Just Write: Beautiful

February 5, 2013



When Mama was in college, she took a bus trip with her sorority sisters to another university to meet up with fellow Kappa Kappa Gammas. Sounds like a fun little adventure, right? Just a bus trip with a pack of young girls.

Okay, maybe not so fun.

Think about it: Several hours. In a tight container. With sorority girls. And they’re bored.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend a few hours on a bus with a pack of rabid babboons. Far safer, babboons.

At one point during the trip, a girl named Ann B.–a nasty gossip and notorious snoop–sat back in her seat and began rattling off the physical attributes (and shortcomings) of her fellow sisters, examining them like paramecium.

She came to the firm and loud decision that, “Susan M. is beautiful. And Shirley, she’s pretty. As for me, well, everyone knows I’m cute. And Mary (my mother)…she’s…hmm…at-trac-tive.”

I am stunned that Mama didn’t shank that bitch on the spot. But that’s not Mama’s way. She just gave a tight smile and turned her attention to her book. Later, she actually joked about it to Susan the beautiful, who happened to be her roommate. “I’ll just follow you around campus, like Quasimodo,” Mama laughed.

She laughed, but she never forgot it.  Who could?

Seems like mother, like daughter. All my life, it’s the insults I remember. I know my parents told me that I was lovely and had a good brain, and sometimes boys would pass clandestine notes and whistle as they walked by, but somehow I never remember those moments.

But I remember the neighborhood boys who called me “flamingo legs.”

I remember the math teacher with the overbite who called me “dim.”

I remember the boy in junior high named Kevin who greeted me with, “Hey, tits!” every morning.

I remember the hairstylist who told me I had the thinnest, lousiest hair he’d ever seen. “I wash it, and it feels like slime,” he said. I was twelve. I’ve hated my hair ever since.

Why do the insults, even casual ones, penetrate so deep? The compliments roll off the skin like drops of water and quickly evaporate, but the slights–they linger.

I’ve been called “beautiful” by my parents, and teachers, and friends and a handful of boys/men but I always squirm at the word. It makes me uncomfortable and skittery inside. I don’t wear beautiful well. I even sort of shrivel up at “pretty.”

“Cute” I can handle, because it’s so benign. Baby ducks and fluffy bunnies are cute. No danger there. Plus, I sort of feel like a baby duck inside, so it’s all good.

Maybe I’ll settle on attractive?

Ha! Mama would get out her shank over that one.

But I kind of like attractive, because unlike beautiful and pretty, which are directly tied to outward appearances, what makes a person attractive isn’t always skin-deep. Attractive people grow on us; beautiful people strike us. There’s more alchemy to attractive–charisma, wit, little quirks we find charming.

I like to think of attractive as the Jon Stewart of attributes.

And yet what do I say every morning to each Minx as she descends the steps, rumpled and sleep drunk? I say, “Good morning, beautiful.”

Maybe they believe it and maybe they don’t, but every time I see them after time spent away, they strike.



{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby February 5, 2013 at 9:32 am

Beautiful post. Not because of the way that it looks, but because of the authenticity that it contains. I think that’s a metaphor for something…;)


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:27 am


You think so? ;)


Maggie S. February 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

If a woman might be fully convinced of her outer beauty, wouldn’t she be actively denying her other strengths even secretly? Isn’t that a little bit just how we are?


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:28 am


Maybe if you’re that beautiful on the outside, you figure you’re done. No need to work on anything else? Maybe…


Arnebya February 5, 2013 at 10:09 am

It’s not that we believe the slights or that we want to remember them, but yes, they seem to be the comments we keep in our minds. We return to them unwillingly, as our minds automatically jog them into the forefront in seemingly unrelated circumstances. I don’t know why; I wish I could make it stop. And I’d rather be attractive because to me, being attracted to me goes beyond the immediacy of sexual attractiveness (although in your mama’s case, yeah, that wench was being a bitch.)


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:29 am


Yes to everything you said. Also, let’s go shank that wench.


