If given the chance to swivel my eyes around and see for sure, I am fairly certain that the hairs on my neck are raised.
I am talking with a young (read: early high schooler) woman in my life, and she’s just revealed her insecurities about a new girl in her school that happens to have her exact, not all that common, name.
“And so,” she tells me. “I decide that I have to go find her because I have to figure out which one I’m going to be when people describe us. You know, how when someone says, “Ashton said this” and the other person says, “Which Ashton?” Well, I have to know. Am I going to be the pretty Ashton or the ugly Ashton or the thin Ashton or the fat Ashton?”
Yes, if given the chance to look , the hairs on my neck are absolutely raised.
I try to find words before she pushes on with her story. Words that don’t make me sound out-of-touch, and words that can help her get to the place where she understands the deeper issues at work here and the greater truth in all of this. And I haven’t found them. Not before the next rush of words come out of her mouth.
“So I saw her one day, and, you know what, she’s pretty and she’s not fat.”
Oh no, oh no, I think. This is where she’s going to tell me that she is BOTH the ugly and fat Ashton.
“Then I figured that we’re just different kinds of pretty.” She looks at me, expectantly, testing this theory on me.
“Yes,” I tell her. “That is just it. And it is so wise of you to realize this, Ashton. The truth is that we’re all just different kinds of pretty. We’re not supposed to be the same. There’s not supposed to be just one ideal look out there. The world has room for all of us, and we help other people realize that every time we remember that we’re all just different kinds of pretty.”
As the miles fly by us on the highway, we talk a bit more about these issues, letting her turn them over more and more. But the truest thing were those first words. I couldn’t have said it better than she did, and, right then, sun day-glowing everything, I am so glad that I didn’t force myself to find the right words before she was done finding them for herself.
We’re just different kinds of pretty. This is what I want every girl to know. It’s what I want every woman to know. Six simple words from Ashton, a whole lot of truth for all of us.
This delightful image is from Secret Diary of a Fashion Journalist.
This post originally appeared on May 23, 2011.