As I was getting dressed today, I looked in the mirror and realized: I am fat. I have that “pear shape” that the women’s magazines talk about! I'd always thought it was a metaphor, but there it was, in the flesh. I am generally a small person, so I’d never really thought of myself as fat. I just let it creep up on me, one oatmeal raisin cookie at a time. The realization in front of the mirror was sort of a thunderbolt from the clouds: I have rolls of fat around my middle. I have Rubensian thighs. My ass is the size of Toronto. Wow! I am FAT!

This let me to further scrutiny of my reflection. I realized that not only has my rear end begun to rival a zeppelin in size, but my skin is quite bad. I have two pimples on my forehead, and premature wrinkles. Parts of my face are hideously red from allergies (Claritin only does so much). I have a few too many moles. My features are the same as they always were: eyes too small, nose too blunt, overbite, thick ankles. Hair perpetually a mess. Racialized body of problematic symbolic status. Wow! I am UGLY!

I realized I offended my own aesthetic sensibilities. Ew, I said, and turned away from the mirror.

Never really having been in the “pretty” camp, I took my newfound realization of personal ugliness fairly stoically. I might be ugly, but that didn’t excuse me from having to do laundry. Off to the laundromat I went.

It happens that between my apartment and my local laundromat is a preschool. As I walked back from the laundromat, the yard in front of the preschool was full of small children, gamboling as is their wont.

Tearing away from her friends and running as happy as you please was a tiny girl of maybe four years. Her hair was pale blond, and frizzy almost to the point of what one might call nappiness. Her skinny arms were extended as she whirled around to show off what was clearly the source of her joy at that moment: a light blue, frilly dress of filmy synthetic material, a fairy princess sort of outfit.

I couldn’t help smiling at the girl as she whirled and flounced. She noticed me smiling and grinned back, then darted off to twirl some more.

Keep smiling, kid, I thought. Keep being beautiful. There’s plenty of time for being ugly later.

I walked home, laundry in arms, feeling a little prettier myself.