What’s The Point of Pretty?

Is it weird if I tell you that I have some very, very attractive lady friends?

Well, I do. They’re my friends because they’re smart, funny, kind and equally obsessed with anthropomorphism. But many of them also happen to be double-take hot.  Now, I am not someone who is particularly plagued with self-doubt, but I can also acknowledge (usually without malice. usually.) when another woman is prettier than I am.

I have one such friend who probably ranks somewhere in the range of 11 on the 1 – 10 attractiveness scale.  She models, men fall at her feet, birds and mice sing while sewing her dresses. Despite this, girlfriend is frequently convinced that people don’t like her, that her poreless skin is sagging, that she’s somehow not good enough.  If I looked like her, I’d spend my days naked and accepting marriage proposals. How could she ever doubt herself?  Everywhere she goes, people praise her.  Everywhere she looks, the media tells her that she looks the ‘right way.’  I wanted to know, so I asked.

Her response?  “How would you feel if the only thing people ever praised you for was something you had no control over? And how would you feel if every day, you were slowly losing the one thing people complimented you on?”

Wow.

This friend is bright, hilarious and golden-hearted.  She’ll remember your birthday and if something bad happens to you, she’ll probably be more upset about it than you are.  But not many people notice or comment on the above qualities. Other crazy hot, traditionally attractive friends of mine have regaled me with tales of the never-ending stream of men who hit on them and harass them, the other girls who refuse to befriend or trust them, the co-workers who are convinced pretty girls are incompetent.

Now, I’m sure it’s possible to read this post and get a headache from eye rolling.  Oh, the trials and travesties visited upon beautiful women!  I’m taking out my tiny violin and what not.  Obviously, there are harder fates in the world than those that await traditionally attractive women.  But as these friends point out, being beautiful hasn’t necessarily made their lives easier or spared them heartache.  They, too, have failed classes, chosen questionable boyfriends, been laid off or gotten zits on photo day.

So next time you see that incredibly hot girl at the coffee shop, say hello!
  She’s probably fraught with the same anxieties and neuroses as you are.  She probably wants to talk about Pride and Prejudice and cat videos with you. She might just be aching to be friends with you.

How do you feel about your looks?  Do you think you’re pretty?  How much does your appearance affect the way people interact with you?  I’m (generally) pretty confident and (usually) think I’m quite cute.  I think because of my button nose and blonde hair, I look quite friendly and approachable, but because I’ve spent so much time traveling on my own, I’m actually a bit stand-offish in public.  My ambient facial expression has been described as ‘sulky Russian’!

55 Comments

vmichelle

I'm passably pretty, but luckily not pretty enough to spend my life ninja-fending-off marriage proposals. I've always wondered why we ascribe such positive attributes to physical beauty as if it was a virtue in and of itself, as if it were a character trait rather than an accidental configuration of genes. Unfortunately, it is human nature and the tyranny of beauty won't be changed. But the tribe of us who believe inner beauty rules can "run the world" as Beyonce says (in her music video full of beautiful women incidentally).

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Morag Lee

I think I'm slightly unconventionally pretty (I have a bump in my nose and close to together eyes but it seems to work) and appear to be fairly popular with boys. This means I'm confident in my looks however I find it quite awkward that I have to fend boys off regularly. I don't have a single straight male friend who hasn't approached me as something more and it bums me. I genuinely get along with males better but with so many having wanted more in the past it gets to me. I'm also on a relationship detox so that's another reason why I don't really appreciate the male gaze too much. xx

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Autumn

OMG Yes! (and…yes!) I've interviewed plenty of beautiful women and while it's rare that a woman will admit that she has that sort of beauty (and I don't want to badger beautiful women into "admitting" they're beautiful, which, by their account, happens), there is often a painful awareness of what an accident of birth brings. They also often know the advantages it can bring, so it's not like rejecting it outright is necessarily a path they would easily pursue in a non-conflicted manner, even if they could, you know?

I've often been thankful that I'm attractive enough but not so attractive that people particularly notice it. And I'm highly aware that my open, big-eyed face makes me appear approachable (I am ALWAYS asked for directions) and friendly and kind of a sucker (I'm also often the one targeted by strangers to hear their life story). I also know that because I've grown to expect a certain kind of treatment in life, I usually get it, and I can't discount the role of expectations in this equation.

I don't want to just be self-promotional, but if you're deeply interested in this topic, it's pretty much the entire basis of my blog–not that I'm particularly beautiful or un-beautiful, but I explore what beauty means in a real, practical sense through essays and interviews at The Beheld (the-beheld.com).

