Why do I feel far more beautiful in London or New York than when back home in Ireland?

My estimation of my own sexual and physical worth has always dramatically fluctuated depending on location and context.

Some time ago, I freed myself from the idea that there is a way objectively and definitively to rank attractiveness. When I was a kid, it seemed obvious that there was a scale of beautiful with, say, Monica Bellucci coming in at the 100 end and myself languishing around the 12 mark. Every new girl I came into contact with was immediately sized up – often with the melancholy thought that whatever man I was interested in at the time would take one look at them and realise they had come up short by choosing to be with me.

I’m not sure exactly what deconstructed this hateful system. Perhaps it was simply ageing beyond what I had been informed were my peak years by men with something to gain from keeping women fearful of losing their youth. Certainly, it’s a pleasant surprise that, at 30, my sexual capital seems to have vastly increased from where it stood previously, when I might have been considered more normatively attractive. I think this is to do with need. It isn’t that I’ve ever been financially dependent on a man – my tastes sadly run far too close to the unemployed “artist” for that. But something about the way I lived until recently meant I always felt on the back foot, never enough like a real person. I was always frantic and struggling to stay afloat, and couldn’t seem to live in a way that felt coherent or self-contained. Being desired held almost too much importance for me, lending weight to what felt like a flimsy life.

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Now that things have changed and stabilised for me, I need very little from anyone in any material sense. My life goes on existing with or without a partner. And, of course, when you stop needing something, that’s when people want to give it to you most. So, at present, despite being calmly aware of my physical limitations, I generally feel confident and secure in my attractiveness.

Lately, though, I was reminded that this sense of security in my own appeal is conditional and situational. I had forgotten, having been stuck in the same place all year, that how attractive I feel is more than a little dependent on where I am at a given time. It was a disorienting shock to remember I am capable of feeling as sullenly lumpen as I did when I was a teenager. This time it wasn’t so bad: I ventured to a seaside town in Suffolk with the man I’m dating, and immediately realised I had packed badly. I had leaned too far into my excitement for domestic cosiness and fireside pie-eating and brought nothing but loose-fitting garments in plush, infantile fabrics. This was all well and good for our cottagecore cosplay indoors, but when we left to eat in a restaurant or have a drink, I was embarrassed and gawkily self-conscious. I felt …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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