What Does It Mean To Be Sexy, Really?

What’s sexy about me? What’s not sexy about me? It’s a constant battle of full-length mirrors, pulling at pieces of stomach, thigh and hip, tilting my chin up for fear of a double chin. What is? What isn’t? Over and over and over again. 

A couple nights ago, my friends and I were preparing for a '90s-themed party. I’ve been making an effort to dress a little sexier — not to the point of Olivia-Newton-John-At-The-End-Of-Grease sexier; I’m not trying to change the old woman inside of my young body or anything, just trying to find things with a little more pizzazz because heavy sweaters are unreasonable to wear to a club, every single time. Anyway, I picked out this cute little red number, raunchier than I’m used to, but nothing I’m not comfortable with, and after leaving it in my friend’s car for approximately two weeks, she washed the tank top for me and gave it back.

Well, it shrunk.

Not much, but still enough that it was a little bit shorter over my stomach, an area that I attempt to avoid showcasing at any cost.

“This either shrunk, or I gained weight.” I grimaced at myself in the mirror, and then at my friends, tugging the tank top down as I spoke.

One of my friends, as she was finishing her makeup, replied matter of factly, “It shrunk.”

I took one last look at myself in the mirror, huffed and went to take it off. My friends chimed in again, “It’s the only '90s thing you own, Grace. It looks good.”

I paused, contemplating. They were right. While I didn’t believe I could pull it off, they really tugged at my love for historical accuracy and my insistence on dressing for the theme, even to the point of over-dressing, so I wore it. I twitched every time I passed a mirror, until we left, but in the dark of the dance club, no one could even see my stomach. It was fine. I was fine. 

It’s easy to be body-positive to others — everyone is beautiful, no matter what shape or size. But it’s another thing to look at your own reflection in the mirror, when comparisons flood into your head, comparisons to celebrities, acquaintances and likely-photoshopped ideals… it’s toxic. 

I don’t have the face nor the body to be really sexy. Not in an Instagram way, nor an artistic way, nor even in a quirky way. I just don't. 

But I try to remind myself that it’s possible to be my own kind of sexy, to take pride in my cheekbones, say, or the way my hair curls sometimes, to look in the mirror and smile and force myself to feel it, even if I don’t. I need to be my own kind of sexy; actually, I’m desperate for it. Sexy in a flowery way, sexy in the same way an old leather-bound book feels in your hands, sexy because I’m smart, sexy because I love eating, sexy because I can’t tan, as much I want to be tan. Sexy even though there’s no gap between my thighs, sexy even when I’m not morning-skinny, sexy when my bones ache from simply walking, sexy at the worst of angles.

I’m speaking it into existence, and you should too. If the media flatters you the way you are, then I’m happy for you. Acknowledge it. Be proud of it. But if you’re like me, if the media doesn't flatter you, force yourself to embrace your little details. Force yourself to find them sexy. I guarantee other people probably find your details sexy too.