Will I Be Pretty?
I haven’t met Katie Makkai, but I want to.
I cam across this incredible spoken word piece she delivered at a poetry slam in 2002 and I was speechless.
Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0
A piece of it is here, but it doesn’t begin to address the power of it.
When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? What comes next? Oh right, will I be rich?” Which is almost pretty depending on where you shop. And the pretty question infects from conception, passing blood and breath into cells. The word hangs from our mothers’ hearts in a shrill fluorescent floodlight of worry.
“Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty?” But puberty left me this funhouse mirror dryad: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face donkey-long and pox-marked where the hormones went finger-painting. My poor mother.
“How could this happen? You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist. You sucked your thumb. That’s why your teeth look like that! You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were 6. Otherwise your nose would have been just fine!
“Don’t worry. We’ll get it fixed!” She would say, grasping my face, twisting it this way and that, as if it were a cabbage she might buy.
This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.
“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely ‘pretty’.”
May you never settle for merely being pretty.