Weirder As We Go

“Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself…”

LaDonna Witmer
9 min readMar 1, 2024

Anne Sexton said that in her poem You, Doctor Martin: “Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself…”

On its own, out of context, the quote fits neatly on a post-it note stuck on my desk and makes me feel better about all the weirdness of middle age. It makes me think that yes, I was beautiful once (though of course I have never believed I was beautiful when I was beautiful. I could only see it later, over my shoulder, through a layer of years). Now much of my youthful beauty is lost, but I am so much more myself, so much more sure of myself. And that’s what really matters.

If you take the quote in context, though, you realize the narrator of the poem is a woman locked away in an insane asylum for suicidal tendencies. She addresses the poem to her doctor and keeps herself from thoughts of death by making rows of moccasins: I am queen of all my sins / forgotten. Am I still lost? / Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself / counting this row and that row of moccasins / waiting on the silent shelf.

So that makes it a lot weirder. But weird is the theme of this particular reflection, so I’m just going to go with it.