She Ain’t Pretty

by Alison Roberts about a month ago in beauty

(Thank god)

She Ain’t Pretty

She Ain’t Pretty (Thank god)

Last night, I watched Beyonce’s Homecoming. I don’t know why; I’m not a huge fan or anything, but it’s good keep up with what the kids like. I like to be au current ["current" in French]. There is no denying she’s a goddess, a helluva performer. I hadn’t seen her much since the "Single Ladies" days, and her style has evolved. She still has a sassy strut and a stripper-esque krump, but now her and her bevy of back-up dancing girls have this rough, masculine thrust and jerk. “Suck my balls,” they chant as they do a manly double-arm crotch chop. Some of the moves—feet flexed, knees askew—were not coy, not sexy, not beguiling, but rather were aggressive and ugly. And I liked it. These "ladies" were not accessories, not there to titillate and tease, this was #metoo, owning their space and bodies, unapologetically with humour, defiance, and commanding attention.

And now—I understood my daughter’s tattoo.

I don’t have a problem with tattoos. I have one myself. It’s small, sort of hidden. It’s a tribal dolphin symbol with a purple flower. My husband got it for me when I was 30, and I chickened out of getting the whole thing—Seriously, I have like a tenth of the design. But I had the first tattoo in the family, and now everyone has one. But my sweet, gorgeous daughter has three. And I wasn’t a fan of any of them. Her first is on the back of her head, where she had this undercut—It’s a skeleton drinking a beer. She got it on a trip to Japan, and she designed it herself. She is a "creative," works in advertising, and has been very successful in competitive industry. Art is her thing. Her other tats are copies of fine art; the most recent is a Picasso. I balked at all of her inkings. They weren’t "pretty." But now, I understand. She doesn’t need to be pretty—Pretty is pretty awful.

I knew this years ago, when I did something similar. I had forgotten my own undercut days.

It was 1985, and I had this cool, punk hairdresser from London, and she gave me a semi punk-rock hair cut, unusual in suburban Ontario. My hair was bleached and permed, the sides and back shaved into an undercut, the tips tinted red, blue, and yellow. It wasn’t pretty. I had to pick up my mom from her work at Regional Office, the town planning department. She took one horrified look at me, and sent me back to wait for her in the car. My hair was seen as a personal affront, an embarrassment, and we had a big fight about. She didn’t understand. She, from the 1950s and from a working class family, had struggled for respectability. Teenage rebellion wasn’t for those youths who had been kids during the war. She wanted me to be conventionally pretty, a natural beauty, a respectable young lady. My punk hair and Op Shop rags confused her and worried her. On some level, she was thinking the world rewards the "pretty." You are asking for trouble if you aren’t being pretty.

So I get it.

I’m sorry I lost my cool for a second. Bronte, your artsy tattoo is fun, fresh, and strong—Just like you.

In the car when you were little, we used to sing this song by the Northern Pikes that had the line, “You ain’t pretty, you just look that way…” The message is that looking/being pretty is an illusion and is overrated, but I do wonder if, someday in the future, your daughter will find a way to challenge you. Be prepared; good daughters do that.

beauty
Alison Roberts
Alison Roberts
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