Stacia February 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

Your Kevin was my Jared. I still remember the things that kid called me.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:30 am


No worries. I’ll be serving Jared virgin cocktails in Hell.


ayala February 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

Beautiful post from a beautiful girl. Don’t be mad now ;) but it’s true. I love that you tell your girls every day that they are beautiful-they will feel in within because you whispered it into their hearts.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:31 am


What a wonderful thought. I hope so. Sometimes, they’re so zombie-like that I’m not sure they even hear me!


ayala February 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

They hear you :)


Biz February 5, 2013 at 10:21 am

I loved this post KW! My maiden name was Hills, and boys used to ask in middle school when my “hills” were going to turn into “mountains.” I think I covered my arms over my boobs for several years after that!


TKW February 5, 2013 at 10:32 am


Gaaa, it’s hard when you have a name that people can riff on. My maiden name was Hagmeyer. Just imagine what fun people had with that!


Kristin February 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

I remember when a friend said I had horrible fashion sence so I just dressed like a boy and flicked everyone off in my head. I still hear her voice when I get dressed every morning. Amazing how those words can stick, but I can so easily forget the ones that build up.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm


I had a friend who told me that I dressed like a librarian. Nice, right?


Kristin February 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

I think before I would have been totally put off, but now I’ve seen some pretty rockin’ librarians :)


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes February 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

Oh sorority girls…so polite… Beauty can fade with age, but an attractive woman never loses her charm.


laura h February 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

l rather wish I was even attractive.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm


Having never met you, I can’t say, but I’m betting you are attractive and that you have much better math skills than me. I mean, a beaver has better math skills than I do, but…I bet you’re big-brained.


Justine February 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

Mean girls! And boys! And yes, the insults and slights linger with me too. Why is that I wonder?

As for you being cute, I wholeheartedly agree, but having followed you for some time, I am going to have to go with beautiful. Sorry, squirm away baby duck, but that’s just what you are.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm


Baby duck squirms but loves you and returns the compliment. xo


Shannon February 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm

My dad always told me I was beautiful. Still does. Not sure if I’ve ever fully believed him. And, now, when I tell my daughter she’s beautiful, I can see the doubt in her eyes as well. That just sucks, you know? The doubt about body image that we carry with us. And the fact that, so often that doubt is planted by other women, like your Mama’s sorority sister. We should really know better.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm


You are so right. And I think it’s women who do the greater damage to one another, and isn’t that horrible?


Jennifer February 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I love YOU and your mama, and I hope someone eventually put that Ann B. in her place.

But yes, I get it. I do the same thing. David will say, “you are so beautiful,” and I will respond, “you have to think that.” How belittling to both of us.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm


Kind of like when my husband says, “I love you,” and I immediately respond with, “Why?” Hello, sister. I get you.


Kristen @ Motherese February 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I know just what you mean: I carry every mean thing anyone’s ever said to me in a lockbox right on top on my heart. The nice things? The generous gestures? I hear them, but then let them pass right through me. Where can we buy the lockbox for the attractive sentiments? xo


TKW February 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm


Lockbox for kind things. We need one. Maybe in a heart shape?


Katybeth February 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

My mother is\sar beautiful. Model, dancer, graceful. Oh and she is nice and remembered as being nice in highschool. I guess, the good news is most of the time I was/am barely noticed when she is in the room. Yes, she loved, adored, and told me I was fabulous every single day I was growing up (I was her child right? mmmm) but the comparison was hard to shake. Reality is the mirror. Oh and she colored better than I did too..that hurt.
I know all girls especially teens and pre-teens want to be beautiful but I try to find other things to compliment them on…not brains (I don’t want them to hate me :-D) but hair or cute shoes or the angle of their piercing :-D.
Funny, I have forgotten or repressed most of the growing up mean comments from other people! I wonder if that is because I have a boy. . .I bet it all comes back to you in spades when you have a girl.
Your hair dresser…..I hope he was eaten by an awful itch!


TKW February 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm


There is so much gold in what you just told me. Please, please, open yourself and let it out and write about it, because I want to read every word.


BigLittleWolf February 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm

And then there’s the dreaded “F” word… F-A-T. Quite possibly as cutting whether you are or aren’t – or are, by degrees.

Add the “U” word… U-G-L-Y. And when you get “fat and ugly” – in particular from cruel siblings or even relatives (at least on the “fat” part; that seems to be acceptable), the damage never disappears, does it…

If we can do one thing for our children – male or female – to give them a sense of wholeness, of better than “good enough” and no interest in anyone’s idea of perfect, then I think we’re doing a good deal, as parents.

