The man in my life sent me a text last night and those were the first words I read. Even if I never actually hear those words from him, that’s exactly the way I feel now. I don’t necessarily need to hear them from him or anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to hear them, but I don’t need to hear them to define who I am. That feeling isn’t formed or maintained by my physical attributes. It goes far, far beyond that. I would feel beautiful all on my own. I’ve earned that.
I have never been and will never be the kind of woman who is dependent on my looks for anything. I did, however, let the fact that my ex-husband placed looks over and above everything else invade my thinking. Before we were married, I couldn’t count the number of times he told me I was beautiful. It wasn’t long after we got married that all the compliments stopped. While I didn’t depend on my looks to define who I was, I most certainly kept myself up. I always kept a nice haircut and took the time to apply my makeup better than the most world-renowned makeup artist could.
We had gone to our church in Denver one Sunday after I had gotten a particularly flattering haircut and it was on that day that his train of thought truly manifested itself. Our pastor greeted us after service and said, “Sister Hinton, that haircut looks so good on you. Brother Hinton, you have a beautiful wife.” He said NOTHING. He just smiled. In the following days, I received several compliments along the same lines in his presence and still he said nothing. Finally, I asked him why he had not at least accepted the compliment. He said to me, “Tre, I don’t tell you you’re pretty because I don’t want your head to get big.” Y’all know me. Moreover, some of y’all knew me then. I went on one of my adventurous cuss-a-thons. Somewhere in between spewing out every swear word I knew and could create, I asked him what kind of sense that made. He said nothing. My spirit was crushed. He was unbothered by my heartbreak and skipped off like nothing ever happened.
At a very young age, my son Will became extremely upset because of his dad’s response to him regarding my hair once. We were in Kansas for a basketball tournament and I had worked my hair into a small masterpiece. I received many compliment from the parents, coaches, and even Will’s teammates. As soon as we were back at the hotel, Will turned to his father and asked, “Dad, why didn’t you tell Mama her hair was pretty?” He said nothing. Will asked again and was met with no response. My son began to cry and eventually started to scream, “Why won’t you tell my mama her hair is pretty?” His dad left the room.
I spent years trying to make myself pretty enough to garner a compliment from him. There was one half-hearted attempt in 2009. I’m not ready to discuss the details of that night because even though it’s been over six years, I still find myself sick when I think about it. Eventually, I stopped trying. Outside of the fact that he sucked as a husband, my self-worth needed a complete overhaul.
One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that no one, NO ONE, can actually make you feel any particular way without your permission. While it sucks to the hilt that a person can and will batter you mentally and emotionally, for whatever reason, the truth is that at some point, you have to decide who you are. You have to decide that you are beautiful. You have to decide that that beauty doesn’t just stop with your outer appearance. Who you are is not dependent on your significant other. It is amazing, however, to have someone by your side who acknowledges both your inner and outer beauty. I finally have that. He re-entered my space during one of the absolute lowest periods imaginable but found me beautiful while I was still covered in ashes.
I hated what I saw in the mirror. I hated what I couldn’t see even more, but I began to rebuild the broken down parts of myself, to renovate what was salvageable and to renew what was worth holding on to. I am who I am. I am a woman who refuses to stand by and watch another woman die daily because of abuse. I am a woman who is determined to stand on her own. I feel beautiful.