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The Price of Beauty

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Ugly. Weird. Freak. The words seemed to dance in front of my eyes like marionettes on a string as I stared sullenly into the mirror in front of me. Unaware, my nail-bitten hands clenched the sharp edges of the dressing table, knocking the neon bottle of nail polish to the floor. I watched as the color seeped into the pristine white carpet, staining it an irreversible pink. Whatever. In the long run it didn’t matter. What did matter was the face that looked back at me in the mirror. My face. The reflective surface never told a lie, and I knew that what I was looking at was the truth. I could blame the lighting, or my bad-eyesight. But when it came down to it, I was exactly what everyone said I was. Ugly. Weird. A freak. My dark hair, lank and greasy hung right above my shoulders, washing out my already sallow face. My cheeks were pockmarked with an assortment of acne scars. My eyes. Hazel. A nice color, true, but also too close together and bleary with sleep. My nose was too big and my mouth was too wide. My neck was too thick, and my arms too thin. I’m disproportionate in every way, some kind of mutant that must’ve been assembled using spare parts in a junkyard. I’m the kind of girl who never knows what to wear; my closet is littered with sweatpants and oversized T-shirts. I’m the kind of girl that whispers nonsensical words under my breath, and who’s iPod is filled with songs that are not on the top ten billboard list on ITunes. In social situations, I’m awkward at best, and spastic at worst. Candy bars are my staple diet, and books my best friend. In other words, I’m ‘that’ girl. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So why do I care so much? I’m happy to be myself. I don’t need to buy into the whole ‘popularity’ hierarchy that everyone condemns but no one does anything about. I don’t need friends. I don’t need to be liked. All I need to do is to survive this town long enough to escape it. I am not going to let the teasings get to me anymore. I am going to ignore the snide remarks and the rude whispers. I am going to hold my head up high, and act as if that the cruelty of other 16-year-old’s does not permeate by calm façade. I am going to get through my life the only way I know how, by pretending.



But if I had the choice, I would do anything to fit in.



***
One Year Later

Beautiful. Gorgeous. Popular. The words appeared in a flash of blinding light in front of my eyes, before dissipating like Fourth of July fireworks. I looked down at my perfectly manicured hands; the nails painted a bright coat of “sunset red” and attempted a smile. I had nothing to worry about, I reasoned. Life was perfect. I was perfect. I stared into the mirror reverently, startled by the power of makeup. The foundation smoothed out my face, and the concealer covered up the bags. The blush flushed my cheeks a pretty pink, and the mascara lengthened my lashes. My hair had been cut and dyed; regular spray-tans had gotten rid of my pastiness. A far cry from the loser of last year, I had reinvented myself.
I got sick of it, you see. As much as I tried to pretend that I wasn’t hurting, I was. I couldn’t take it anymore—the whispers, the teasings, the mean-spirited laughter. It was too much for one person to handle; too big a burden to carry. So I gave up. One day, I sat down and I gave up. Like a coward, I took the easy way out. I learnt what to say so that I wasn’t the butt of all jokes. I learnt what to wear so that I wasn’t made fun of all the time. I learnt how to pluck eyebrows, and apply lip-gloss; how to smile when I wasn’t happy, and laugh when the situation wasn’t funny. I changed. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. To survive.
It’s a funny thing though, because now I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be. All I wanted to do was to fit in, to blend into the masses and be ignored. Instead, the opposite happened. I climbed the social ladder, higher and higher. I climbed it without realizing what I was doing; until I got to the very precipice and looked at all the people I had stepped on to get there. It hit me then, what I had given up. What I had left behind. Little pieces of my personality that flaked to the ground below, replaced by a shiny, too-tight exterior. But I can’t do anything now. I can’t undo what’s been done. Because the only thing more terrifying than being on top is being shoved to the bottom again.
So, with a flick of my hair, and a purse of my lips, I finished getting ready and walked out of the room.

Behind me, my carpet was still stained pink.



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