Poetry Alive: Will I be pretty? Katie Makkai

Poetry slams have produced some amazing poetry and this is one of my favorites.



When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be
pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? What comes next? Oh right, will I be
rich?” Which is almost pretty depending on where you shop. And the pretty
question infects from conception, passing blood and breath into cells. The word
hangs from our mothers’ hearts in a shrill fluorescent floodlight of

“Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty?” But puberty left me this
funhouse mirror dryad: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face
donkey-long and pox-marked where the hormones went finger-painting. My poor

“How could this happen? You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we
can see a dermatologist. You sucked your thumb. That’s why your teeth look like
that! You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were 6. Otherwise your
nose would have been just fine!

“Don’t worry. We’ll get it fixed!” She
would say, grasping my face, twisting it this way and that, as if it were a
cabbage she might buy.

But this is not about her. Not her fault. She,
too, was raised to believe the greatest asset she could bestow upon her awkward
little girl was a marketable facade. By 16, I was pickled with ointments,
medications, peroxides. Teeth corralled into steel prongs. Laying in a hospital
bed, face packed with gauze, cushioning the brand new nose the surgeon had

Belly gorged on 2 pints of my blood I had swallowed under
anesthesia, and every convulsive twist of my gut like my body screaming at me
from the inside out, “What did you let them do to you!”

All the while
this never-ending chorus droning on and on, like the IV needle dripping liquid
beauty into my blood. “Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Like my mother,
unwrapping the gift wrap to reveal the bouquet of daughter her $10,000 bought
her? Pretty? Pretty.”

And now, I have not seen my own face for 10 years.
I have not seen my own face in 10 years, but this is not about me.

is about the self-mutilating circus we have painted ourselves clowns in. About
women who will prowl 30 stores in 6 malls to find the right cocktail dress, but
haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how wear joy, wandering through life
shackled to a shopping bag, beneath those 2 pretty syllables.

About men
wallowing on bar stools, drearily practicing attraction and everyone who will
drift home tonight, crest-fallen because not enough strangers found you suitably

This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you
approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be
pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap
lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be,
and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.

“You will be
pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be
merely ‘pretty’.”



  1. Draven Ames Said:

    I love it. There is so much more than just being pretty or attractive, or rich for that matter. Very well written and performed.

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