As is the case with most sisters there is a healthy amount of competition between Julia and me. She has always been more charismatic and fun (lately earning the moniker of “Fun Aunt” to my brother’s children. Bitch.) and I have always been more … well, more like me.
When we were young the chief source of our competition was our looks. Every young girl wants to be pretty and Julia is an incredibly pretty girl. Her personality shines through and men and women alike have always flocked to her. She has an ease of character I’ve always admired (and been more than a little jealous of). I, however, only recently came into my looks.
This youthful competition reached its peak when I was around 13. Boys that I had mad crushes on were only interested in me as a way to get closer to my sister and I was exceptionally sensitive about it. One day this competition turned into a full blown argument, which we then brought to the Ultimate Authority (my Dad).
Both of us were frustrated after nearly an hour of arguing over who was prettier and we ran downstairs to my Dad who was on the computer playing FreeCell, ready for him to settle the situation. Now, as the daughter who went out of her way to spend time with my Dad, grocery shopping on Sundays being one of our many Daddy-Daughter outings, I was pretty confident that he would at least comfort me in the way that only Dads can do.
“Dad!” Julia and I demanded in unison, he glanced over but continued his game. “Which of us is prettier?” I asked, turning to glare at my sister.
Without missing a beat and with zero hesitation my Dad responded. “Julia,” he said, still playing his game. Julia managed to look both smug and horrified at the same time, happy to be declared the prettiest, but also sad at my reaction which was to burst into tears that quickly escalated into full blown sobs.
My reaction is what made my Dad finally shut down his game and turn to look at me, also horrified at my response to what he thought had been a purely academic question.
Dad quickly explained that while Julia was the prettier of us I was something better; I was unusual looking. (This made me cry harder. What 13 year old girl wants to be unusual? And who on earth would believe that unusual is better than pretty?) He then went on to tell me the story of the Ugly Duckling who was only considered ugly because she didn’t look like any of the other ducks.
This temporarily stopped my sobs, but only so I could exclaim in absolute horror. “You think I’m ugly?!”
Dad blanched. This conversation was definitely not going the way he intended, and he was quickly learning that pre-teen girls are not always the best at rational conversations. “But you’ll be beautiful one day” he tried comfort me.
I cried some more, pausing occasionally to ask him why I was ugly. Dad kept trying to salvage the conversation, going on to explain the differences between unusual and ugly and using examples of actresses who were not conventionally pretty but were still more beautiful than their pretty counterparts. The conversation peaked when he finally told me “I would grow into my looks one day.”
At the time this was extremely traumatic, but now that I have in fact “grown into my looks” I can appreciate what my Dad was trying to say. Though Instagram filters can occasionally help me join the ranks of pretty girls, I really am more unusual looking than anything else. My eyes are strangely shaped and my nose (the same one that works great on my brother and sister’s faces) just doesn’t sit right. But still, my face is completely my own and it works.
I am unusual looking and I like it that way.