The first time I saw this, it overwhelmed me. It was long before I was diagnosed, before I had to re-evaluate my own self-image as I have had to over the last 14 months. But the message that Katie Makkai shared at the National Poetry Slam in 2002 was one that literally brought me to tears.
(And this was in the days before my hormones got all screwed up and I started weeping at unexpected moments and at any and all vids or commercials that include servicemen coming home to adoring children. Jeez - that stuff gets me every time.)
I don't have daughters. I had always hoped that my brother would have nieces for me - little versions of me with a bit of Russian thrown in from their mom. It only seemed fair, as my eldest was the spitting image of my brother as a boy - and my youngest certainly had moments that reminded me of my brother as well. But no - he had to go and have a boy as well. Hmph.
Katie's message isn't just for the young women who are starting to find out who they are - and what they are pretty amazing at. It is for all of us. I hadn't thought about it in years, but a week or so ago, a friend from Austin posted a picture from Katie's performance with a good portion of the conclusion on it, and I remembered. I remembered the gut reaction I had to it - so I had to go find it and watch it again.
Since then, it has come to mind in odd moments. Such as this evening - when, as I was in the bathroom, I once again caught a glimpse of my latest self - head covered with a few wispy hairs, eyes with just a few eyelashes left and dark circles that look like some one slugged me three days ago. I caught myself wrinkling my nose at my reflection thinking "well ain't that purdy" and heard an echo of the video above.
Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?!!
Well hell. I thought I had gotten past all that.
The thing is, it's hard to let go of vanity. It's no wonder it's listed as one of the deadly sins - once it gets a hold of you, it doesn't want to let go. I would love nothing better than to not glance in a mirror and start picking apart how I look now. To not give in to that ritual of self-loathing that anorexic Victoria's Secret models with D-cup jugs have bequeathed to those us not blessed that way naturally (or monetarily).
Some day I might have granddaughters. I hope like hell at some point - if I'm not around to do it - that someone points them at Katie's performance above. I wish for them a society that reveres women that have talent, intelligence and a willingness to work hard instead of those with nothing but a sex tape in their past and a willingness to do anything to be "famous" in their present. I hope that my sons - and their wives - don't focus on them being merely pretty, but instead encourage them to be "pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing."
But never. Merely. Pretty.
(All the credit in the world goes to the amazing Katie Makkai, who inspired this entire post and I don't know at all, but I consider an inspiration for myself - and I hope for you as well. She is, quite simply, one of my heroes.)