I’ve come to like “lovely,” “gracious,” “graceful,” “real.” And as I grow older, I’m more aware than ever of how little those appraisals of externals really mean, and the extent to which the interior substance is both striking and sustaining.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm


You are so right about “fat.” I had a seven year eating disorder over one comment that I was “fat.” It’s toxic.

I am aging and definitely appreciating “real.”


Jamie February 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I want to slam that stylists head into his own porcelin sink. What a DICK. My hairdresser once exclaimed, “Wow, you have a LOT of greys for a 20 year old!”

I switched hair-dressers.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm


I have colored my hair so long that I don’t even know how many greys I have, although my hairstylist assures me that it’s increased by multitudes since having children.


Sarah February 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Oh sugar pie, you are beyond beautiful, and attractive doesn’t do you justice. There’s this amazing siren inside of you and I’m always watching the sky because I’m sure you are soaring above me.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm


Honey, I am not flying in the air. I am the mole or other burrowing creature under your house.,xo


LQ February 5, 2013 at 6:14 pm

TKW, it’s amazing the things we carry in our heart – and how others remember us differently. In my mind, I was the lowest of the nerds through high school (in my mind) but somehow everyone we went to high school with remembers it differently (or they are being nice and lying to me. LOL). I only dated girls from other high schools because I thought no one at WR would have any interest.

In the same way, I remember thinking you were beautiful way back in 7th grade, all through high school, and I STILL think so (in a “I’m happily married, you’re happily married, don’t get the wrong idea” kind of way)

I have a daughter who is a senior, and between the stripper fashions at the mall and the ridiculous way they size things (normal size=XL) I don’t know how any girl grows up with a healthy body image. I’m blessed that my daughter is an athlete and very self-confident (at least on the outside) but as a father and a husband, I feel your pain. And no offense, but girls are the worst – a boy in your mom’s position would have traded insults or thrown a punch, and the next day it would be over, but instead here we are, 4 or 5 decades later, rehashing it. Sad.

My best advice for you – your husband thinks you’re beautiful, inside and out – so what else matters?


TKW February 5, 2013 at 7:34 pm


You were bullied. You were shut out. I know it and you know it and I am so sorry about it.

I’m just glad that you are here, weighing in on these words.


jacquie February 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm

a beautifully written post – thanks. yes the slights and insults of childhood stay with us do they not? me i was the “chunky”, “big for my age”, “but oh such a nice smile”, “sturdily built” etc. youngster. and i don’t think i ever had that counter by a sincere and unequivacol comment. so please keep sincerely telling your girls that they are beautiful because they are – just as their mother is in in the “attractive” meaning of the word.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm


Because the girls in our family have always grown FAR ahead of schedule, we all think of ourselves as “big girls.” Not in a good way. Thank you for sharing your experience with me.


TKW February 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm

LQ, You’ve been in my mind. You are proof that what we believe when we are young is just that. A young view.
The things that we (or others) see–and what they tell us– we take it as gospel. What is true is what you find on the inside, although it may take some time because you can’t see it yet, but then you get there. And then you think, “Gaaa. How many years have I wasted believing this stuff?” It’s like fireworks.

I am so glad that you came out of the fray with your soul intact.


LQ February 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Thanks for the kind words. I’m sure others had it worse than me because of the very point you make in your blog – the words that we hold onto. I was able to ignore a lot of it (delusional?).

A few good friends and a few teachers who believed in me made a world of difference in those years.


suzicate February 5, 2013 at 7:34 pm

It seems we do remember the insults because pain digs much deeper than compliments. It also just helps us (insecure as we already are) fixate on our shortcomings. I also find people who pick out others faults are busy trying to keep others from finding theirs.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm


You have so much wisdom…now that I think of it, the girl who called me “fat” was fatter than me…

You need to write about this!


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me February 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

TKW, you strike me as such a genuine person, I am certain that when you tell your Minxes they are beautiful, you mean in every possible way. Your post brought a tear (a deluge) to my eye today. My Grandfather used to say “Hello, Beautiful” to every one of us girls from my Grandmother down through all the daughters and granddaughters and great granddaughters to my own daughter. There was something about it…something magical. Somehow we knew it was about so much more than how we looked. It’s a wonderful story…we miss them both like crazy.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm


Dammit. Now you are making me cry a little. Doesn’t every girl want to hear those words?