Also, here's a great post by an excellent writer who grew up on the other side of the prettiness coin:

http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2011/03/growing-up-ugly.html

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Smaggle

Quite recently I had a guy in a bar tear shreds off me because, after a 45 minute conversation, I mentioned Mr Smaggle. He was disgusted that I had 'led him on' and that 'pretty girls like me think they can treat everyone like shit because they've got away with it their whole lives'.

Right. First of all – PSYCHO! Second of all I'm in no way traditionally attractive (think of a young Helena Bonham Carter – many men want to shag her but I'm not sure if they know why) and also I resent the fact he thought I'd been 'behaving' that way my whole life. I used to be really, really fat and he wouldn't have looked twice at me eight years ago.

The whole thing made me really angry because I try really hard to make people feel welcome and comfortable and it totally bit me in the arse. I'm also not good looking enough to warrant that kind of crap.

On a separate note, there's a new trend at the moment of people I meet calling me 'intimidating'. Almost like it's a compliment. It's not. It's an awful thing to be called especially if I've had an actual conversation with the person and it's not based on my online persona.

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Han

I've been told I am pretty but I always question what people are on about – I have wonky teeth (I had braces but they didn't do their job). I have hair that desperately needs a cut and a restyle but going to the hairdressers is kinda too much effort lol. I'm overweight and often hide in clothes that are too big for me. Baggy jeans are my favourite item of clothing and they are really trashed but I haven't been able to find another pair that are quite the same (just newer, cleaner and tidier!).

We spend so much of our day being told by the media that we can only be pretty if we have…….that our self esteem can take a knock and then we question why someone thinks we're pretty. I have a relative that has been on a permanent diet for most of her adult life – I don't understand why.

I'd like to say that I am happy with my appearance but I'm really not. I would like to be thinner – but is that because I genuinely wish I was healthy and lighter or because then I'd be prettier?

There are plenty of schemes and programs out there that are trying to encourage girls to be happy with their bodies but until magazines like Vogue and Bazaar and things like that take models who are actually "average" size and like the girl next door, or the mum who takes her kids to school or soccer practice then when are we going to be happy with being us.

Hmmm might go puzzle over this some more.

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Lorra Fae

I spent most of my life thinking I was "okay" and being told I was beautiful. I never really believed it, though I heard it a lot. Now, I believe it, and I believe I always was (more or less). And it's true, now that I realize how guys have treated me like a prize, or when people are amazed at how nice, honest, non-dramatic, and book-obsessed I am. All they see at first is a pretty girl with a mad-looking face, which I think was partially cultivated to keep people at bay.
Also, when you're really attractive, most nice guys will not approach you – only the overly-confident douchebags will. Woo. So, I have been the pursuer in pretty much every single relationship (or not) that I've had.

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Ashe @ Dramatis Personae

Oh, Sarah, this is so good!

I think, for me, a bit message I've gotten (either directly or indirectly) is the "You'd be so much prettier if you lost weight." Well, pardon my language & fuck you. I'm quite pretty as I am! I do go through phases where I like my face structure more when it's a few pounds lighter, but my face is my face.

I frankly love how candid these girls are about how being beautiful kind of sucks for them. It reminds me of a student I have: super light blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, perfect tan and big boobs. And how faculty have told her she's cold and aloof, I've heard them call her worse– but maybe she's shy, maybe she's super neurotic, maybe maybe… It's so easy to pigeonhole women on their looks, far more than men are.

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Joanna P.

Awesome post! I think the question here is really whether genetically attractive people have easier or happier lives than other people. And honestly, I don't think so.

I'm generally regarded as attractive (if intimidating), but not the girl who everyone is always in love with. But I'm confidence, active, and incredibly happy with life.

My best friend is one of those naturally gorgeous girls who constantly receives the attention of guys. Which she admits is flattering on a good day, but can be downright creepy other times.

Truthfully, I'm more confident and happy than she is, despite the fact that she gets more attention. Because her attention, like the girl in the story, is a result of genetic chance, whereas mine is more often for my personality or my skills. Only recently has she discovered skills, like her new found love of photography, which allow her to take pride in herself and not just her appearance.

None of the true joys in life require physical beauty. Food, laughter, sunshine, sex, music are all available to people of all types.

Pretty people and not so pretty people all have challenges. The key is for a person's self-esteem not to revolve around physical beauty. I don't think anyone can be confident who has to rely solely on external approval of appearances. And especially not as we age.

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giraffenoise

That's an awesome article.

I have no idea where I would rate on the beauty scale. My opinion about it changes every day. I've always been super shy, and when I do receive attention I usually feel embarrassed and undeserving. I find too that women give me really dirty looks, even after I make the first attempt to make eye contact and smile. It's strange that beauty is so highly regarded by the media, but in real life can be intimidating and off-putting. I like what your friend said about being complimented for something completely out of your control. It's true.

