beautiful

Women often say—on a first date or at the altar or in the quiet
of the room they share with the man they adore—thank you
for making me feel beautiful, as if beauty were a present someone
can bestow on you, as if beauty weren’t something you already
own. As a young girl I dreamt about meeting a boy who would
see past my dark skin and my lack of curves and height, and
zoom in on my smile or my nose or the way I tucked my hair
behind my ears. As a young girl I shut the door, closed my eyes,
and dreamt about meeting a boy who would call me beautiful
every day, declare it so that there would be no room for doubt,
settling every fear I’ve ever had in my heart about being
too much of something, or not enough of something else.

Find a man who will make you feel beautiful. Love a man who will
make you feel beautiful.
Over and over again we hear this, in caf├ęs
and schools and salons and shoe stores and over the pounding
music of a soaked, crowded bar. Gray-haired women say this
with a steady certainty, a statement of solid weight, while girls
in crop tops and sneakers whisper it to each other, a pinky-swear
promise, a question mark dancing on the tips of their tongues.

I’ve had men call me beautiful, but sometimes only because
I asked. I’ve had men make me feel beautiful but not loved,
and I’ve learned through the years the difference between
these two, how just because someone thinks you look great
first thing in the morning doesn’t always mean he’ll choose
to be there at the end of your worst day, when your thoughts
are a tangled mess and your words are sharp and cold and
cruel. How just because someone looks deep into your eyes
and sees stars doesn’t mean he’ll see the good in you when
all you can see is despair, how just because someone can’t
get enough of your silk-spun skin doesn’t mean he’ll find hope
when every single thing you touch turns into hurt. I’ve made the
mistake of believing there were men who made me feel loved
but not beautiful, but I know now that the right kind of men—
the ones who are kind and patient and brave and strong—
will make you feel loved first, and then beautiful. They will
make you feel kind and patient and brave and strong, and then
beautiful. I know this to be true because I’ve felt it, over
and over again, in the unlikeliest places, floating in the middle
of the ocean, or hiking up a mountain listening for the rushing
sound of waterfalls, or carefully balanced on top of an elephant,
or on stage, or on a plane headed somewhere that isn’t home,
or at a tattoo parlor gritting my teeth against the buzzing of
the needle against my veins, or at my desk trying to tone down
an angry email, or in my room trying to write this piece.

Find a man who will make you feel beautiful. Love a man who will
make you feel beautiful.
Over and over again we hear this, but
maybe there are more important things a man should make
you feel other than beautiful—kind and patient and brave
and strong. Phenomenal, all on your own. So find a man
who will love you without makeup, but with makeup as well,
because he knows that sometimes you need lipstick and blush
to get through the day. Find a man who thinks your mind
is beautiful and crazy and complicated, an experience all on
its own. Find a man who will show you off to his friends
not because you can turn heads in a dress and heels, but
because you can talk about the things you like and the places
you’ve been and the ideas that keep you up at night.

Find a man who knows you’re beautiful, knows it as an
undeniable truth, feels it with every fiber of his being, but
is certain, on your first date or at the altar or in the quiet
room you share, from the middle of the ocean to the top
of a mountain and in all the unlikeliest places, that you are
so much more than that.  

her/ hers

The first time you called her pretty it didn’t occur to me to worry.
My nails are always chipped and my clothes are always black and
the scent of cigarettes buried in my hair wafts into every empty
space, filling in all the cracks, but you once told me that pretty isn’t
about lace dresses and clean hair and the smell of lilies on my wrists,
and I took that to heart, the way I do your every word. It didn’t
occur to me that maybe you wouldn’t always mean it, that just
because someone says something on a summer day doesn’t mean
they’ll still feel it when the ground is brown and wet and the leaves
can’t hold onto the drops that slide right past them. There is a nook
between your jaw and your shoulder that should be saved for
my chin, my cheekbone, for moments when I need to rest against
something true, but these days it smells like lilies, a perfume-laced
threat in my nostrils. We sit in silence more often now, trying not to
drum our fingers on scratched tabletops, or tap our feet out of sync.
Your hand in mine feels limp, different, strange. This morning I
thought about buying a white dress, holding it up against my skin.
I tried saying “pretty” out loud to my reflection, but my tongue felt
like it wasn’t my own. Maybe I should practice braiding my hair,
getting enough sleep. Quit smoking. Change my polish before it
breaks. Stop wearing my darkness to cover my body.

