who were of age to marry.



In Tina Fey’s new Netlfix comedy series about a cult survivor, ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, they completely omit the process in which a former cult member has to emotionally and mentally break out of everything they’ve been raised to believe, and then how painful the process is to readjust to a world that thinks you’re bizarre. ‘Operation Re-adjust’ did not help my self-esteem at all, as girls who look like me are neither tops in the Unification Church nor in secular society’s media controlled imagery.

As a human genetic cocktail of Ashkenazi Jew, Syrian, Euro-mutt, and Native American, I mostly resemble my father in Semitic features; I have a large semi-crooked nose and wide gaps between my teeth. I’ve heard a variety of slurs thrown at me. Some more common like “big nose” or more creative depictions such as the archaic “gap-toothed Jewess.” Some of the men I have slept with were generous enough to inform me that I belonged in the ‘weird face – hot body’ category, (sometimes colloquially referred to as “butter face” {everything but-her face.})

In both spheres of my life that I had a foot planted in I simply wasn’t pretty or desirable enough. I didn’t belong to either camps of the chosen people, neither the Koreans nor Jews, and my conspicuously different nose and teeth never made me highly desirable for romantic companionship in any of my social circles. I hit a point in my life where I felt something within my reach had to be done to fix it. I signed up for makeup classes in a small boutique in a town across the river from me, I studied contouring videos on YouTube, and was constantly pulling ads with pretty makeup out of magazines. I’d sit on the floor of my room with pharmacy bought makeup and try to recreate what I was looking at, hoping that enough concealer, contouring, and eye shadow would make me beautiful in the short term.

For my long-term hopes I desire more than anything to undergo rhinoplasty and get braces. At one point I even "contemplated" becoming an escort in order to earn money for the extraordinary cost of the procedures. I spent way more time than I’d like to admit on RealSelf.com pouring over testimonies, and envisioning myself looking more like Rachel McAdams. I felt no shame over wanting to change myself, to me it made sense biologically since we trust and vie for friends and partners who are more attractive. Beautiful people often even receive more promotions at work than the rest of us. I wanted to feel loved and socially accepted like all the popular girls I remember in school, and as an adult I wanted to feel desirable and revered.

The ultimate irony in this all is that I’m a career makeup artist and wig builder for people suffering from hair loss. My job is to help actresses, singers, brides, and cancer patients to feel beautiful and accepted by society, but I can’t accept myself. On my days off I’d feel too hideous to get out of bed and meet up with my friends, no amount of makeup or the right outfit could make me feel anything but fat and ugly. When at work I felt like an incredible phony giving women makeup tips or pretending I had any understanding of what society wanted.

My boyfriends would tell me I’m healthy, adorable, and beautiful – even when I wake up in the morning with frazzled hair and raccoon eyes. They'd tell me how my smile lights up my face, and how sexy I look in just one of their t-shirts. They'd hold me and tell me I’m perfect the way I am, and that I wouldn’t be myself if I had plastic surgery. I appreciate the love and support, but then I develop incredible resentment towards the world for encouraging men and women alike to love ourselves how we are, but then bombard us in the media with all the things we must need and have to be truly loved.

It will take time to pull myself out of the pit of misery and self-hatred I’ve spent years in, but a ray of hope hangs above the vanity in my room. In a frame hangs a recent photo of my sister, my mother in her teens, and my grandmother’s picture from high school.  I love them all dearly; I see them in my face and myself in theirs. If I can love and respect them more than anything, then maybe I will love myself some day.



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