It’s not easy being me. Really, it’s not. I am cursed by the tales of my beauty, and I can tell you, that is more of a myth than any of it!
People were always shocked when they saw me. The expectation is stellar, but I wasn’t much of a star. I’m actually quite dumpy and plain. I like my cakes and honey too much, and my skin is a nightmare – blighted with angry, red blemishes. My hair has never grown properly, that long, golden mane that you see in the paintings is something I can only dream about. I have thin, lank, muddy-brown tendrils that limp across my face and down towards my shoulders. You may well wonder, therefore, how I earned this amazing reputation; “…the face that launched a thousand ships.” Well, it’s all really about power and possessions, patriarchy and potency, and I was just pawn in a long, drawn-out game.
I never loved Menelaus, that’s for sure. It was an arranged marriage on my sixteenth birthday…. just a chance for the king’s coffers to feel the new weight of my father’s gold. I was passed from my father to my husband like a rotten piece of meat. They were both scornful of my looks, but hey, needs must. He just locked me up in a lonely tower and forgot about me.
When Paris came to find me he already had his head full of romantic notions. I think it was Aphrodite who did it. He adored her so much that he wasn’t willing to look a gift horse in the mouth. He snatched up his present, throwing a veil over my pock-marked face and carried me back to Troy. I think he just did it for the kudos really. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes. Menelaus didn’t want to admit that he had an ugly wife and obviously Paris didn’t want to either.
And the bloody thing started a whole war! One which went on for years. And where was I? I was tucked up in another tower, away from prying eyes so that my legendary beauty could be further exaggerated.
None of this made me feel happy. I just felt like a fake. And when that wooden horse was brought in through the city gates I knew better. I knew that, sometimes, you have to look a gift horse in the mouth. But, of course, no one listened to me.
And now I am immortalised in Homer’s epic poem, celebrated in great works of art, but I just feel cheated, a failure. In the modern world, maybe, I could have fought my way through, found a niche for a plain woman with a powerful mind. I am a great myth but in truth I was nothing but a toy. I was a plaything for those men. Well at least they didn’t actually play with me – I was just to be fought over. Lucky really, I’m hardly attracted to posturing macho types.
Perhaps, on a Greek island somewhere, I could have lived out a different romance. And happily faded into obscurity.