This article can also be found at Degree180.
I have a confession: I was once a weird-looking dweeby middle-schooler with braces and terrible fashion sense. I saw the pretty popular girls in my eighth grade class and dreamed that one day, I’d be pretty like them and then my life would be perfect; boys would pay attention to me and other girls would long to be pretty like me.
I went through the next few years of my life still having bad to mediocre fashion sense. And while I did eventually ditch the braces, I still yearned be pretty like those other girls. Boys still didn’t pay much attention to me and I was too shy to talk to them. I felt ignored and unimportant, but I was used to it; pretty girls were the ones who were supposed to get the preferential treatment after all.
It was junior year of high school when I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and realized that I was pretty. Don’t ask me where this realization came from, but from the first day of my junior year of high school, I started wearing makeup on a regular basis and my fashion sense improved tenfold. I traded in the athletic t-shirts and sweatpants for more fashionable shirts and skinny jeans. Boys started paying attention to me and I was taking great notice. I was finally pretty, and I was elated.
Fast forward a few years later to when I was a college student and I no longer felt the desire to fit in with those pretty girls; I was one of them. I started getting hit on fairly regularly by guys at bars, or told I was “hot” by friends of friends who were too nervous to talk to me in person. Guys were always nice to me by this point and it was simultaneously weird and awesome.
But as the high of being pretty came down, I began taking mental notes on a few things:
Firstly, I noticed that people were commenting on my appearance a lot more. And I don’t mean negative commenting (although I wont even begin to touch on the topic of creepy old men on the street commenting on my appearance). Society puts such a high value on female attractiveness that it’s considered acceptable for people to comment on a woman’s appearance when they find her to be conventionally attractive. So pretty girls get told by their friends that they’re pretty on a regular basis. In fact, telling a woman she’s pretty is often the highest compliment you can give her. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “…but you’re pretty, so it doesn’t matter,” I’d be a very wealthy person.
It’s almost as if people assume that if you’re attractive, your life must be perfect. Hmm, sounds like a familiar sentiment, doesn’t it?
Secondly, I found that I was generally getting a lot more attention from people. When I talk, people listen to me (or at least they pretend to), whereas when I was awkward and average-looking (or even occasionally now on those days when I go out in sweatpants and no makeup) people didn’t really give me the time of day. Here’s a personal anecdote: I went to a party a year ago where I only knew one or two people, so I spent much of the night awkwardly standing next to the food table. This guy walked up to me and asked me why I wasn’t talking to anyone. I told him that I didn’t really know anyone there, and his reply was, “you’re cute enough; people will talk to you.” If I was unattractive, would he have said that, or even have approached me in the first place? Probably not.
I’ve also noticed that I get called a lot of stupid pet names. “Sweetie” is a common one that people seem to like to use. “Sweetie” and “honey” were nicknames that were given to me by my grandma when I was a little kid. They’re used to “cute-ify” someone and frankly, they’re a bit demeaning when they’re directed toward an adult; they can trivialize the problems of the person being called the name.
The fact that I felt rather guilty and vain writing this article just proves my point further. We place such a large emphasis on prettiness that it seems to be the highest accomplishment you can strive toward if you’re a woman. Whether or not you’re in that mindset now, we’ve all been there at one point or another in our lives. As women we’re constantly striving and competing with one another to reach this unattainable level of attractiveness at which our lives will then be perfect, because pretty girls don’t have any real problems. Surprise! Everyone has real problems regardless of how attractive they are! Do I get treated better than a woman who isn’t conventionally attractive? I think for the most part yes, but generally speaking, being pretty just means that more people will be superficially nice to you.
I wish I had known as a dorky fourteen-year-old that unfortunately there’s really no exclusive club for being pretty.