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iris

"This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.

“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely ‘pretty’.”"

Katie Makkai on "Pretty" from Sociological Images.

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Chelle Lynn

What a great perspective you've presented. It's so easy to resent our gorgeous friends when they complain (ie: when she OBVIOUSLY looks better swim suit shopping than you, but she finds SOMETHING to complain about any way…like, if you think YOU look bad, then what sort of monstrous blob am I!?), but every girl does have insecurities, and it can't be easy only being defined by your looks.

I know I'd rather be know for my intellectual/spiritual/emotional qualities that I have worked on and grown into than something that I have no control over and will lose with time.

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Ellie Di

That whole "don't judge a book by its cover" thing that we tend to only apply to quote-unquote ugly girls applies to the quote-unquote beautiful ones, too. You can't freaking tell what someone is like by their looks! You've got no clue what someone's perks really are until you get to know them.

(I could go on about this all day long, but others have done a fantastic job of weighing in, and I'm perfectly happy to let their well-thought-out and insightful comments stand in my stead.)

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Morgan

i don't envy the women who are always told they are beautiful and have to worry about keeping it up
on the other hand, i think it's sad that i can't say i think i'm pretty without someone thinking poorly of it.
twisted world 🙂
thought of that since i noticed everyone saying "i'm okay..it depends..not THAT good but good looking"
hello, we are all gorgeous 🙂
where are your heads people!

i'm really openminded and can find the beauty in everyone and try my best to compliment them not only on their outer but inner beauty too.

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Kristie

I feel like I'm pretty, but because I'm overweight, people don't see that. It sounds ridiculous, but I have a hard time eating in social settings because I'm afraid people will thinK, "She shouldn't be eating that. Or anything." I know it's ridiculous and I'm working through it, but I still have a lot of anxiety about the way people perceive me. This generally leads to shyness on my part, when in reality, I'm not shy at all. I'm avidly working to overcome these issues.

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DK

ableist, patriarchal society and why we let these things continue and how to stop them or change them and starting conversations like this is part of the answer. Blogger ate my first reply giving examples of how this making assumptions and judgments based on physical appearance thing has impacted my life daily and on a fundamental basis so most of the below is paraphrased from my memory and typed in a hurry as I need to get to some other things on my list today.

Please don't assume someone is female just because they have breasts, keep their hair long, put on makeup, and wear skirts and dresses or that they cannot get pregnant because they appear to be male.

I'm fat, but I am not lazy, stupid, gluttonous, unhygienic, ugly or unhealthy. I'm fucking gorgeous and I take pride in my appearance, bicycle regularly and graduated with honors. And no one can tell how healthy someone else's body is by looking at it, it is just not possible.

MS can take a normally perfectly capable, farm and indie business operating, inventor-minded person and completely incapacitate them for uncertain and unpredictable amounts of time. My family has come to know this intimately over the last few years as we adapt to the progress of my father's disease.

Just because I appear to be 'white' does not mean that I am committing Native American cultural appropriation when I speak about my beliefs and upbringing. I am not lying to you when I tell you that my great-grandmother grew up living next to a cave on a remote mountainside where her family his away to avoid being relocated in the late 1800s or that my father attended reservation school until his family moved north to Michigan in the 1970s.

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Stefanie

This post comes at the right time, since I've been seeing and reading things about "beautiful" (the word they used) women complaining about how hard they have it.

I think it's wrong to believe that a person has everything handed to them just because they're physically attractive. But it also annoys me when I have to read those kinds of texts where these women go "waah waah women are jealous and men just want me as a trophy, my confidence levels are so low because no one ever compliments my intelligence, please pity me!!" (Just to clarify, I didn't get that message from your post; I've seen it elsewhere.)
They seem to think that their confidence would be better if people complimented them on things that they want to get compliments for, and it doesn't work like that for anyone.

"Good genes" and confidence don't necessarily go hand in hand. Maybe "beautiful women" get noticed for their looks rather than their other qualities, but hey: I'm plain-looking, I don't get noticed at all! Unless I get meself some charme and confidence, that is.
Wherever we are on the spectrum between "ugly" and "stunning", everyone needs to feel good about themselves first before others will notice them as a whole person, looks AND personality. And I don't think that any group, whether "plain" or "pretty", has it easier than the other in achieving this.

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j.lowe

This blog post is something I've been thinking about (and planning to blog about!) for awhile now. I identify with the beautiful friend you mentioned – losing youthful beauty day by day.

While I am by no means classically beautiful (the whole not being white automatically denies that opportunity for me), I am often told that I'm pretty. Sometimes when I see acquaintances, they'll compliment me for what I'm wearing or how I've done my hair. I appreciate this, but the compliments also frustrate me. There is so much more to me than what I've thrown on today, but it seems like people won't try to look any deeper. It used to be so much easier when I was younger – I never thought I was pretty. Once I became aware that I actually am pretty, I've become increasingly aware of how people automatically judge me based on my appearance.

