Pai, Thailand

You’re not beautiful. You’re not sexy.

But you're different.

Sometimes I write blog posts for no other reason than to remember a simple quote from a simple night.

Johnny came into the bar one night. He was older, Thai, with thick black dreadlocks. He sat next to me and took out his guitar, playing with a cigarette perched between the strings.

A guitar player in Pai, Thailand

It was, maybe, 1 or so in the morning. I hadn’t been drinking too much, but everyone else around me was heavily intoxicated. An Irishman begged Johnny to let him play and then kept arguing with no one that the way he was, poorly, playing the Bob Marley song wasn’t the album version but the way it was played live. He told us to look it up on YouTube. Several times. He kept insisting over and over even though no one was disagreeing. Even though I had no idea what the song was to begin with.

While others were passing around the guitar, Johnny was, quite obviously, hitting on me. His advances were a little aggressive, but innocent enough that I could just laugh along.

A guitar player in Pai, Thailand

At one point he turned to me, “I like you,” he said. “You’re not beautiful. You’re not sexy. But you’re different.”

Part of me felt like I should be offended. After all, telling someone that they are neither beautiful nor sexy isn’t exactly the ideal way to begin a compliment. But I wasn’t. I’m not beautiful. I’m not sexy. At least not in any typical way. It’s something I’ve learned to be OK with.

Growing up I always felt so ugly. I remember a heated argument I had as a child with my mother because she wouldn’t let me wear makeup to school that somehow led to me getting a perm. I remember a time in grade school when the whole class sat in a circle and was supposed to say things nice about the others physically. The only thing anyone had to say about me was that I was a good dancer. In high school my face was always broken out and I was scrawny, less than 100 pounds, with no figure.

I was never someone who ever felt beautiful. Or sexy.

But I don’t need to be.

Johnny gave up on me and my un-beautiful un-sexy self only after the bartender leaned across to bar to kiss me.* He walked to the other side of the room and put down his guitar. Gave up trying.


*more on that later…

You’re not beautiful. You’re not sexy. But you're different.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Waegook Tom
    July 5, 2012at10:43 am

    Val, this is a great post. And whatever, you are sexy – you’re a carton of unicorn milk, remember 😉

    I’m not sure how I’d feel if a guy told me that…flattered in a way but I’d want to leave the lights off haha!

  • Jen
    July 5, 2012at1:06 pm

    I once had a very intoxicated guy (who I had no interest in whatsoever) tell me “you know how many beers it would take for me to find you attractive? ….Zero, zero beers”

  • Jennifer
    July 7, 2012at10:50 pm

    I always thought you were the pretty one in the family. But I guess I never felt beautiful until after college and no one had to tell me. Once someone asked me if I was going to a school dance. When I said no, she said, “Why? You’re not ugly.” Thanks for the compliment. I can’t believe they still played that orchids and onions game by the time you got to school. I was sure it would be banned when someone left our 6th grade class crying. Or maybe they just stopped giving onions.

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