“You are too beautiful to be faithful, that’s what he said to me.”
“I am not joking,” with a smile of disbelief plastered on my face, I explain to the girl next to me that a boy once told me this.
“I never understood him; for this boy, I was always just a beautiful face that couldn’t be faithful. He never trusted me. Maybe he wanted to, but he was too focused on my ‘too beautiful face’ as he described it, that he couldn’t get a hang of anything else about me. I don’t think he ever even tried to get to know me, to look beyond my appearance…
The thing is, I found him very beautiful. His features that spoke of a tough street upbringing made me want him so bad. I wanted to be his. He never believed that he was beautiful, that I found him beautiful, you know what I mean, Yasmina.”
“Ya, I completely understand what you’re saying. I was with older men that I found very attractive, I was turned on by them and the thing is maybe because I have daddy issues, maybe I wanted the father figure in them, that’s why I wanted to be theirs. I found them beautiful, but they never believed me. Of course, I couldn’t go on explaining why I desire them, to tell them that they fill the gap of the shadow of the father who abandoned me. I know this sounds wrong, but I wanted their beauty, and I still prefer them. The way each one of us sees beauty, I believe, stems from a lack of something within us. A lack of something that makes us set new standards of beauty and a desire that is even harder to explain to people. I had friends who questioned what I see in some of these men. I simply said to them, ‘You won’t understand’.”
“Ya, I agree. It’s our psychological needs that make us see something as beautiful. Beauty is not only the outer aesthetics. Someone made me feel loved and wanted, they soothed the insecurities within me, and I couldn’t find a better way to describe them rather than just simply, as beautiful. We are indoctrinated to desire and sexualise a standardised beauty that is taught to us by fashion magazines, cinema, and advertisements. And yes, we desire it, we engage with it momentarily and we find it ‘beautiful’. But trust me it will never be enough for me. Because this beauty is not talking to a need within me. Sorry Yasmina, I feel like I am invading your space, I mean you being the psychologist”
“No, you’re ok Jimmy, you are also right. A fat person appraises models. The skinny person idolises the muscular, the short wishes to reach the tall, the dark-skinned person desires the fair-skinned person, the fair-skinned person aims for the tanned. I agree, we all set our individual standards of beauty based on what we need, as you say. And indeed, we just want to belong to what we don’t have, and sexualising the people who have it, can make us closer to fitting into their beauties.Also, as humans our brain and mind control our perception of what is beautiful; you are the scientist, Jimmy, what do you think?”
“Oh ya, in our brains, the centre responsible for qualities such as pain, disgust, but also self-awareness of needs, is responsible for our responses to aesthetics. So sometimes what we see as good for us, such as when we see our favourite ice cream, we would think that’s beautiful and we will desire it, and the opposite also happens. And that’s why your friends for example couldn’t see these men as beautiful because they don’t have the same cognitive perception of what is good for you, and that moment, having a father figure, was good, it was beautiful.”
“That’s interesting, because this can also explain why sometimes we get hooked on to someone even if they are abusive and not good for us, because we can be into pain, or that pain has been ours for long;we crave them, we want them to dominate us, to posses us even, and yes they are beautiful to us.”
“It’s fascinating Yasmina, but also scary how sex or sexualising something can be ignited from our need for beauty that probably stirs positive emotions that we consider beautiful, such as feeling pleasure. But you know as well, desiring what we think is beautiful can generate fluidity: I can never know what I am exactly. All I know is that I was with men, and I was with women, and all of them tickled something within me. I loved belonging to their beauty, and to the fulfilling feeling of having them, or them having me.”
“I see what you see, I think emotionally I am definitely into men, but yes on two different occasions I slept with a girl; and these two girls, the way they carried themselves, the way they expressed their minds made me want them. With both the girls I had a connection that we felt the need to translate into action on the sheets of the bed. It made me wonder if I am bisexual or is it just the need to, as you said, belong to their beautiful selves on the inside and the outside. I told myself it’s weird how such a need to belong made me engage in these sexual interactions. I thought it might be my sexual orientation but I don’t know, it’s a bit open for me now. But I can’t get over the fact that I need to belong to what is beautiful and that I do it by sexualising people.”
I look at Yasmina, who seems to have swum a drift into an unpleasant memory, she adjusts her naked body under the sheet and now she is facing the ceiling of my bedroom.
For some reason I revisit the moments with the guy whom our conversation started with. I continue telling her that that guy never trusted me. He was always suspicious of what I did, he never trusted that I liked him. He always said that it was unbelievable that I was with him or that I could be faithful to him. He also was rough with me in bed. He always wanted to be in control, he wanted to dominate me. He wanted to be in power. I tell her I thought it was just a sexual fetish of his but one day when I tried to be on top,he got very angry but pretended to be joking. He said that he wanted to f*** my beauty, that I’m his, that he wanted to feel beautiful as well, and that’s why he wanted to possess me. And that’s how I became no more than an object that satisfied him; he was never interested in who I am, or what I did. At the beginning, I wanted in on his unique features, his humble life, the fact the he was a struggling street musician, and a part-time construction worker. But then I couldn’t be just an object.
The worst part is when he told me that he was settling for me because I’m beautiful, otherwise he is into bigger bodies, bigger penises, both a ‘manly’ thing he thought.
Yasmina now looks at me with big brown eyes sparkling with an independent scream of the beauty of her ancestors, the pharaohs. Her free soul unshackled from the norms of her heritage starts speaking.
“I know we might just have a one-night stand, that we have just met, two strangers engaged in a brilliant conversation that led both of us into bed, but I feel I can tell you this Jimmy: I was raped when I was 13 years old. I was raped by my uncle who was living in Belgium and who visited Egypt every summer. My uncle believed that he wasn’t beautiful, at least not the traditional beautiful. He believed that he wasn’t desired. Thinking about it now, before he found the one for whom he was beautiful, he wanted the feeling of fitting in. He wanted to be desired, so he desired me.
He wrote me a letter explaining that he is very sorry, that he regrets doing all that, that he just wanted to feel beautiful, that I was his Egyptian Lolita, that having sex with me was the only way. Sadly, enough I was never angry with him. I want to be, but I understand this urgent need to possess what we find beautiful and what makes us feel beautiful. It’s wrong. Please don’t judge me.”
I look at Yasmina wanting to do something, to hug her for this, but I realise that she doesn’t need my empathy, she doesn’t need a man to tell her that it will be ok. She just wanted to let that out.
And I find her courage just, so, beautiful.