Additionally, as I've grown up I've run into more and more issues where I actually get followed around by people on the streets in broad daylight, or even when I'm out with (girl)friends. No one deserves this. But when I tell people about it, they act as if it's understandable – I'm a pretty little asian girl. Of course I'm going to get chased around. I hate this – not only is it unfair, but to excuse creepy/criminal behavior just because I'm pretty? That's not okay.

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Martina Lynne :: The Life Academic

Wonderful post! I think what you're getting at is that the beauty ideal doesn't actually serve any women — those deemed beautiful by society or not. So your friend is valued for her beauty but only for her beauty, so she's really just as valueless as anyone else.

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DK

So apparently Blogger also ate the first 2.5 sentences of the comment it accepted, too. It said something to effect of I don't think the question here is really whether genetically attractive people have easier or happier lives than other people, but rather why we accept and perpetuate these aspects of our sexist, racist, ableist, patriarchal society and that starting conversations like this is part of the answer.

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meliasaurus

I was recently having a conversation with my friend about the subjectivity of beauty, which came up when I mentioned some friends of his were very attractive and he didn't agree. I told him I think it's weird that people think I'm attractive and I just look in the mirror and look normal to me.
He replied that he thinks I'm gorgeous and I dissented and he said that he's not going to argue but I walk around all day like it's nothing and I'm totally beautiful. What a huge compliment but I still have no idea what people are talking about. I look in the mirror and see chubby cheeks and squinty eyes but I favor wanted cheek bones and contours and large almond eyes.
I certainly don't think I'm anything bad to look at and I believe that I am attractive, but never gorgeous or so beautiful that I have no idea.

I'm wasn't an ugly duckling as much as a very awkward duckling as well as a late bloomer in almost all categories. I think that affected my confidence the most, because I really didn't think I was good at anything or attractive until I turned 20.

I get a lot of unwanted attention from guys. Most of my guy friends are harboring or have had a crush. Some guys that I'm still friends with are extremely persistant, I love being friends with them because they're smart funny dudes, but I am not interested and it's frustrating and awkward to say so multiple times.

I would much rather a guy be into me because of something that I actually worked at and was good at. When people tell me I'm interesting to talk to, or that I am a good yoga instructor that's a bigger blessing to me than having a good face.

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Claire

I spent most of my teens resenting the way I looked, after a boy I had a crush on called me ugly; but I've grown more accepting of my body now that I'm in university.

I think I'm cute, but not in the conventional sense: I have a large nose, and a slightly square face; but I also have great shoulders, long legs and naturally full lips. I don't get approached by many guys, partly because I'm shy, and partly because I can't flirt to save my life!

However, I'm always happier to be praised for my intellect, generosity or sense of humor rather than my looks; and if I had to chose, I would always pick brains over beauty.

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baubodance

As a teenager I used to curse my good looks too, mainly because of the unwanted male attention (imagine an old horny little dwarf gaping at you shamelessly) but also because I called over me the jealousy of my girlfriends all the time, they simply accused me from drawing away the attention of the boys they were fancying.

well, I'm 28 now and here's a woman who enjoys looking good and adores drawing male attention to her -even when 10 years in a stable relationship and with a daughter of 2 now! and I'm not ashamed to say it! i can have my cake and eat it too, basta. and the mighty fury in my eyes now repel the gaze of the horny old men, muhahaha.

i think there's an underlying question of fully living your femininity here. what mostly defines how good looking people find you, is what you tell with your energy. if you're all comfortable with your feminine side, taking care of your body because you truly love and accept it, having no trouble with your sensuality and sexuality, then you GLOW and no man can ignore you, however short tall thin flat wellrounded you are.

i think it's okay and even necessary for a woman to keep believing in her radiance and femininity, mother or not, single or not, young or not.

that's the essence, if you ask me.

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Euforilla

I thought about this topic before, and I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees the "woes" of being pretty (like if you are, then you're guilty of everyone else's self-loathing…).

I can only add a song by Emilie Autumn: "Thank God I'm Pretty" which is a pretty song, and pretty ironic too, check it out.

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G.

I get cold, aloof, high maintenance, and snobby all the time. It's like people think I see them as below me. BULL.SHIT. I spent all of middle school getting called hideous and being teased mercilessly and it has taken years not to laugh in someone's face when they tell me I'm pretty or have perfect skin or "you're so skinny" or "why don't you have a boyfriend? Are all the men around you stupid?"