life lately

Has been about growing up. And I know that’s something a 29-year-old should stop saying because, please, shouldn’t you have grown up already, but there it is. There have been decisions to make, difficult ones, and sometimes my heart doesn’t hold the answer, at least not in its entirety. Is there anything more grown-up than reading between the lines when somebody tells you to follow your heart? Life lately has been about learning that you can’t trust every girl in a vintage dress just because her red-lipstick smile shines from across the room, especially not if you don’t know how she takes her tea, what she prays for at night, what her sadder side looks like. But it’s also been about faith in humanity restored, how a gentle, white-haired captain can talk you into swimming with fishes and dangling from a rope strung between two small islands, your feet swinging beneath you the way they did when you were three and you tried to sit on a bar stool taller than you are. Life lately has been books and spreadsheets and conference rooms and staying in on Friday nights, and my boyfriend saying one weekend, “I think today we should go to a museum,” but we end up ordering fried chicken and macaroni soup instead, watching a movie about two tired old men in love. Sometimes I think I’m being too kind and sometimes I regret not having been kind enough, which is infinitely worse. I’ve been wondering about the best way to say goodbye to something I’ve lived and breathed for so long. I’ve been counting down the days until I say hello again.

permanent

Courage is always the first step, or maybe it’s conviction, or
maybe your bones can be shaking in uncertainty inside
of you but you do it anyway. Maybe it’s commitment. Maybe
it’s choice. Either way you will find yourself in a cramped,
dimly-lit shop filled with action figurines and the smell of stale
airconditioning, where you will say, This is what I want. On my
skin. Forever.
You will need a can of Coke to keep your
sugar up, a hand to hold to keep your spirits up; squeeze
your eyes shut when it hurts too much. Watching will only
make it worse, only make it feel like a bad decision when
it doesn’t have to be. Think about happy things: puppies and
yogurt parfaits and those cool girls on Pinterest with their
inked wrists and long necks, their clean white sheets
always ready to catch their fragile bodies. Think about the stares
you’ll meet. Think about the stories you’ll tell. Hum
your favorite song under your breath, an old song you know
by heart. Or hum a new one. Make up the words, make them
your words, as you go along: Put that buzzing needle to vein.
Teach my skin all the shapes and shades of pain.
When it’s all over
go home to your sheets that are neither clean nor white. Rest
your shaking bones. Take comfort—some things
are far from temporary.

wait

Every time you close the door behind you with your carry-on bags and
overweight plans, I have to take my own hand, sit myself down, remind
myself not to worry. Remind myself that for 27 years I learned how
to be alone, was really, really good at being alone, mastered how
to be alone. Remind myself that there is a pile of books I haven’t
read, a queue of movies I haven’t watched, a lonely box from my
old apartment I still haven’t unpacked. Maybe I can order a whole
pizza for myself, or maybe I can make dinner, something fresh and
green and right; maybe I can have friends over. Maybe I can talk
to people I haven’t spoken to in years, ask them how often they
feel lonely, and whether or not they think that will ever go away.
Maybe I can pack my own bag and go off on my own adventure
while you are busy with yours, maybe I can tell myself that although
fun isn’t my strongest suit I am reliable, and trustworthy, and I know
how to take care of myself. 27 years of practice, a steady hum
of progress—there are things you don’t leave behind.

And there are things you do. There are things that no longer work
like they used to, things whose mistakes have caught up with them,
things that are bursting at the seams with hurt. Sometimes I ask myself
why I let the pile of books grow in the first place, why I can’t sit still
through movies alone anymore, what the contents of that lonely box are.
There are goodbyes that break you and goodbyes that shape you, but
there are also goodbyes that do nothing except make room. Space. Empty
out parts that have been too full for too long.

But know this: every time you come back with your eyes dancing and
your skin burning and your stories a tangled mess, announcing your
return with three swift knocks as certain as your place in the world,
your place in my world, I will take your hand, sit you down, remind
you that you are home now, remind you that you can stay.

All text original work by Marla Miniano. Powered by Blogger.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I write, edit, and produce books for a living. I also: take photos, attempt poetry, make travel plans, snore, do the dishes, daydream on the treadmill, and dress like a loose grandma. For feedback, questions, and invitations, email me at marlaminiano@gmail.com.

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