Alright, World. We all know you think we’re pretty. Or not. We know what you think of our appearance because we hear a constant stream of feedback (or a lack thereof, which is an equally clear message) from the time we’re tiny tots, and we know what it means; we’ve already absorbed it.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. Your image is your personal brand, sure. Attractive people have an easier time at life, apparently: they have an easier time finding jobs (and even have their own job site), they supposedly make more money, everyone wants to talk to them, and studies have been done that prove good looking people are considered more trustworthy. But, to be blunt, being pretty is a huge pain in the ass.
Please do not think that I’m bragging when I say this, because this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with society as a whole: I hear I’m pretty every time I leave the house. Every. Single. Time. Even when I go to the 711 in my Muppet pajamas with uncombed hair and glasses, I get hit on. And it doesn’t say a damn thing about me. I’m not a supermodel. I don’t dress like one. I’m not asking for your attention or for your constant commentary on my appearance. In fact, odds are good that I don’t give a fig what you think of how I look. And if you lead into a conversation with anything about my appearance, you are definitely not getting my number. Please, for the love of all the gods of the multiverse, stop being this guy:
“Damn. DAMN! OH DAMN! Ok, ok, ok… Uh, yeah, I just wanna let you know the back of your head is RIDICULOUS!”
The other night I met an acquaintance for a drink and some live music, and our conversation was like riding a merry-go-round. He ran the usual conversational circuit that consists of “tell me about yourself, why are you single, would you go out with me” questions. He made an awkward compliment, and I laughed at him, so he explained that he has a tough time complimenting girls and started talking about this one time he failed on complimenting a girl’s hair. Sensing an opportunity to make a difference in the world, I smiled broadly and said, “You know, we all hear we’re pretty ALL THE TIME; most girls would much rather have you say something about their intellect, or the conversation.”
What I’d said was apparently gibberish to him, because his response was, “So… you, personally… Would you rather have someone compliment you on your sweet personality, or something?”
The perplexed, evaluative look on his poor muddled face was a bookend to the frustrated one on mine as I repeated myself: “Or, you know, my INTELLECT OR CONVERSATION.”
He nodded, scrunched up his nose like he was taking bad medicine, and said, “I was just going to tell you that I really enjoyed your conversation.”
I have a lot of conversations like that one, and I have a lot of one-sided conversations where I talk about literature or feminism or religion and the person that I’m talking to responds with something about my appearance. That isn’t complimentary; it makes me feel like I wasn’t heard. If you respond to a statement I make with something about my appearance, you’re probably: a) not listening, b) think it’s just so cute that the pretty but stupid girl is using big words. Neither of those things makes me feel connected to you.
My friend Courtney posted a revolutionary quote on her Facebook page a couple of days ago:
“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.”
Most women do go out of their way to be pretty. We wax our eyebrows, paint our nails, pierce our ears, wear shoes that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. And it’s fun. But we don’t do it for you. We do it for us (and maybe that one guy we like). The rest of you can stop admitting you notice any time now, and save us the trouble of making a lame response.
“Know then that the body is merely a garment.
Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.”