PART I Beauty, Love and Marriage The Myth an the Reality

You know, Alta, your roommate
may be pretty, but you have that inner
beauty that counts!
BARRY, 1960

and here we are again, folks, a table of women, 7 of us, and the first thing i do to assess my coworkers on Tooth & Nail is look around at all of you to see who is prettier than i. my lover used to say how i was prettier than the other women in my women's liberation group and i would feel better while feeling worse and wish it weren't even a consideration in anybody's mind, including mine, because it drives me crazy and actually prevents me from enjoying social situations, like i used to hate to go to marthas house because she is, and i quote, perfectly beautiful, she doesn't even bite her nails, how can i compete with that/munch, munch, then i got to know her and the bitterness is real, cannot be measured; that we really like each other and could have been friends all that awful lonely year but i was afraid to be around her and have him look at my lousy skin and big nose and bitten nails next to her perfect complexion and little nose and nice nails, how could he possibly want me more than her? everything becomes a handicap: every time i take a pill i think jesus no man loves a sick wife (to quote mother), men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses, blondes have more fun. fat ass. big boobs, clear skin, sheeit.
then i got so that i could count on being the second prettiest woman in any given situation! sitting at the mediterraneum i would always be able to find one woman who was prettier and usually not more than one. at any given party i could always see one woman who was prettier and feel prettier than the rest, even on busses, even in classes, doctors offices, restaurants, dances, no doubt it could have carried over to skating rinks, art shows, family reunions, funerals, we tried grading our looks one time, i gave myself 90 and my therapist asked what would John rate you and i said lower and can you imagine the bottom of that horrible fear/ that each year i could only become more afraid because now i've nursed 2 children; now my throat is getting creapy (or whatever it's called); & my thighs will never again be size 10 unless i get emaciated, a horrible fear that drove me to a plastic surgeon who said all he could do with my big nose was hook it, drive me to try on 7 different bras to nurse with so my boobs wouldn't hang low (do your boobs hang low? do they wobble to and fro?), drove me to dermatologists to smooth out my skin, drove me to cover my face with makeup, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, drove me to curl and bleach my hair, drove me to diet, drove me to sit with my fists clenched so no one could see my nails, tell me i'm no oppressed, ask me what i want, tell me you don't like my methods, listen to my life and see that it has been intolerable and leave me the fuck alone.