When I was 17, I was driving with my at-the-time boyfriend. I was (obviously) picking the music and (obviously) belting at the top of my lungs. It was the summer of 2016, and I was in a pop mood, so I played the laundry list of hits from that summer:
And OF COURSE Into You by the tiny icon herself, Ariana Grande. My boyfriend and I had listened to that song 300 times at that point in the summer, so when it came on I said, “I love this song!”. Usually, that would have been the end of the conversation, however, this time my boyfriend decided to make the side comment of: “You only like this song because it makes you feel hot.”
Immediately I felt myself recoil. I turned the music down and tried to justify why I liked the song for reasons other than feeling hot. I talked about the production and her voice and that it was just a fun song. I wanted more than anything to validate my love for the song in a way that wasn’t “It makes me feel hot”.
Granted I haven’t spoken to this boy in a hot minute, but I can guarantee that if I brought this moment up, he wouldn’t remember it at all. For him it was likely nothing more than a passing comment. But it stuck with me. It’s 5 years later and I’m still thinking about it. I wish I could go back and say, “Yeah, what’s your point?”. But I didn’t say that.
I remember feeling really gross when he said that. His comment made me feel self-absorbed because God’s honest truth is he was right. I liked Into You because it made me feel hot. It made me feel powerful and confident in a way that I was unfamiliar with. When I was 17, despite being a size 4, 6ft tall and having great boobs, I hated the way I looked. Like many teenage girls, I was grossly dissatisfied when I looked in the mirror, and for 4 minutes and 4 seconds, Ariana Grande made that feeling go away.
unattainable standard for me to achieve. It felt like my Everest, and I became frustrated that nobody saw me that way. On the other hand, I desperately didn’t want to be seen that way. All the girls I had known who had been called “hot”, had also been called “slut”, “skank” and “whore”.
It became a lose-lose situation. I wanted to feel like a goddamn smoke show, but I lived in fear of appearing slutty. I had associated the positive confident feeling of feeling sexy, with the negative name-calling of being slut-shamed. I didn’t know how to have one without the other. When my at-the-time boyfriend called me out for feeling hot, all I heard was the negative connotation that I had associated with the word.
Now, at the wise old age of 22, I understand that feeling sexy isn’t just about the way you interact with the people you’re attracted to, but it’s about the way you interact with yourself. How do you interpret your own sexuality? How do you carry yourself? How do you portray your confidence? You can feel like a sex symbol and never hop into bed with anyone, or you can hop into bed with everyone. The point it, you get to play out “sexy” in the way that you deem fit.
Into You is still in my heavy rotation of songs. It’s a kitchen dance party, highway driving, getting ready for a date kind of song. And do you know why? BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEELING FUCKING HOT. And there’s nothing wrong with that feeling. There’s nothing wrong with feeling desirable, despite what I previously believed. I still don’t get called “hot” that often, it happens sometimes but not regularly. I still get “pretty” and “cute” and “beautiful” more than I get “hot”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It doesn’t really matter how other people interpret my appearance, what matters is how I feel.
From me, with love, to you,
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