In the fairy tale, Cinderella goes unnoticed until her appearance is magically transformed to match little girls’ ideal of loveliness, which they grow up believing is little boys’ ideal of loveliness. This belief is wrong, though. And I should know, because I’m a grown-up boy who longs for Cinderellas who’ve never touched a pair of glass slippers—who are plenty alluring barefoot. I prefer them to some princesses I’ve danced with. I prefer them—these unconventional-looking women who too frequently call themselves ugly or imperfect when they ought to call themselves perfecting—because their transformations are still ongoing.
Maura, the first barefoot Cinderella I fell for, was not a fussy eater, and it showed. It showed in her substantial hips. It also showed in her contented face.
Radiant happiness was Maura’s best feature, the kind that comes from filling up on pasta and not leaping up afterward to go running. This distinguished her from the other girls I’d dated during my first two years at college. They were slimmer than Maura, their features more symmetrical, but their facial expressions were harder and more anxious, particularly at mealtimes. Salad without dressing will do that to you.
“Can I scrunch in here with my tray?” I asked her in the dining hall one evening. She smiled and scooted over to make room. I’d been watching her. Her skin had the glossiness of a caramel apple. Her figure reminded me of an apple, too, but this was not a flaw because apples reminded me of pie, pie reminded me of ice cream, and pie and ice cream made me hungry for…Maura.
I didn’t go hungry that fall semester, fortunately, but my appetite for Maura confused those who thought she wasn’t worth pursuing. A girl I’d once dated, the type who counted her croutons, asked me one day if I had “a thing for heavy women.” I told her no, I had a thing for women who enjoyed life. My old girlfriend seemed to find this threatening. She realized, I think, that it’s easier to keep off the weight than to keep on the happiness.
The charm of a barefoot Cinderella is that her beauty obeys no formula and therefore can sneak up on a man. When he becomes aware of it, he feels like he’s discovered a secret. And secrets are always exciting.
Maybe this is why some men prefer women who aren't thin. They see something in a larger woman, especially one who loves herself and is confident, that others don't see because they're looking at the superficial outside of the package, when they should be looking at the whole package.
I think I would much rather be a barefoot Cinderella, imperfections and all, loving myself and confidant, than be worried all the time about calories, exercise, cellulite, wrinkles, scars, and aging. I'd rather be happy and imperfect, than be perfect and unhappy because I have to work all the time to stay perfect (something that no one can ever attain). It's so much easier to take care of myself and do what is best for my body, soul, mind, and heart when I love me as I am. It's not easy to learn how to do that, but it's a very worthwhile journey.