It’s better to be plain.

photo credit Road Theatre

photo credit Road Theatre

Let’s call him Brandon.

He was young and handsome, with a devilish glint in his eye. He was charming and charismatic, like most of the men in my class at acting school. We sat in his car outside my Pasadena apartment talking late into the night, in the way that only 20 somethings can, still enjoying the new found freedom of apartment living and bar hopping. Leaning our heads back on the headrests and alternately staring into one another’s eyes, both of us summing up whether or not we were either tipsy enough or attracted to each other enough to kiss. I was fresh off a heartbreak that really wasn’t a heartbreak. You know, when you’re more upset and sad about the way it went down that the actual loss of the person. My pride was hurt, but my actual heart wasn’t. It was a very confusing time to be me. Mix in some heavy duty insecurity and a hard core eating disorder and I was ripe for the picking.

Somehow we ended up on the subject of my ex and how it all happened. There was another girl, you see, as there frequently are. She was gorgeous. She was talented. She was mean as a snake. Worse than all of that put together, she was better at being eating disordered than I was.

It was only when I was hospitalized the first time for my eating disorder, at 24 and after my second heart “incident” ,that I realized there is competition among us, the eating disordered.  I sat in group therapy at a treatment facility without an ED specialized unit and listened to people of all  walks of life tell horrific stories, the details of which are still fresh in my mind all these years later. There was only one other girl besides myself who was eating disordered. Her hair was cropped short, for the electric shock therapy she received twice weekly, and she folded perfectly in half on her metal folding chair in the cold therapy room. Her knees up by her face and her feet on the seat. her hands pulled inside her sweatshirt sleeves as she spoke. But all I could see was the space. There were probably 4 or 5 inches from the tips of her toes to the end of the seat. So much space. She was so thin. I was so jealous. Even know typing this I feel myself flush, my heart speed up a visceral reaction to the remembrance.

Later that night in my room, alone. I tried it. No metal chairs of course.Our rooms were an attempt to provide a home-like atmosphere while ensuring there were no sharp edges where we could injure ourselves, either on purpose if we were suicidal or accidentally from passing out.  I had bulimia. Girl had anorexia. A much more desirable eating disorder. In the hierarchy of eating disorders it’s the tops. Every night since I was 17 I had prayed that God would take my bulimia and leave anorexia in it’s place.  An unanswered prayer as it were. So it was that I tried to approximate the size of the folding chair and measure myself against her. I was barely 90 pounds at that time, a skeleton, but my feet left no space at the end of the chair. I didn’t measure up.

“Just once I want to be one of the beautiful people.” I said tipsily to Brandon. The girl whom my ex had become fascinated with, as everyone was, definitely qualified as “beautiful people.”

“No, you don’t Stephanie.” He said staring into my eyes and moving the tiniest bit closer. “It’s better to be plain. Like you.”

Then he tried to kiss me. I laughed, though I wanted to burst into tears from being told out right that I would indeed, never measure up, never be beautiful, never be the thinnest, the most talented, the desired one. But somehow, I laughed. Then, finding some self esteem somewhere I opened the car door and got out.


14 comments on “It’s better to be plain.

  1. Kristin June 18, 2013 12:10 pm

    Wow, Stephanie, powerful post. I was riveted by your story from beginning to end. I hope that in the years since, you’ve found both healing from your disorder and the self-esteem to know that you are beautiful. I have to tell you, I’ve followed your tweets for a while now and I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at your photos and thought how gorgeous you are. I know it usually doesn’t matter what others tell us, when we’re telling ourselves something quite opposite, but I can’t imagine anyone ever describing you as plain.

    By the way, what a d*ck.

    • Stephanie June 18, 2013 12:18 pm

      Kristin, that is such a lovely thing to say and thank you. I have never forgotten this incident. And you are so right, what a d*ck!

  2. nakedjen June 18, 2013 12:11 pm

    I’m just going to say it, Stephanie. As I always have. We all just need to own our glitter, you know. And when we do, there’s nothing plain about any of us. At all. I love you. And I think this is one of the BEST things you’ve ever written. The end. xo

    • Stephanie June 18, 2013 12:25 pm

      owning my glitter is a life long struggle. I’m getting there.

  3. jodifur June 18, 2013 12:39 pm

    Oh honey, you are so gorgeous, so special, so amazing. you are the least “plain” person I know.

  4. Johanna Cummings June 18, 2013 1:03 pm

    Love this message. LOVE this message. Can’t say it enough. You’re such a role model and like people in other comments have said, “LOOK AT YOU NOW, STEPHANIE!” You’re an inspiring mother, women, and fighter. I’m young and the pressures of “being beautiful” are difficult but you and your message truly inspire me. Reading your blog and following you on social media, I am smart enough to realize you are anything, except plain. Plain girls don’t wear SUPERCUTE Stella and Dot bubble necklaces so Brandon can go suck it.

    • Stephanie June 18, 2013 1:08 pm

      Johanna, you are beautiful. So beautiful both physically and on the inside. Thank you so much for your comment. I am truly jealous of your hair. Fact.

  5. anna whiston-donaldson June 18, 2013 2:56 pm

    This is stunningly beautiful. Thank you for helping me get into your head through your expertly crafted words. I am so very, very sorry you went through this, Stephanie. You are one of the most beautiful people I know.

  6. Jenn Marshall June 18, 2013 6:48 pm

    Such a powerful, courageous story which you told with the confidence that makes you YOU. You are eloquent, passionate, smart, funny, and incredibly beautiful, Stephanie. Thank you for baring your soul. I’m so thankful to know you. Off to share your words….

  7. Arnebya June 26, 2013 9:21 am

    Oh, what we don’t know just by looking at people. You, my friend, are gorgeous. And while, yes, I know this as truth based on your exterior, I also know, see, feel, and believe it about your insides. I try so hard to teach my girls that what others see at first glance means nothing if we are ugly on the inside. They’re young. It doesn’t mean much now, but hopefully my continuing to say it will at least bring it to the forefront of their memory when it counts. And just think. You have two shots at teaching boys how not to be assholes in cars (or elsewhere).

  8. merry120 January 15, 2014 9:13 pm

    Wonderful post! I am impressed that you laughed and got out. At 20, I would have been devastated and then spent months trying to show him that I wasn’t plain. Really.