“Beautiful”

by

In the West we spend our lives

And our life savings

Trying to make ourselves look

“Beautiful”.

We go on diets

We spray on sun-tanning lotion

We put product after product in our hair.

We buy the best gym memberships

The newest mascara

The clinically-proven teeth whiteners.

We shave three times a week

Wax once a month

Have a secret coin jar dedicated to laser-hair-removal.

We have been trained since birth to say:

‘Has she put on some weight?’

To critique other women

To drag them to a place where they don’t feel

“Beautiful”.

All the while trying to emulate them

And become the parts of them we like best.

At age 5 we play with

“Beautiful”

Barbies and watch animated movies where

The Princess’s hair and make-up stays

“Beautiful”

Even when she falls in mud or is captured by a villian.

“Beautiful”

We are always trying to achieve it.

We strive for it

Dream about it

Waste our whole lives

Searching for it.

But the joke is on us, because

“Beautiful”

In the West is just a made up word.

An oasis outlined against the desert sun.

A place we can never quite reach.

It was invented by terrible people;

People who wanted to keep us

Striving,

Dreaming,

Wasting away,

And never achieving.

They thought to themselves

If we make up an image called

“Beautiful”

And make it something every girl wants

They will always be looking for it,

And will never look at themselves.

Here, in the East,

“Beautiful”

Is not some intangible thing.

It is not a theory made by men.

It is not impossible to attain

Or sustain.

“Beautiful”

In the East is what

Every woman,

Every girl,

Every scarf,

Every pigtail,

Is.

You are

“Beautiful”

They say to the mother of five.

You are

“Beautiful”

They say to the young, impressionable school girl.

You are

“Beautiful”.

Whoever you are

Whatever your size

Whatever the length of your hair

Whatever your favorite food.

“Beautiful”

They say as they scrub you clean in the Hammam.

“Beautiful”

They say as they dish

Even more food on your plate.

“Beautiful”

They say after you workout for yourself

And yourself alone.

“Beautiful”

They say as you order a new dress.

“Beautiful”

They say as you cry over your first love.

“Beautiful”

They say as you laugh with your friends.

There is no single end point you need to reach

No mountain you need to climb

No invisible, unattainable goal.

You are simply

“Beautiful”.

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