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me February 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm



Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon February 6, 2013 at 8:08 am

The slights and slams are easier to believe than the compliments. It’s hard to escape our inner doubts and outer doubters but it’s important that we try to.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Until you look at Libby. And then everything is beautiful.


Cathy February 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

Yep! Me too! The other day my co-worker said, “Cathy, you could have any guy you want. Just a little makeup to make yourself look nice and they’d be all over you.” Okay, wow. Was that a compliment or ….. ?

You can either internalize or not. You either believe or not. I just had this conversation with my therapist about this. Distrust vs. disbelief. Trust is on them – belief is on you. My sister was always the beautiful one with perfect thick dirty-blonde hair (mine was thin and brown; “mousy” I believe is what my mom would say). My sister had big beautiful blue eyes (mine were brown). My sister was petite (ie., better) and I was “average”. The point is not the comparison – more the absence of positives to me, or my belief that because I don’t have my traits (ME!) are inferior.

So I think it’s marvelous that you shower your girls with compliments – every_single_day. Clearly (based on my experience anyway), what your mother tells you goes a long way to what you’ll believe, I think. And now I feel like I have to say some CYA like “I’m sure you Mama was great.”

As a last note, I will say that for almost a year now I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a morning text from a guy who simply says, “Good morning beautiful.” At first I thought it was simple flattery, maybe a little cheesy even. But now, maybe I believe it. Rather, I believe he thinks I’m beautiful. Maybe some day I will truly believe it.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm


Please write about this. Please guest post here about this? The way you write about this…I’m there with you.


Caitlin February 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

what a sweet post, TKW! you are definitely beautiful and so are your girls. my boyfriend once said to me.. “why do you always focus on the negative?” my response was “i’m a woman.. this is what we do.” haha, but it’s unfortunately true. we always feel the thorns more than we see the roses.


TKW February 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm


But dammit, look at you. Or maybe it’s best if you don’t. Let friends take pictures and ten years later, get really pissed off that you didn’t know how beautiful you were. Then go kick a new puppy or something, because you will want to make that clock turn back. I hope this weekend you will put on lipstick and venture out there (unless you have a new boy and he does dishes and makes the bed). All I have to say is: DO NOT SETTLE. Pinky swear?
But know your value.


Caitlin February 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

hahaha well thank you. my current boy is awesome actually and i guess that is his point like why do i listen more to the negative comments from people (like the guy in 10th grade who told me my voice is annoying) instead of all the positive stuff. but yes, i get your both his and your points… i should realize my value and just ignore all that negativity! but hey.. take your own advice over there! ;)


Sherri February 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

I love it. Love it. Beautiful is hard to put into words, but you’ve analyzed here quite nicely on many levels :).


Tiffany February 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

My friend says you have to hear 7 positives to make up for one negative. Who knows what the formula is but all I know is I too remember the negatives and the positives are a little foggy.


Anonymous February 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I absolutely love this post, and how it reminds me of being a teenager – in class, on the bus, at the YMCA. Oh, the insults that made me feel too sick to go to school in the morning and sent me home crying at the end of the day.

And then one day, as if I was the ugly duckling that turned into a swan, the insults stopped. I’m not saying that anyone started calling me beautiful, and I am certainly not a graceful swan, but I am a robin. (Yes, robin redbreast was one of those insults I heard in 7th grade – robin redbreast, robin flat chest.)


TKW February 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Dear Anonymous,

When the insults stop, it’s such a relief, isn’t it? Unless you’ve listened to them so much that they’re now in your head…


Robin February 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I wrote a response and then I tried to post it without filling out the Name info. AHHH!

I loved this post! It brought back my teenage years. But, eventually, the insults went away like the ugly duckling who turned into a swan – well, a robin.


Heather February 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm

We’ve never met in person but here is what I know. You are beautiful. Your heart and soul and wit and snark. Pure beauty right there. I too remember every single insult. I cringe every time that someone compliments me and I’m not sure how to take it. I wake my boys every morning with a “good morning handsome”. I want them to know that they are beautiful people too.


TKW February 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm

It made me smile to think that our mornings are similar.


Jenna February 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

Aaah, how I’ve missed your writing Kitch!


TKW February 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm


I need news and details and updates on how everything is going! Missed you, too.


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