Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Problem with Pretty

I got hit on in Spanish yesterday.  This is nothing unusual; I tend to attract older, Spanish-speaking men as I walk through the city, minding my own business.  It was this particular man’s phrasing that stood out to me. 

“Estás muy linda,” he called out to me when I walked past him, which translates to “you are very pretty” but, which implies that this statement is not always true, that my prettiness is temporary, short-term, fleeting. 

My inner drag queen started to amuse herself with the thought “He must’ve meant ‘eres’ (the permanent version of ‘estás’) because I am ALWAYS pretty.”

But here’s the problem with pretty:

I spent so many years of my life truly believing that I am not pretty.  It didn’t matter very much to me because I always knew that at least I am smart and funny and I care about other people, so I stopped putting beauty on a pedestal.  I simply accepted that it was not an adjective that many people would use to describe me.  I didn’t realize that, although I said that I didn’t care about something as superficial as physical appearance, I was, in fact, selling myself short and filling my head with this idea that I deserved less than what I wanted.  And worse: less than what I needed.

I figured that since I wasn’t pretty, I should not turn down offers from the handful of people who were deluded enough to believe that I was and I felt I owed it to myself, and them, to be with them, even if they did make me feel awful about myself in other ways.  Sometimes that didn’t even manifest in other ways at all.  My first boyfriend praised my tits but told me on our first date that I should lose a few pounds.  And I stayed with him for nearly a month after that!

That’s what insecure people do: we stay in abusive or otherwise unhealthy relationships longer than we should because we have trouble realizing that we have options.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that is constructed on beauty worship- which I would be more or less okay with, except that it is one idea of beauty.  One nearly-impossible-to-achieve standard of beauty.

Take my breasts for example and how that boyfriend I mentioned was under the same mistaken impression that most people are under: tits should be big and waists should be small.  For the most part, it does not work like that.  Of course there are always rather thin people with rather large breasts, and vice versa, but usually, the body is naturally proportioned to support that abundant tit-meat you’re carting around.  

But if your breasts are “too small,” you must be anorexic or “under-developed,” and you undoubtedly wish you had a bigger rack.  If you happen to have that large chest that everyone is supposedly dying for, but also happen to be fat, you must be “too fat” and could stand to lose some damn weight- and you are obligated to hear that sentiment expressed by anyone and everyone.  And forget it if you’re a man.  If you’re a man and you have (big) breasts, you are either “not a real man” because gender is entirely dependent on secondary sex characteristics (SARCASM!!) or you have man-boobs brought on by too many cheeseburgers and not enough exercise.  No one is allowed to be content.

And I honestly wish that the presence, absence, and/or relative size of breasts were the only areas in which beauty is scrutinized, but we all know better.

And it isn’t as if those precious few who actually fulfill the criteria can even enjoy their adjective much.  There are all kinds of counter-attacks for the “beautiful people.”  We accuse them of not having substance, of being obsessed with their looks, of being stuck up, of being mean, of being self-absorbed.

We objectify them.

We pick them apart, making fun of their “imperfections” until we are no better than the masses who called us ugly.

We call the beautiful women who don’t want to fuck us “bitches.”

And the worst of all, we say that women who have the audacity to embrace this beauty that we worship, by wearing the revealing outfits the fashion industry convinces them they need, are all “asking for it” when they are raped.

We are conditioned to think that being pretty is the most important thing in life.  More important than being intelligent, or being compassionate, or being independent, or any other thing that a human being is capable of- so we all break our backs trying to look beautiful, forgetting that we already are, and forgetting that external beauty does not measure human worth.

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