When I was a teenager, or perhaps even in my early twenties, I was invited to a friend’s house party on a Saturday night, as was quite the norm back then. This was before ‘house’ was used to describe a style of music played loudly by DJs in clubs and instead it usually meant your friend’s parents were away and you were being invited over to help empty the family booze cabinet. Music – unless you were lucky enough to be mates with a budding DJ with his/her own set of decks – would play from a home stereo, or we’d just listen to the radio at full volume.
I attended many of these parties in the first 5/6 years or so after I left school and they were all pretty much the same. We’d drink cheap white wine and dance to Duran Duran, Ace of Bass and Oasis. Sometimes, we’d get off with a boy we fancied in the corner, or sometimes the boy we fancied got off with someone else in the corner and we’d go home brokenhearted. Anyway, this particular night started out no differently. The usual crowd was in attendance, mostly people I had known since school, and we were all probably drinking Malibu & coke, Archers & lemonade, or anything else that we could get our hands on before starting on the Lambrini.
It was still quite early on in the evening. I remember this as we were all still leaning against a wall sipping our drinks and not spilling them over the carpet as we waved our arms in the air to Wonderwall. So there I was, quietly hanging out with a friend and wondering if and when the boys standing on the other side of the room would make their way over to us. We’d been friendly with them for a while and I’d drunkenly snogged one of them a few weeks before. I definitely fancied him, but I wasn’t sure if he felt the same way so I was playing it cool and waiting for him to speak to me first. I was also much shyer back in those days and would never have had the confidence to approach a group of boys on my own, no matter how well I knew them.
Anyway, the song finished and as this was a time before iPods and shuffle, the host had to physically walk over to the stereo to change the music, which was not easy in the dark so someone helpfully switched on the living room light. It was then that my eyes drifted casually over to the boys and the one that I liked locked eyes with me and in his loudest, cruellest voice said: “FUCK ME, YOU’RE UGLY!”
The room fell quiet. Nobody said a word. Everyone just looked at their feet and shuffled until someone had the good sense, or kindness of heart, to turn the music back on and switch off the light. I didn’t make a scene or burst into tears and run out of the room – I was stronger than that – but I have never forgotten that moment. I don’t think about it every day or obsess over it at all, but every now and again it pops into my mind.
Today was one of those days as I watched a clip of Pink’s emotional speech at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which she dedicated to her young daughter. Pink’s beautiful 6-year old girl recently said she thought of herself as the ugliest girl she knew and “like a boy with long hair”. As heartbreaking as this must have been for Pink, she used the stage to send a very important message about self acceptance as she recalled “I went home and made a Powerpoint presentation for her daughter of androgynous rock stars and artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their life, and carry on, wave their flag and inspire the rest of us.”
Where was Pink when I needed her in the early 90s?! I’d be lying if I said that I brushed off the ugly comment when it was directed at me all those years ago but, sadly, I believed it to be true for many years. It was much later – when I had grown into myself more and accepted all of my imperfections and flaws (I wrote a post about that here) – that I stopped comparing myself to other people. I know I am no Gigi, but overall I am happy with how I look and more importantly, with who I am.
Besides, I now realise that the comment said more about the little toe-rag than it ever did about me.
As Pink herself said “We don’t change, we take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. We help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”
That’s the kind of positive message I’d like to pass on to my own son.