07 Dec 2016
By Anjani Siegrist
Beauty is a prized possession that men and women want to own in one way or another. But what is the real cost of beauty?
I grew up being valued for my beauty. From as early back as I can remember, people would take pictures of me and talk about what I beautiful little girl I was. Mostly outside of my family. Within my family, I felt outcast. My mother’s sisters, their daughters (with a few exceptions) and my mother’s mother seemed to despise me. They said I was conceited, stuck up, made jokes about my perfect posture and said things like, “What are you trying to prove?” In my reality, I did not feel superior or beautiful and wasn’t trying to prove anything. I got a lot of attention and felt like I was in the spotlight everywhere I went.
When I was six years old I stayed at my mother’s sister’s home for a week or so. Her husband would have me and my cousin massage his legs and feet, which I did not enjoy. I remember being left alone with him and wishing someone would call me back into the living room or come looking for me. One night after everyone went to sleep, he came into the room where I was sleeping and molested me. I had no way of understanding what was happening or how to handle the situation. I told my cousins the next morning and they immediately told the grown-ups, against my request to keep it a secret. There was nothing done. Not even a talk to check in with me or listen to how I felt about what had happened. Between the ages of 6 and 9, my memory of where I lived, my family structure, and life in general is a blur. The rush of energy and change in my mentality around who I was and how I was supposed to act was disorienting. My little body and mental state were not developed enough to handle the situation. I recently asked my mother to fill in the gaps on my memory of exactly how old I was, what season it was, and whether she knew about what happened or not. From what my mother told me and my memory, I believe my aunts didn’t tell my mother until years later. The story has always been that the women knew that my father would kill that uncle so they were protecting my dad from going to prison. My father was a dangerously violent man and certainly would have killed him.
During elementary school, I lived in a Mormon town in Thatcher, Arizona. I remember having my first crush on a boy when I was in the 3rd grade. His name was Josh. He had the prettiest green eyes and gorgeous smile. I wrote about him in my diary and wished that he would like me too. But the kids called me a nigger, butt-wipe, dirty black girl and a lot of other racially biased names. Even if Josh did like me back, he certainly would not have admitted it. The kids were cruel and their parents were even worse.
When I reached 7th grade, boys started to notice me. I got gifts from secret admirers and had requests to go on dates to the movies. I also had some rage ridden boys who would call me a slut, bitch, and other horrible things when I declined their attempts at courting me. The summer after 7th grade, I had sex for the first time. I was 12 years old. It was with a boy who was 15 and was a family member of a family I used to babysit for. I didn’t really know him. I bled so much that I passed out in the bathtub the next day. But I couldn’t tell anyone. That summer everything changed. I stopped going to church which was a big deal for me since I took the bus to church every single Sunday with my sister and cousin. I felt guilty and full of shame.
When 8th grade started, it seemed like all the boys were interested in me. I was very pretty but also very insecure. I had a boyfriend named Sean who was in the 10th grade. He was a light-skinned Mexican guy with stunning green eyes and was very suave. Sean was beautiful and a lot of the girls his age liked him. They decided they wanted to beat me up, even though they never met me. I soon had to have an escort walk me home from school every day for my safety. The girls would come to my house at night, yell profanity and honk the horn for me to come outside. My mom had a boyfriend in another town and didn’t sleep at our house a lot of nights so wasn’t there when this was happening. When we would go out to get groceries, girls would threaten me in public and right in front of my mother. It was so embarrassing. But my mom stood up for me and that felt good. But my mom couldn’t be there to stand up for me most of the time. By the time I was 13 years old, I remember wishing I would just be fat and ugly to avoid all the trouble my looks were causing me.
We moved to the town where my mother’s boyfriend lived at the end of 8th grade. Even though my mother’s boyfriend had something against me, I was so happy to not be in fear for my safety anymore. But when school started in the 9th grade, it was even worse with the girls. They instantly hated me and their boyfriends loved me. I was at that school between 9th and 12th grade and had the hardest time fitting in, making friends and being a part of the community. There was one girl who was relentless in wanting to fight me. She would drive by in her truck looking for me at every lunch break and after school. Finally, I decided I had to fight her to make it end. I was scared out of my mind. I met her (and a large group of kids from school) down a deserted road that led to the river. I beat her up to the equivalent of a TKO. But she got up and wanted to fight again. So, we did. When we left that day, she had a concussion and wrecked her truck on the way home. I felt horrible about that. This was the first of many girls I physically wounded. I never once got in trouble for any fighting because every fight was in self-defense and not started by me.
When I was 15, my aunt got a divorce from uncle David and used the molestation against him in court. It was at that time that I had to tell the story of what happened that night repeatedly to so many people with tape recorders and then again in court. I remember wanting to rip my skin right off. I hated what happened to me and that I couldn’t do anything to change my feelings. I felt like I couldn’t control my urges to be sexual and blamed my uncle for that. It was really embarrassing that so many people knew what happened to me.
