I told this story at a storytelling open mic when I was in college. I'd argue this probably one of the best things I have written.
I had just come back from summer vacation and I’m hanging out with this darling gamer boy I had met in my Russian History class. We’d talked a lot over the summer and now it was time that we finally got to see each other in person, not over Skype. We were in my dorm room sitting on my bed when I told him that I never thought of myself as beautiful, citing my stomach as one of the main detractors from my physique. He lifts up my shirt, kisses my stomach, and says that it is part of what makes me beautiful; it is a part of me and all of me is beautiful. I began to tear up. I pulled him in for a kiss because I didn’t want to explain why I was crying tears of joy. It would’ve ruined the moment.
My whole life I had digested media, mainly Disney, that had told me that in the end, you get married and it’s a happily ever after. Even in Harry Potter, Hermione marries Ron. While I had Disney Princesses that I loved and adored (Ariel was my favorite) I clung to Hermione like a sloth clings to sleep: she was the person who gave me the guidelines on how to live life. She taught me that brains mattered more than beauty, and since I was a young chubby girl who never exactly fit in with the people around her, that was reassuring.
Armed with my Harry Potter books, I went through my junior high and high school years wondering why I hadn’t found my Ron. All of the other girls had boyfriends and were losing their virginities, why wasn’t I? I mean, yes, I was wearing baggy clothes, but I had figured my brains and personality would be enough to win people over. I was at a loss. I’m smart, why don’t boys like me? I came to the conclusion that while I was a Hermione Granger, I was swimming in a sea of Ginny Weasleys, Cho Changs, and Angelina Johnsons; girls who were smart, talented, funny, AND pretty. A frizzy haired brunette with small boobs, bad teeth, and a big belly wouldn’t cut it no matter how high her grades were or how many show tunes she could sing from memory. Instead of Beauty, I was the Beast.
I thought back to the Disney films I had watched as a kid and I found a recurring theme: just about every princess sacrificed something for the person they loved: Ariel sacrificed her legs and voice, Belle sacrificed her freedom, etc. I got it into my head that I had to lose a part of myself in order to be worthy of love. I could be me, but less me. So, I started small: watching movies they said they liked on Facebook so I could engage them in conversation about it, wearing slightly tighter clothes to show off what curves I did have, not talking so much about my own loves, asking questions about their loves, etc. If I could keep them talking about the things they liked, then I didn’t have to do much other than agree. They’d think I was cool and they’d fall in love with me. It was a perfect plan. And it worked… a bit too well. And then that’s when the problems started.
I had about five… not relationships, let’s call them “involvements”, in the course of two years. I molded myself into the perfect girl, but that perfect girl began falling apart the moment I was required to speak. I began second guessing everything. I came off as passive and, as an ex had pointed out to me, “an idiot.” I had lost my authority when saying no to things I didn’t like, and in turn, lost my bodily autonomy on more than one instance. One of my lovers even went so far as to tell me on Yahoo Messenger, and I quote “Honestly Katie, I don’t think I’m capable of respecting you. You have no personality, no discernment, and you’re thoroughly uninteresting. … But, your tits are nice, if you lost some weight, they’d look good on you.”
This wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for, this isn’t what happened in the movies I’d seen or books that I read. After I had ended the involvements towards the end of my sophomore year of college, I asked “what would Hermione do?” Hermione never lost sight of who she was. She had her faults and her insecurities, but she never changed herself to be with Ron. Hermione was beautiful because of her brains and goals for house elf equality, her physique had very little to do with it. Draco Malfoy consistently belittled her and made judgments based on her blood purity. Cormac McLaggen liked her for her beauty and quirkiness, not because she was human being. She was a trophy to him. And I realized, I’d entered into a pool of Cormac McLaggens and Draco Malfoys, thinking I could make them love me as opposed to looking for someone who actually would. I ended losing who I was in that process, so I took some time, built myself back up, and began Skyping with this darling gamer boy from California who I shared my Russian history class with, as well as a love of theatre and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Back to the tearful kissing. Darling gamer boy, after a while, pulled himself away and asked why I was crying and smiling so much. I just put my arms around him and squished him because here was someone who liked me for who I was, the Ron to my Hermione. Disney lied, there is no happily ever after and while sacrifices sometimes need to be made for relationships, they should never compromise who you are as a person or your values. Darling gamer boy and I are still dating and I don’t know if we have an “ever after”, but we have a happy present. That’s what matters.