My thoughts turn to the boy from last night, Deepak the Good. I smile sadly as I think I won’t hear from him, and how stupid it was of me to get my hopes up and think he might have actually liked me.
I’m too old. Too fat. Too old.
He probably has a stunning Nepali girlfriend who’s impossibly tiny and has skin like Brazilian caramel and manages to be both sexy, mysterious, and great wife material, all at the same time.
Maybe he’s dating the beautiful girl who works at The Lemon Tree with him. She has a face like a symphony, the kind that just takes your breath away.
I have this admittedly awkward habit of telling pretty girls that I think they’re pretty. I’m of the opinion that beautiful women are the most insecure, perhaps because a huge portion of their entire identity is built around something that time can’t wait to take away.
So I try to make them feel better by praising the exact thing that shouldn’t be important in the first place. I’m sure it all has to do with some deep-seated psychological issues with my own appearance, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.
My parents took great care to devalue physical beauty as I was growing up. This served me well, since sometimes I was pretty and other times I wore braces and had eyebrows as thick as caterpillars.
I was not praised for being beautiful so much as for being intelligent, for getting good grades, for working hard. What feminists Pat and Margie were!
And yet here I am years later in Nepal, a veritable misogynist.
“You are very beautiful” I said to the beautiful waitress.
She shook her head fiercely, embarrassed. But since I’m intent on maintaining my title as the world’s most socially awkward person alive, I pressed further, attempting to force her to appreciate her own beauty as I did, and to comprehend her own loveliness right that second.
“You should be a model.”
Why do I do this? It’s not that I was hitting on her – I discovered long ago that I’d make a dreadful lesbian.
I think it has something to do with beauty being the ultimate achievement of the Western woman – whether we want to admit it or not, it is the thing that is prized above all other things.
“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive.”
– Leslie M. McIntyre
Which is what I was trying to relay to this poor, trembling Chihuahua of a girl: “In my culture, you’re a success! In my culture, you win! In my culture, any of your failures would be forgiven instantaneously!”
It was then that the little Chihuahua proceeded to say something that transformed her into a bulldog before my very eyes.
In response to my suggestion that she was missing out on a lucrative modeling career in, say, Poland, she stared me dead in the eye and quipped “I have no interest in this.”
She went on to tell me that she was studying to be an accountant, but I didn’t hear much of what she said. My mind was racing. She didn’t care that she was beautiful. She didn’t care that I thought she was beautiful. She didn’t have any interest in earning money because of her beauty.
Every cell in her body spun in its place, keeping time with the spinning of the earth and the stars, just as mine did.
And yet her entire view of herself and the world was an inverse of mine. She may have been imprisoned by poverty, limited by the traditions and educational system in her country, forced to perform familial roles that she’d never think to question.
But as she grows older, as her beauty fades, she will allow it to pass like a friend into the foyer of her home. Her face, her body did not define her self in any way.
And it was surely that confidence, that sense of self, that rejection of ideals that made her truly beautiful in the first place.
Wow. I almost hope that if Deepak the Good has a girlfriend, it’s her.
This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!
SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now.
The parallel universe that exists in the quietest chamber of your heart, buried deep beneath years of conditioning and Cosmo magazine covers, isn't a figment of your imagination.
There is a place where it really doesn't matter what you look like. And not just in a lip-service, that's-what-I'm-supposed-to-believe kind of why.
In an honest way. In way that's impossibly free. In a way that's truly beautiful.
Want to dig deeper? Go for it!