In which I strike up a new friendship with myself
I conducted a workshop last month where I guided a series of short writing sessions with a corresponding series of prompts. One great thing about the work I do (paid and unpaid) is that it allows me to exercise the lessons I learn from other writers and workshops. The adage that good artists borrow and great artists steal is an adage for a reason: if I’m gonna be one of the greats, there’s just no two ways about it.
Another thing I get to do is cross disciplines and draw from my other interests. You might chalk it up to my recently-diagnosed inability to settle on one thing—100% accurate btw—but it was inevitable anyway, because all art informs other art. My love of theatre has lately manifested in more of a costume/cosplay tendency, inspired either by specific personages or a general desire to express different sides of myself. In light of that, I prompted the writers at this workshop to probe an alternative identity or personality they dream of inhabiting.
I wrote on the prompts as well, and the identity that came to me called herself Hot Girl.
I never used to think Hot Girl would, or could, be part of me. She was not what I was slated for. In my teen years I saw Hot Girl as an inaccessible identity, one with which some girls were destined to be gifted and others, myself included, were not. It didn’t matter that I found plenty of people attractive for reasons other than (or at least in addition to) their looks. Nor did it matter how people saw or responded to me. Our own view of ourselves can be so arbitrarily limiting.
There would be times when I would hang out with the girls I perceived as the hot girls and wonder, does this make me a hot girl too? But I had also been conditioned, as at least the past couple generations have been, to believe that a woman could not be intellectual and put a premium on physical appearances at the same time. Brains and beauty were mutually exclusive; you chose a camp and you stuck to it, reaping the rewards and dealing with the drawbacks. I believed I fell into one camp by nature, and so I leaned into it.
But a hot girl is not Hot Girl. Hot Girl is an ideology, and she can exist within anyone.
Thankfully I’ve since come to understand how nonsensical (at best) and dangerous (at worst) those high-school mentalities were. If I’m honest, I was already beginning to understand it at the time, judging by the reactions I got on the occasions when I crossed into the other camp. But I lacked the self-confidence to really internalize the message that I, like Walt Whitman and all humans, contained multitudes, and that my personality could accommodate all those sub-personas and identities. I was master of myself and didn’t know it.
I have a better picture of it now, and better self-confidence to boot. Reading back over my musings at the workshop, the disconnect seems to be that I once regarded hotness as something beyond the self, something to be gained in the external world, as opposed to my more recent realization that it comes from within, from the choices one makes about and for oneself. Hot Girl is no passive identity bestowed on some and denied others: she is agency, one’s own agency. I can dress up and put on the makeup I’ve been steadily training myself to get comfortable with, and I’m perfectly legitimate. I can be the life of the party one day, and just because I’m not always like that doesn’t mean I can never be like that. Hot Girl is available and waiting for me to call upon her just as much as she is available to anybody else. I’ve been enjoying getting to know her, the ways she presents in me, and I hope to know her even better as time goes on.
Here is an edited version of what I wrote that night:
…Could I be a Hot Girl? Growing up I hardly considered that a real or reasonable possibility. First of all, the asymmetry of my face put it out of reach from a physical standpoint; second of all, being hot seemed to be about having social power, and I was powerless in nearly all social situations. ‘Hot’ was off-limits to those of us who had been deemed unacceptable. It didn’t even matter what we looked like, not really—‘hot’ was a state of agreement with the world, distributed in a limited supply. Even if I fit the mold physically when I reached that point, I could not accept myself as existing within that framework. It was easy, comfortable even, to be aesthetically oppressed.
Now, with a little help from my therapist, my friends, myself, and (yes) Edie Sedgwick, I have begun to embrace the Hot Girl in me. I am hot, temperature-wise: I burn with the energy of my life—sometimes I flare, sometimes I simmer. Hot Girl has been waiting inside me for quite a while and I happen to have stumbled into enough circumstances with enough people who enable her to step out and show her face.
She loves it here. She has a ton of fun. She isn’t concerned about those who don’t care for her. She’s far too busy filling her days and nights with things that please her. Hot Girl dances with other people AND with herself, and she doesn’t apologize for how she’s convinced herself it might make someone else feel. Hot Girl takes her sweet time: hers is the only schedule she operates on. Hot Girl takes my love of life and cranks it up. She invites me to let go a little, and I find fewer and fewer excuses not to surrender. I like Hot Girl; I like what she does to and for me. I think I’ll let her come around more often and stay longer.
(P.S. Hot Girl loves podcasts, obviously, so check out the episode she just released today)