What’s Your Currency?

I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. (And, ok, I’ve already tweeted about half of it, leave me alone).

This line. This line went straight to my heart:

“Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”
Amy Poehler, Yes Please

So guess what? For about, oh, I dunno, most of my life, I’ve expected most of my currency to come from my looks. Not that this is unusual for women, and not that some of my currency hasn’t come from my looks, just that, at age 42, I don’t feel like I have a lot of this left in the bank. It doesn’t help that I am about 50 pounds overweight and struggle with self-esteem anyway, but even if I thought I was hot shit, I don’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, that my self-worth or value to others should be dependent on my looks. Caveat to follow.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not bad to look at. On most days I would be called pretty. On really good days, I’ve been called gorgeous, and not just by friends, family, or lovers. But weirdly, one of the first times I realized that I was actually just sort of middle-of-the road was when I went to the mall with my friend Clarissa. We were college roommates, and we were in theater, and I’d seen her dressed up and I’d seen her dressed down and I’d somehow never been aware of how pretty she was until I went to the mall with her one day and saw the crowds part. I saw the looks she was getting. And I’ve gotten a few second glances myself in my life, so it was weirdly painful to see just how much she overshadowed me. Tall, blond haired, blue-eyed, Clarissa was traditionally, non-threateningly, pretty. I’d gotten dressed up and put on makeup to go to the mall – she was wearing an old t-shirt and sweatpants. And it was like I was invisible.

Now that I’m 50 pounds overweight and in my forties, I’m realizing that I invested too much in that currency in the first place. In my life, I’ve been called fat, blubber, cow, cunt, “A little thick for me” – oddly one of the most painful – or just been referred to by my bra size. I’ve also been told I have a nice ass, a beautiful smile, an infectious laugh, great tits, and even, on several occasions, been called flat-out gorgeous.

So here’s the caveat. I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, or at least I think I would be if I were more accepting of how I look. Back when I believed in god, I thought that he (intentionally lower-case, because I’m an atheist, and this is my blog, so fuck respect for a mythical being) made me fat to keep me from being too slutty. As it turns out, I wasn’t fat, and I was plenty slutty. Even now, my sexual fantasies have a great deal to do with being objectified and used. And yes, please do note that I slut-shame even myself.

But when you’re in your forties, and you realize that, even for a not-ugly slut, you’re no longer relevant as a sex object, and your self-esteem is fragile at best, you kind of have to wonder what value you do pose if you haven’t put something in the bank already.

And again, I think I’m pretty lucky, because I had grandparents who adored me and thought that I was brilliant and talented and funny and interesting and taught me to love books and art and gave me the tools to have a pretty rich imagination. And if it weren’t for all that, my darkest days would be even darker than they are.

My point is, I’m still struggling to figure out what my currency actually is. And with this new chapter of my life, I’m hoping it’s writing. But it could be painting. Or knitting. Or sewing. Or, I don’t know, making soap. And maybe my I should count myself lucky that I have this whole rich past to pull from, and not bemoan the fact that I’m no longer considered a sex object by random people on the street that I don’t even give a fuck about.

I also find it horrifyingly backward that I still think this way. I mean, if my best friend told me that she was depressed because she was no longer considered sexy by the masses, I would slap her silly. And tell her how very very valuable she is for everything that has nothing to do with sexiness, and how fucking insane it is to wish to be objectified by random strangers and to base her self-worth on that.

So, part of trying to figure out what my currency is is really trying to re-educate myself in who I really am, what I’m really about, and how to make a living and a life out of that.

So. What’s your currency?