When I got out of high school, I married a man who was 4 years’ senior to me. He was so jealous and got mad if I wore makeup or perfume to go to my University classes. He said he didn’t want those black guys (the athletes) perusing me. I didn’t give in to my husband’s requests and wore whatever I wanted to. We had tension in our marriage for obvious reasons. To start with, I was only 18 years old. We got married in October and by November I cheated on him with a guy from high school. That marriage was short lived. I realized that I was not ready to be a wife. I wanted to see the world and have adventures. I wanted to meet famous people and date professional athletes. I wanted to model. I knew none of those things would happen in the situation I was in, so I left, joined the Navy and realized those things I had hoped to experience.
All I was complimented, congratulated, loved and hated for was my beauty. When I joined the Navy, they cut my hair off, made me wear boy clothes, and fed me dead food. I was really depressed for the first year, gained about 20 pounds, and did not feel beautiful. I would eat a whole medium sized pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream every day after work with the curtains to my barracks room closed. No matter how horrible I thought I looked, there were always guys on base who would cat call me. But I couldn’t even respond or look at them. I felt so bad about myself. I finally got a plastic surgeon who I worked for to do a liposuction surgery on my belly after being asked by someone if I was “expecting.” After that surgery, my distorted body image and eating problems got worse. I became bulimic and was on a crazy cycle of binge/purge. I finally did lose weight and stabilized myself enough to eat normal amounts of food and not throw it up. But I wasn’t totally free from my disordered eating patterns. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this. It was something I hid in secrecy.
I finally could get to a healthy relationship with food when I was in a healthy relationship with myself. It was not easy and took most of my energy. I started studying Buddhism and practicing yoga when I was pregnant with my son in 2004. When he was born, I became vegetarian because of a story I heard from a chef about an eel he was cooking. I decided that I would no longer contribute to the suffering and loss of freedom of any creature. I lost 30 pounds effortlessly with this change in my perception and eating choices. My family made a lot of comments about my weight and choices, as they often did. At some point, I stopped caring what they said about me and they stopped saying anything.
I decided to be fat and ugly when I was 13 to avoid the problems my looks were causing. Then I had to fight (mostly myself) to win my health and beauty back. When I look in the mirror, I now see beauty beyond the physical. My beauty is so much deeper than a surface level. I learned about the inner feminine and inner masculine using astrology which has healed my relationship struggles from the inside. I value and nurture myself and I know that my outer beauty reflects how I feel on the inside. For years, I have felt ashamed of being beautiful because of the damage it caused. I feared being hurt and abused by men and an object of misogyny and hate from other women. Yes. I said that. Other women have been competitive and aggressively hateful to beautiful women.
Overcoming a serious eating disorder, clinical depression, anxiety and panic attacks was a side effect of doing real work on my relationship with myself. For 17 years, I read countless self-help books, attended workshops and certification courses in the healing arts and even went through the medical system for 2 years. The things that have been most beneficial to my healing have been Shamanic journeying, CranioSacral Therapy, Ayurveda, and doing self-love rituals daily. I practice meditation and developed other talents and skills that are not dependent upon my outer appearance. I never once used my looks to get out of speeding tickets, get into the VIP section of the night clubs, or get men to buy me things. I saw other women around me do those things, but I never did it. I am not saying there is anything is wrong with it, but I personally prefer to be valued and treated fairly for simply being human rather than for physical appearance. To be honest, it means more for me to be complimented for my brilliance and creativity rather than be called beautiful or sexy.
By adding this piece of my story to the tapestry of our collective story, I want people to realize what the “easy road for a beautiful woman” might look like. I also hope that you will acknowledge the pieces of your experience as well. Especially the things that you have hidden. After doing bodywork for many years, I notice that so much energy is trapped in the body like a cover-up to keep secrets buried inside. I decided to start moving this deeper layer of energy out of my body and releasing it back into the loving darkness or energetic field where all energy circulates freely. There is no good or bad energy. It is just energy and can be used to create apple pies or nuclear bombs.
Post scriptum: I was looking for court documents to fulfill a request from a publisher before they could publish this writing. I found a death certificate instead. It appears my uncle died in the summer of 2016 from heart failure. After a day of processing, I feel like some cords have been cut between me and painful memories from this portion of my life. The details of what happened and how it was handled by the people in charge are no longer a concern for me. Ultimately, it is my own inner process that I am responsible for. The sense of losing my innocence and the years I spent feeling out of control of my emotions and sexuality are the bigger issues for me. I have worked this topic from many angles over the years. A lot of people have suggested that I “let it go.” Where exactly does “it” go to? It goes into the body and other parts of the unconscious mind where it lives forever as deep programming. I see it all the time in my work with people and I am not interested in wearing my inner material as a hidden under garment. Many creative people take their painful material and MAKE SOMETHING of it. Me, plus my inner material, can equal my art or unconscious acting out.
I realize today that I am in a phase of holding a memory and a story. The experience put me into a mode of intense sexuality and sensuality which may or may not have been part of my original personality. It was too powerful and impossible for me (before I had training) to contain and work with. I learned the lessons, had many experiences and have taken back my power. I have lived out the drama of that story and now the story is over. I am left with the potency of my own power and ability to run sexual energy through my body for the sole purpose of energizing myself. I no longer feel the need to dampen or hide that part of myself or give power to the story.