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Anonymous

i am not pretty. numerous people have told me that i am ugly to my face. ouch.

no guy has ever shown interest in me (i am 22).

being pretty is not a curse. there are downsides, but it could be worse.

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Christine

I really liked this post, and I thought the comments were also very insightful. I was considerably a lot cuter as a child. That was the only time when anyone told me I was pretty, and that was the only praise I received from adults. I don't think I am pretty, but looks are so subjective.

Anonymous, I think it's awful that a person would say that to you. No one has ever straight out told I was ugly to my face, but I am 19 and no guy has ever shown interest in me either. None except creepy old men. It might be that I am extremely self-conscious and shy, but sometimes I wonder if it is because I am not pretty. Also, there are a lot worse things than not being deemed traditionally beautiful.

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FrankieandNicole

Very insightful… I was teased and called all names under the sun when I was in high school, told I was too skinny, had too many pimples, and my hair was crazy fuzzy. Kids can be cruel (and I'm glad to say I found pro-activ, was introduced to a GHD and filled out my tops!)…but adults dish out their own version of cruelty too. ASSUMING someone is a bitch because they like to look after themselves and they give a damn about fashion is very shallow and I only hope those people realise they could be missing out on making some beautiful friendships with women because of their narrow mindedness. We need to all appreciate each other's uniqueness – not scoff at it. Whether your pretty or not (and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, so by whose definition are we going by here – that of society? that of the sheep of this world?) I say leave the sheep to their own, look in the mirror and realise there isn't a person on earth with your eyes, your smile, your not-so-perfect-hair, your skin tone, your thumb print or your feet! Own yourself and if you don't like what you see – do something about it! x

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Pooja

Sarah! wonderful blog! It is not only fun to read your articles, but also read these lovely comments from intelligent people.

I don't know how I rate on prettiness. But I have my off days and on days. There are times when I wish my proportions were different. On certain days, I feel I am just fine! And as I have been reading from your comments, I am assured that its not just me! (Thank God!) 😀

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Sri

This article really really really resonated with me. Not with me as the 11 on the Richter scale of hotness girl, bit as the friend of many girls who are that hot… And they also tell me they find it pretty hard to get women to trust them enough to be girlfriends.
Thanks Sarah!

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melina bee

wow, this is an EXCELLENT post, one of your best in my opinion.
One of the blessings in disguise I've had is that during my teens, most of my peers described me as having an ugly face and body. I always saw myself as being an ugly girl in a sea of pretty, thin blondes. During that time, I came to the conclusion that I had best not judge other people on their appearance since the teasing/bullying of my peers was so hurtful.

Now, years later, I think I am considered generally pretty, but not in a conventional way. I've experienced firsthand how differently people will treat you based on if you are "cute" or not. Despite how other girls were mean to me back then, I do have many beautiful female friends nowadays b/c I realized that if those pretty/popular girls really had it all, they wouldn't have wasted their energy teasing the less attractive since being mean is almost always a sign of insecurity. In many ways, I see that very beautiful women are often hated, ridiculed and taken advantage of by society as a whole. they're used, rather than loved. I think that this post really brings up the point that as a whole, our society is too focused on appearances. whether you are "beautiful" or "ugly", it isn't a real indication of your character which is what ultimately matters. good souls come in all kinds of packages.

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melina bee

reading through the other comments, I can't help but notice how many women who describe themselves as unconventionally pretty bring up their "imperfect" noses in their self-description. any idea why that is?

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Keda

Well, I am pretty, a lot more when I get some sleep though (2 year old inthe house). My nose is perfect, although a nose-doctor might not agree. If my nose were anything other though, I don't think I would be that pretty (remember Baby, from Dirty Dancing, changed her nose no one even knows when they see her in a movie anymore). Anyway. Ask me what my worst trait is, I don't know. I know there are things wrong (probably), but I just don't focus on those. I have bad hair days, but I never think that anything is necessarily 'wrong' with me.

I get what you're saying about the pretty girl though. Thing is, we need to remember that everyone out there is fighting their own battle. I had the prettiest friend, but she wasn't the smartest chick and she knew it. She once told me that she knows guys fall in love with her faster and more often than with me. The difference being, she said, when they fall in love with you, they stay in love, with me I'm lucky if it lasts a month.

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Samarkand

I have a firend like that, and I love her, but what she has to offer is her looks. To be a bit mean, she does not have much of a personality, she just tries to be whatever she thinks you'll want. And I think it's a bit sad, you need more substance than that.

I'm short, 160 cm, have a curvy body (not code for fat, I have european size 65i bra cup) pale norwegian skin, light brown hair and green eyes.
I consider myself to look very average, besides the huge boobs 😛
I like to think that I have a cool personality, into sci fi, tech, videogames, theatre and speak fluent french. So I don't think I'm super pretty, but I do like to think I'm an interesting person.

