I have trouble with dichotomies. I really do. For instance, there’s this dichotomy between being smart and being sexy. As though if you value the one, you can’t value the other.
And it’s bullshit.
My entire life, I’ve known I was smart. I’ve done a pretty good job of making sure everybody around me knows it, too. I read obsessively, I’m snobbish about food and literature, I’m completely out of the pop culture look, but will always catch a reference to “The Song of Roland” – I’m an overeducated geek, no doubt about it. And I base a lot of my self image and self esteem on that knowledge.
I have not known for my entire life – or even since I began caring about such things – that I was sexy. That I, in fact, am sexy. There are days, even now, when I don’t know it.
But I’m not blind, you see, and I am lucky. I look at myself and I see – firm, high breasts, small waist, flaring hips, round bottom. I see long legs and smooth skin, a good complexion, dark eye-lashes framing big brown eyes, a small, upturned nose, naturally shiny hair with just a little bit of wave to it. If you put together all the pieces you get sexy, right?
So what, I thought, was wrong with me?! I should be sexy, I should be physically desirable, but nobody seems to be desiring me – so somehow, something must be broken.
I’m too smart.
A woman can only be valued for her brains or her body. Never both.
And it’s better, apparently, to be desired for your brains. That’s what it is – you say, I love you for your brain. Your mind. You say it as a joke to your sexy girlfriend, like saying you only read Playboy for the articles, like it’s demeaning that her body turns you on.
Again, I say, bullshit.
I know that I’m smart, and it’s important to me that my friends, my partners, and the world at large understands that. It’s important that they notice my accomplishments, the quality of my writing, my skill at solving problems. It’s ALSO important to me that I look good, and that my friends, my partners, and those guys who catcall on the street, notice that too.
I do put some effort into looking good, you know. And I don’t find it demeaning (nor should you find it threatening) to have that noticed. I don’t feel that my worth as a woman is threatened by men who find me attractive – I think it’s heightened. Because I am STILL SMART. Being sexy doesn’t take away from that, it adds to it. It gives me another thing to base my self esteem, my self image on. It gives me a reason to pick out my clothes with a bit of care, to think about what message my appearance sends, to make sure my hygiene is good.
Having grown up feeling smart but not sexy, I have never, ever felt threatened or lessened or maligned because of someones positive comments about my body. I have felt disbelieving. I have felt I was receiving charity. I have felt, even in the face of strong empirical evidence to the contrary, that my lovers were telling me I was beautiful just to placate me.
It took a man who was stunned by my intelligence first, but who nevertheless dropped his jaw when I removed my clothing, to make me believe, really, that I was sexy, in addition to, because of, but also separate from, being smart.
My being a wonderful, desirable, complete person will not cause earthquakes. It may overthrow some social orders, it make confuse some people, but no heavenly power will punish me or the world at large for it. I can be what I am.
And it matters to me that if you want me to like you, and if you like me, you acknowledge all of what I am.
I am smart. I am sexy. They both count, and no matter who you are, neither should make you feel threatened or fearful.
I’d much rather you whistled at me as I walk past than ever be afraid of me.
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