“Of course you’re self conscious, you’re one of the pretty people,” Ramiza exclaimed.
“What do you mean?” he asked her.
“Well, you have always been in the group of the attractive people. My guess is that when you were younger, you never had a problem fitting in or anything like that. Hell, you look great now, better than most guys your age. Even if you were wearing a burlap sac, you’d look all right.
“That’s not the case for me and the rest of the ugs. You may not notice it, but ugly people get told, all the time, that they’re ugly. You should have seen me in elementary school. It didn’t help that my mom bought the ugliest possible clothes. I had a uni-brow, baggy second hand clothes, nappy hair, and acne: I wasn’t what you’d call a beauty queen.
“You, on the other hand, have always been good looking. You were probably told how cute you were and were generally admired. Am I right?”
“I guess you are. But I don’t see why that makes a difference,” I said making up for less than one hundred percent honest with being fully genuine.
“Well, in addition to the development of the acne, my skin had to grow: thick. If not, I would have committed suicide or something. Like, how often did people call you names like ‘The Brow’, or tell you on Halloween that your vampire costume actually made you look better. I got that shit all the time. People would mock me and call me names and tell me all the time that I was ugly. And I was. You know how they have those kid pictures at a wedding? Well, if I ever find a soul to marry me, my kid pictures are going to haunt the audience.”
James laughed. He enjoyed Ramiza’s sharp witted, sarcastic ways of being. And though he laughed, he added sincerely, “I don’t think you’re ugly at all Ramiza; I actually think you’re pretty hot.”
“Maybe now Jules; but trust me: I was ugly. My friends were ugly.”
“Okay, but why are you telling me this?” he asked her.
“Because of what I hear you complain about and because of how you worry about life. You see everything through the eyes of beauty, or rather the first thing you notice is how something appears. That makes sense though, because you were part of the in-crowd, the popular and the good-looking.”
“Ramiza,” James interrupted, “I agree with you, and I know that one of my major flaws is the fact that I judge things based upon the external and upon how things appear to be, blah, blah, blah, but why are we talking about this?”
“Because, the fact is: you’re really cool. In fact, in my book, you’re really fucking cool, and I hate to see you wasting your life agonizing over trivial matters like whether or not you hover over or under the 200lb line. It doesn’t matter.”
James looked at this 5’4” beauty. He knew she was right, and was reveling in the fact that she was so candidly reprimanding him. No one did that. In fact, people often would sugar coat the truth or tell James half truths rather than this type of candid honesty. Perhaps, he thought now, it was because of his status as a member of the ‘in-crowd’. “Ramiza, what you’re saying has a lot of validity and, trust me, I feel like an ass being so worried about these things, but I look at myself everyday. And I notice things, like adding or subtracting five pounds. And I know for a fact that I feel much happier and more comfortable when I’m under the 200lb line. I’m happier in life.”
“That’s kind of sad,” replied Ramiza.
“Why is it sad?” James answered, “I believe that part of God’s call for people is to keep their bodies in shape. I mean it’s obvious that being in shape and eating healthy is an advantageous way to live. When I eat well, and exercise, my body runs more on itself and every thing is better.”
“Then, you should simply shut the fuck up, eat well and exercise. The way I see it is that you’re always complaining, but you’re complaints are in an area that you have total control over. You just enjoy eating bad food. You prefer to eat fast food and junk food than you do eating something healthy. And you’re not stupid. You obviously know that eating junk makes your body fatter and you feel worse than if you would have eaten healthy. It’s all in your control.”
“You’ve got a point there,” James replied. Ramiza was making a lot of sense.
She went on, “you cut me off before I could talk about myself and my fellow fuglies. So there I was, a kid in crappy, used clothes that didn’t fit at all. I had nappy hair that was so big and never combed, and I had a unibrow. I was hideous. But being so young, there wasn’t much that I could do about it. My mom bought my clothes. My mom cut my hair, and Assyrians by birth are stuck with a lot of hair. We need to groom.”
“No worries about that,” James interrupted, “I manscape.”
“Of course you do,” Ramiza went on without flinching, “when I was younger, I had no control over how I looked, and kids can be so fucking mean that I took a lot of abuse. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I had to come up with comebacks and see what got to people. I had to develop a sense of humor, and had to not care what I looked like.”
“How did you do that?” James asked her.
“A lot of trial and error. It was hard then, but it’s funny now. One thing that was funny was that a lot of the people that mocked me at school, were kids that I went to church with. Part of the way our little Assyrian community at church works is that we know a lot about the other families, and we try to help one another out. I definitely got myself in trouble a few times for some of the things I said.”
James cracked a smile and said, “Like what?”
“Well the time I remember most was when this kid named Shant started mocking me. He was the one who started calling me ‘The Brow’. He got the name from his sister, who had a brow similar to my own. Kids at her junior high school called her the name, so Shant, an unpopular kid himself, took to calling me the name. The rest of the class thought it was hilarious, after Shant explained it to their fourth grade minds, it stuck.
“I went home crying for a few days, but didn’t have the heart to tell my mom why the kids were mocking me. So after a few days it hit me that I should say something back to Shant. What I knew was that his dad had recently had an affair with a girl that worked at his family’s store. Evidently, the long hours he’d been “working”, had been a means to spend more time with this younger broad. So Shant starts egging me on in front of the class, and says, ‘you know Ramiza, you have the best brow in the class’. All of his stupid little friends start laughing at me and chanting: ‘brow’, ‘brow’, ‘brow’. I let them laugh for a minute, but strategically wait for a lull in the noise and say, ‘well Shant at least my dad doesn’t isn’t having an affair with a girl that works at his store!’”
James began laughing quite loudly. “So what happened?”
“Well,” she began slowly, “let’s just say that the authorities thought what I said was worse than what Shant had said. They told me that if I had problems with anyone, I could simply tell them. But that’s the dumb part about grownups. It’s not like a child can simply remedy the situation by telling on someone else.
“So Shant started crying, my parents got called in and we eventually had to sit down, my parents, me, Shant, and his parents. I had to apologize for what I said. But I never really understood why I had to apologize. I mean, they were the ones that were having an affair, all I did was use it as bate. But I did learn that some things are off-limits, and that rather than attack the surrounding areas of someone, you should just attack them.
“A few weeks later, after things had quieted down, Shant tried saying something again. We were reading something in class and it talked about ‘by the sweat of the brow,’ or something like that. Shant interrupted the reading and said, ‘look Ramiza, you’re famous, the brow was even mentioned here.’ The class got a grand ‘ole laugh out of that one, and I was crushed. Especially since my crush Jeremy was right next to me. But luckily, this was around Christmas time, and later in the day we were singing. We sang that song “The Little Drummer Boy”. When the line came, ‘The Ox and Ass they come pa rum pum pum pum…’ so we all sang it and our teacher told us how and such. After, she asked if we had any questions about how to sing the song. I raised my hand and said I wondered how old Shant was. The teacher looked a bit perplexed, said she didn’t see the relevance in the question and wondered why I asked. I told her that Shant was mentioned next to the Ox in the song. People liked that one.”
James counted himself as one of those people. Ramiza was the mix of energy, wit, and intelligence. So, she used a conversation like this to tell James something he needed to hear.
“What I’m saying, is that for me, I haven’t ever been able to do anything about my genetics, nor can the rest of the uggs. Thus, we play to our strengths. Doing so, though, forces you to admit everything that is bad. And trust me, my ugly days are fuckin’ ugly.
“You not having to deal with that, means you haven’t had to find your ugly parts. You were beautiful and now worry about maintaining beauty. You need to get over it. Either embrace your weight, or change your fucking diet so that you’re happy.”