I've found that the guys I'm attracted to have very average and are often described as looking "geeky" But have awesome personalities.

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lisa

This is such an interesting post. I went through the biggest awkward phase ever in high school and to this day I still get this little frisson of astonishment when someone compliments me and calls me pretty. Nowadays I consider myself mildly pretty but not drop dead gorgeous or smokin' hot. 😛

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Elizabeth

What an interesting topic…I just wanted to add my two cents. Like many others commenting, I am told [somewhat] often that I am pretty or cute or whatever. While I feel blessed that people are nice enough to compliment me for that, I feel it is important to note that people thinking you're pretty does not necessarily guarantee male attention. Not long ago a male friend mentioned that he thought I was attractive – I was absolutely staggered because that had never happened to me before.

Normally I am 100% at peace with being single, but it IS possible to be both the "pretty" girl being thought incompetent by potential employers, attracting jealousy or envious comments from other women, and getting glared at for no apparent reason in the gym while also being the girl who is always alone on a Friday evening when her friends are out dating. At those times, looking in the mirror is not very comforting and the traits I posses that are go unnoticed by most people.

Again, this is by no means intended to garner pity – I am very happy with myself generally and thankful not to struggle with self-image all that much. But it's another perspective.

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Sidewalk Chic

Loved reading this – yes, and yes!

In high school, my braces came off, my severe arm eczema disappeared, my acne cleared up and I finally discovered how to style my hair and makeup. Basically, I got lucky. I'm a petite woman and multiracial, and because I look "exotic" (sorry, hate that word for its fetish connotations), I've gotten a lot of unwanted attention from boys and men, strangers and acquaintances alike. It's completely affected the way I interact with men I don't know well — not knowing when a conversation will turn into a proposition or a profession of love or harassment. I also tend to dress very conservatively at work for the same reasons. And because I am naturally an introverted, quiet person, I've been called everything from "passive" to "intimidating," so I've had to work a bit to not seem like a jerk. It can be hard, trying to walk the line of friendly but unavailable.

I don't mean to pull any pity party cards, but thought I would add another perspective. I have a personal style blog, and it's been a cool photography experiment with developing a stronger sense of personality and self image.

I'm loving reading the comments to this piece — a beautiful post and conversation, by all means.

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mashiki0603

You had me LOLing big time with your "sulky Russian" – particularly because I am indeed Russian, although a smiley one so people rarely do take me for a one 🙂

And ditto to what Elizabeth has written couple of posts above – I am told often enough that I am cute, pretty, attractive (pick your adjective of choice) but at the same am as single as they come. Less attractive girls (I don't mean this as an insult BTW) are fending off potential boyfriend material, I am at home by my pretty little self. Buggers everyone who knows very lovely me, since they cannot for the life of them understand why. And this is also not to garner pity, stated as a reality of my today's life.

BTW, hearing that I am pretty (and sometimes beautiful) did not come in my teens and twenties (ok, rarely, and mostly by family and friends, before that I was used to hearing about my smarts and oh yes, being intimidating), but in my thirties (where I am now). Guess it might have (somewhat) to do with my finally being comfortable with myself (aka confident), "warts and all".

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MelD

Girls, girls… believe me, you are all beautiful, no matter what you or your friends think.
Don't wait to get to your 40s to realise you ever thought otherwise – I could kick myself for all the complexes I gave myself through comparison in my teens and twenties!!
I am not bitter about it, now, but I wish I had seen it earlier and been less hard on myself. Now I am fine with my imperfections and am just glad to be healthy and alive and appreciate all I have, including three beautiful daughters with surpprisingly few image problems – guess I did something right after all!!!

It probably is hard to be conventionally beautiful, and I can't help but think it is the gorgeous girls who are going to find it hard to grow older and accept the body changes that will come, you see it all the time in the over-emphasis of thinness and so on in the media. Sorry, the older you are, the worse thin looks… so let's get back to beauty od expression and personality and all try to age more gracefully ;))

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WendyB

"If I looked like her, I'd spend my days naked and accepting marriage proposals. " — I"m dying over this…

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Anonymous

Interesting post. Along with "pretty" comes the worry that one day that will fade.

I've been told I'm beautiful/pretty my whole life. When I'm feeling good about myself I take pride in my looks – like we all do. But to be honest, I feel so depressed most of the time that I really don't care about my looks. I often downplay my looks because I don't want to be noticed. I often want to hide from everyone. When people compliment me on how "beautiful" I am, I am polite, smile and say "thankyou", but quite honestly I'm disinterested.
I'm more interested in books, reading, playing piano, having a good laugh with my friends etc. To me thats what life is about. Not looks. While I know I'm lucky to not have to worry about my looks too much, sometimes I think those looks are wasted on me. I'm too apathetic about them. To me it all seems very boring.

