I Always Felt Ugly

by Rachel Gertz

This is a confession.

I’ve always felt ugly. For as long as I can remember, my critical eyes could only see my big nose or my bulgy stomach or my short legs in the mirror. Friends affectionately called me Stumpy in junior high. I wasted hours on the fact that my eyelashes were sparse, my eye were squinty (I’m legally blind, don’t ya know), and I had that one crooked tooth that not even braces could fix. Don’t even get me started on my lopsided ears.

I’m not sure if this was me flexing through normal teenaged growing pains; it might have been. But I remember my obsession with the bad parts of me existing as far back as age four—wearing a tutu around the house and thinking real ballerinas were beautiful, and that I was definitely NOT a real ballerina. I quit ballet soon after that, but it was actually because I wanted to skip practice and play with my friend, Eric.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be some woe-is-me sob story. This is more of a personal awakening. Because I’m 28 years old now. I’ve learned a lot about the world and who I am as a person. I know that looks don’t mean the same when you’re 28 as they did when you were 18. I know that youth fades and so does your perky ass. I know that beauty is inside and all that other zen crap, too. 

I also know that spending a lot of energy rejecting yourself for 28 years is exhausting and damaging. In some ways, it’s a vice. And you thought I had a problem with beer!? 

Hah.

Little known fact. I made up my mind to do a photo shoot when we got back from our whirlwind Walter tour. I’d never done one before, and I just wanted one damn picture that I could be proud of where my eye didn’t go all squinty. I wanted to do one selfish thing that would make me feel good. That was back in 2010. And as the days melted into each other, I forcefully forgot to book that appointment. 

Instead, I settled into a six month period of self-loathing and mild depression thinking about all the things I should be doing but wasn’t (and if I were accurate, I would mention this loathing actually spanned the whole Winnebago trip. Shit, it spanned my whole life!). I was a ton of fun for everyone, especially my poor husband.

So this year, I turned my attention to something else, and have thrown myself into my writing portfolio. Okay smart asses, I’ve been intending to work on it, and I really needed one great head shot to get me started. Then who waltzes back into my life in July, but Marlo and James, two of the most beautiful, talented artists I know. They are subleasing their place to us right now, which is why we haven’t mentioned the fact that we accidentally burned it to the ground. Kidding, Marlo. Kidding James.

James is a well-known painter here in Canada, and Marlo a brilliant photographer. The stars aligned for a few days, and as they were stopping in for a visit (while on their very own Cross Canada Adventure), we drank some delicious boxed wine and planned my very first photo shoot. 

Marlo does things with photos that simply blow my mind. I don’t know how she does them; I can’t pretend to learn, but the way she uses light, angle, and depth is simply fascinating. She doesn’t know this, but this is the first time I’ve ever looked at myself and thought:

I’m beautiful.

And I think that after 28 years of not thinking that I’m beautiful and not appreciating anything my handsome parents have given me, it’s time for me to accept who I am, accept what I stand for, and accept the fact that loving myself is the one thing I have failed at in my life that actually matters. 

I don’t want to do that anymore. So this is simply, unapologetically me.

Thanks Marlo. You’ll never know how much this meant.

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