On Developing Beauty

On Developing Beauty

| note from curator |

The women I have chosen for this month's posts are people I admire in my local community. They have been friends and collaborators, and my closeness with them varies. Most of all, they are people who have powerful and unwavering personalities. They are strong, fierce, creative and vocal about themselves and what they do. What I also know about these women, aside from their distinct and incredible identities, is that they struggle. They do so privately and publicly, but they struggle with a kind of strength and vulnerability that I find moving and inspiring.

Jessica Caldas



Haylee Anne


You once said to me that we cannot find true beauty without first experiencing pain, and at the time I loved you for it. It felt very appropriate, something that I could strive to believe in, a good tattoo idea, or at least something to reblog on tumblr. But today I hate this statement, and I am mad that you gave it to me because I don’t want it to be true. I want you to be wrong. I want to be wrong, I don’t want to remember these words.

Eleven years old. You said:

"Your hair is too long. No boy will like it or think it's beautiful, you're too high maintenance."

Your words motivated my small soul as inch after inch was removed. I came home, sat at the kitchen table, eagerly awaiting you to come through the door. Not even a step over the threshold, you exclaimed,

"Oh my God Hay, what the hell did you do to your hair?"



Fifteen years old. I am particularly surly after watching you throw hands at my mother because, once again, she has "ruined" your life.

"Of course your family abandoned you,"

you said,

"they are better off without you."

"Yeah, well I think you're a schmuck,"

I said.

Thrown off. A verbal sucker punch thrown at your head. You turned to me and said,

"One day that ugly mouth of yours is gonna get you in trouble, and your man is going to beat the shit out of you."

And at the time I agreed.



Twenty six years old. We have a fairly okay texting relationship, and 900 miles between us helps. God, I am such an idiot, I bring him up.

"Please tell me you're not going to vote for him."

"I can't vote for her. Maybe I just won't vote."

Why did I say this. Why did I say this!

"Would it help if you knew your daughter has been raped several times. You're voting for an abuser."

No dots appear. I am paranoid.

"We can talk about this, if you want."

Several hours later over Facetime, sitting at the kitchen table, afraid to look you in the face, swollen with an all too familiar sense of shame, I tell you about one.

"We had dinner and drinks. We had consensual sex once. Later in the night I woke up, and he was inside me."

"Well Hay, that's just awful, but you know, you were drinking, so don’t you think this is kind of your fault?"



On days that I can’t forgive you, I can’t look in the mirror, I see your eyes, which are my eyes, I have no love for what I see. I came from you. Why am I not enough?

But on the days that I can forgive you, it is because I remember I am enough.






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normalizing blackness: a conversation with my mother

normalizing blackness: a conversation with my mother