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Amy

I don't think I am the right person to say whether I'm 'too pretty' or not. I don't really try very hard – it takes me about 20 minutes in the morning to shower, fix my hair, get dressed & throw on a little bit of make-up; I'm a pretty simple gal. So I suppose one could say that I'm naturally pretty. I do get compliments a lot – which often make me feel uncomfortable. Although flattering at times, being complimented often makes me feel like I'm being put on the spot. I'm also tiny – I'm 5 feet tall and less than 120lbs – but I'm pretty health conscious. Having people tell me "you're too skinny", "you're not gaining weight!", "you need to eat more!" just pisses me off. Having a small frame is a blessing because it hides most weight that I do gain – but having someone tell me what I am is like a slap to the face. And to be honest, although I've accepted myself for who I am, as a younger girl the compliments, stares and whistles from men didn't make me feel pretty, they made me feel like there was something wrong with me.

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Anonymous

Lol 120 lbs and 5 feet is NOT skinny at all haha. I'm 5'7 and 107 lbs and i'm still curvy so yea.

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SnapandPrint

Thank you for blogging about this.

I see so often in life people downing the thin/pretty women and making it seem like they are horrible people just because of the way they look.

When I was younger, I was one of those women who was deemed "attractive" by certain group of people and always harassed and hit on by random men when I was in public. Let me tell you, I would have LOVED to just talk about Pride and Prejudice or cat videos with other women and I did not judge others on appearance. I was only rude to those who started off mean to me.

It is very rare that an "pretty woman" will judge you on your looks once they are out of the teenage years. Most are like the poster's "11" friend and worry about if people truly like them or only judge them on the way they look. As an ex. pretty girl (I am 39 now so no longer a girl), I so understand what the friend is saying. We all have insecurities and being pretty does not = a great, trouble free, and happy life.

So thank yo for this post and do say hi to the good-looking woman in the coffee shop…chances are she will say hi back.

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Anonymous

I think being a stunning woman does give an edge in the heterosexual dating scene. At least in that context (though unfortunately out of it far too often :/), plenty of men just won't pay attention to a woman they couldn't see themselves bedding. Only after the sexual attention is grabbed do they start to see if their personalities mesh and if romance/love will come of it. (Sure not all men are like this but it's a vast majority.)

As an unattractive woman most men don't see me as beddable and don't even consider me. I can't get their attention to even start on the personality compatibility stuff. A stunning woman who can grab attention straight up gets opportunities to see if romance blossoms that I do not.

But romantically there's a lot of crappy expectations they get as well. Then in friendship there's cattiness, at work/school they get taken as unintelligent/not serious enough, and family are often jealous. So really I wonder how great it is.

Attractive-but-not-stunningly-so is where the privilege really lies imo. Most of the perks without such obvious drawbacks.

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Ingeling

What a funny read! I grew up looking like a boy from a Rumanian orphanage, culminating in a tall, flat-chested and hateful young adult. Then, without me noticing, I grew Barbie legs (and other body parts) and apparently became beautiful. I never grew the confidence to go with this, and always assume that people (especially girls) dislike me. I tone down my appearens at work, since I didn't get my master's degree in law to work as meeting room decoration for my male bosses. My plans for Ph.D are pure theory, as I have yet to meet a professor that won't sleep with me for tutoring. – I guess the conclusion is that I'm stupid, but men are stupider.

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Anonymous

I really like this post. I think that society has socialized people into putting a huge emphasis on the importance of looks. For a person to think themselves pretty there is more then just media or friends telling them, they have to truly believe it. Also to place such importance on something, like your friend said, she has no control over or may eventually fade, is ridiculous. Also the idea of 'beauty' changes from time to time. Yes, I think that the concept of beauty must be reevaluated. It is good to hear your friend has not let her looks go to her head, because I know plenty of girls (and guys) who know they are considered 'hot' and act likewise.

