The Modesty Experiment is a LOT harder when you're single.
Since breaking up with MF, I haven't really cared much about meeting guys-- mostly because it was a difficult breakup, and I haven't felt ready to make myself vulnerable to a new relationship. But lately (like, in the last week) I've found myself wanting to meet guys that give me that fluttery feeling-- I'm not ready for a relationship, but for the first time since the breakup I'm thinking about what I want again.
I just wanted reassurance that I am attractive, assurance that I didn't need when I had a partner (not only because he told me I was gorgeous all the time, but because I didn't care if anyone but him thought I was gorgeous). I have felt guilty about this, but I think that as a woman, it's important that I feel beautiful, and maybe there's nothing wrong with that.
I grew up with my brother and I was raised by my dad, so in a houseful of men I was... well... a mess a lot of the time. I thought it was unfair that boys got to ride around shirtless: I understood that breasts were the issue but, I reasoned, I wouldn't have them for another few years. What was the difference between me and boys? So I rode around on my bike shirtless at, like, eight. I remember not brushing my hair so often that I had a knot at the nape of my neck that my mom had to cut out with a razor.
I was also chronically fashion-inept. I was not allowed to pierce my ears, and because it wasn't really OK to care about trends (my dad was overly counterculture), I was frequently painfully behind the times. I had a pretty terrible bowl cut in the fourth grade, and there appear to be pictures of an entire year in which I wore my hair slicked back with gel. As a girl. Yeah.
Dad didn't stop me because he didn't know any better. But then, when I was ten, he started dating a wonderful, wonderful woman named Jenny. She was a widow with two daughters who were well-liked and well-adjusted, and Jenny understood what it was like to be a girl. She took me to the mall to get my ears pierced, and dealt with the fallout from Dad later. She took that hit for me, and we weren't even related.
One day she was taking me somewhere in her blue van, and I was wearing those pants girls wore in the 90s with elastic that went around your feet-- they were like tights, almost. You were supposed to wear your socks over them.
The thing was, they had gone out years ago, and I was wearing my socks under them. Yikes.
As we pulled into the garage Jenny, in the most wonderful way possible, somehow explained to me that no one wore those anymore, and that I needed new pants. I must have said something like, "But why should I care how I look?", and she smiled warmly at me and said, "Because you're a girl, Lauren, and when you look good on the outside, you feel good on the inside."
That one statement has stuck with me forever. It has changed my life.
TME has taught me that balance is the key: it's OK to feel better when you're put-together, but at the same time, beauty can't be the only thing you love about yourself because then when you don't feel beautiful, you don't love yourself. By the same token, I have always felt that my personality is the most attractive thing about me, but many people won't get to know that personality unless they're attracted to the outside... and that's just how people work. Jenny helped me understand that being concerned with your appearance is not always frivolous or vain, that it has a deeper significance, and that if how you look effects how you feel, then it's OK to care about it.
Dad eventually broke up with Jenny. Years later, after I had moved to Florida, I got a check for $200 in the mail when I graduated high school, and it had her address on it. No note, just a check; I have no idea how she even got my address in Tampa, but it must have taken some detective work. She had remembered how old I was, even though I hadn't seen her in over six years. I went to her house that later that year, but no one was home.
I heard a few years ago that she died of pancreatic cancer, leaving her two girls, who were so instrumental in giving me balance in my male-dominated home life, without parents before they reached 25. To this day, I regret never telling Jenny how much she changed my life.
So, as of right now, I'm dedicating this blog to her. I don't know if they have internet access in the afterlife (who would their service provider be? NOT VERIZON), but still...
Jenny, after years of trying, I feel beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside, and I understand and accept my need to feel both of those. I hope you can feel my love from wherever you are.