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Anonymous

Is there really a definition in being "beautiful" and "ugly"? I don't think so because everyone's version of what's what is different. I believe that there is no such thing as normal, no such thing as perfect, no such thing as really anything because our philosophies on life and how things should be are all equally different. Speaking of which, the media and society really knows how to make you feel terrible don't they?….and the models on TV aren't really everyone's opinion of being beautiful beacuse that is only one person's idea of what it is! I would say I am average in looks…nothing special, but when I can, I can make myself really pretty if I tried. What mostly matters though is the who you are on the inside and in my opinion, I have one of the most beautiful souls in the world and that there is no one else like me. Of course when I go outside and see other really pretty girls like the ones in my high school, I get really depressed and sad because I had a huge crush on this one guy and he technically rejected me and hurt me really badly and I now feel like there is something wrong with me… I get super self-concious of myself when I shouldn't. I can't help it though! These girls don't even have half the brains I have and yet I am jealous of them because of how well liked they are and how all the good-looking guys just drool over them! I am shy but I do mean well! I personally believe that you really shouldn't care about your looks as much because you are only going to get old and wrinkly anyway, but this world make me feel like I have to care! There are good and bad sides to being pretty and ugly and even average….but should we really care?…..I don't think we should care all the time about it….and besides…the guy that will love you should love you for you!! 🙂

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Anonymous

Men stare, but won't approach, women are cautious about being your friend; life is lonely.

Put this in the context of marriage…
On the rare occasion some arrogant bastard, who feels he made it big enough in life to deserve you does approach, it is for all the wrong reasons; he wants to buy himself the ultimate trinket – you – so he can parade you around for others to see, so they might admire what a special man he must be to have landed you. Then after being showed around like high quality livestock, you go home with him, to service him, all in the interest of boosting his ego. It's not about love, or interest in who you are…it doesn't matter if you are intelligent or kind..he doesn't care, you have been bought and paid for, you are merely his expensive toy.

It's like a being a clown, there is a real person behind that facade, but no one sees them or is really interested in who they are. They only see what they expect you to be; a bitch, an elitist, a snob. I realize there are greater Crosses to bear, but does this sound appealing to you? Let me just say, it creates the need for very tall, strong walls. So, next time you see someone that is out of the ordinary beautiful, please, treat them like you would anyone else, but know that they are grateful for the kindness you showed by reaching into their lonely world.

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Anonymous

I consider myself relatively pretty for a 36 year old. I'm really fit and into health, and while I do not have a model's body (I'm only 5'3")I have some good curves. I get checked out a lot by men. People tell me I'm fit, and some men use the term "hot" to describe me, but I rarely get comments about my face. I like my face. I think I have an interesting and pretty face. I actually like my face more than my body. But it goes kind of unnoticed. People always notice my body before my face (which is odd since I cover up a lot)! I rarely get told I look pretty or beautiful by my female friends. The only thing they say to me is I'm fit and that they know how hard I worked to get there (used to be a bit chubby). What is hilarious as an observation on how people react to you looks is that when I was chubby, people used to notice my face a lot more and I would get told that I was very pretty, or even beautiful but never get told I'm hot or have a hot body. I had a lot more female friends when I was chubbier, and never felt like they were competing with me. Men used to also be more interested in what I had to say and my personality. Now, it's mostly just sexual advances, sometimes creepy. Anyhow, not sure I have a point except that I think people are very strange when it comes to looks and attractiveness, and judge people by their appearances way way way too much. I've been told I'm ugly, fat, too skinny, beautiful , cute, small, ok, hot, so-so blah blah blah…. All those labels!!! Who cares. I'm me I'm the only one that looks like me and whether people like the way I look or not is really of no interest to me. If they can't look past the outer appearance, they're not worth my time!

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Liz Padla

Aristotle wrote that to be truly happy, one has to also be beautiful. And I agree. The world treats you differently if you are beautiful or if you are ugly. But the real question here is: "What is beauty?" I don't think beauty is any single thing, but exists in modes. For example, a person can be physically beautiful, and spiritually ugly. Or a person can be physically ugly, and spiritually beautiful. Certainly different types of people will be attracted to different types of beauty, and there are more fools in the world than wise people. Fools (especially young people, think of high school or college boys) can only see what is in front of them, and so often are attracted to simple, physical beauty, regardless even if it is is real or fake. Fools cannot tell the difference. Wiser people can see things that are not in front of their eyes, and so tend to be more attracted to beautiful spirits. All this said, however, and it cannot be denied that to be both physically beautiful and possess a beautiful spirit is the most attractive combination that could exist, and the possession of both characteristics will yield happiness.

As for the perspective of an attractive person towards the world, there is no pity here. You control how you are perceived, and you have the power to reveal yourself to the world as the identity you choose. For example, a beautiful woman can walk into a bar and hold herself in a way as to signal to every potential gentleman: I am not interested, don't even try, I don't even see you and I don't want to. (Just obviously avoid eye contact and turn your back to anyone who approaches you.) The same beautiful woman can walk into a bar and invite attention to come her way. Beauty does not take power away, but rather bequeaths it. A beautiful woman is especially powerful, as she can decide her influence in a room- its nature and its strength.

So to summarize, there are modes of beauty: physical and spiritual. Spiritual beauty has more value, but to have both spiritual and physical beauty is the ideal. Beauty is power, and so possesses responsibility and choice, as well.

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