FACT: Nice girls NEVER admit it if they think they’re pretty.
RATIONALE: Because if you say you think you’re pretty (read: like yourself), you might make another female person feel bad, make others think you’re stuck up, come across as a bitch, disrupt an existing social pecking order, or be embarrassed because no one else agrees.
WHY THAT’S BULLSHIT: Look, I love fashion and beauty magazines as much as the next person. I watched The September Issue until I was seeing Grace Coddington in my dreams. I’ll check out Allure every month to see if the perfect shade of red lipstick has FINALLY been created so I never again spend five hours in Sephora, smearing 19 versions of the same lipstick on the back of my hand. However, there is a statement that screams from the cover of more than one beauty rag every season that both cracks me up and makes me consider being institutionalized. Here it is: “Pretty Is In!”
This pronouncement is so absurd it’s not remotely worth going into how stupid it is. Girls, teens and women walk around every day with the burden of beauty practically crushing them. It’s a wonder no one has flipped out yet and just torched a newsstand when one of those covers hits the racks. And for those girls, teens and women who claim not to care about keeping up appearances, I’ll wager they do. By not buying into traditional ideals of beauty, be it anything from eschewing mascara to leaving their mustaches firmly in place, those women are making a conscious statement. And are therefore adding their opinions to the public discourse on the subject, which of course invites response. Sorry ladies. No one’s immune. Just when you think you’re out…they drag you back in.
With all the focus on looking “good” or, even worse, “right”, it would stand to reason that if some woman actually achieves the holy grail of being gorgeous she’d want to pipe up about it. And that’s where the wheels fall off. Because if a woman does that, she runs the risk of being burned at the stake by a jury of her peers. If you prefer a more modern version of that punishment, she’ll be unfriended, blocked, unfollowed and whispered about in study hall. Or at PTA meetings. Or at work. Take your pick, shunning isn’t fun wherever it may take place.
I covered the reasons why this happens at the top of this post, so no need to rehash. But no matter whom I speak to about this subject, no matter what walk of life she comes from, the rules and fears and punishments are the same.
So, the take-away lesson from this social dynamic that starts on the schoolyard and gets carried into the rest of women’s lives is this: “If you’re happy about the way you look, i.e. you like yourself, shut up about it or you’ll wind up being the only one who holds that opinion.” It’s a lesson that, after years of affirmation, tends to lead women to the conclusion that life is easier to manage if you just don’t like yourself. At least not too much. (I know it’s confusing. That’s part of the problem.) Should you find yourself in the awkward position of having someone comment on your loveliness, God forbid you take the compliment gracefully. Everyone in earshot will think you agree! Be sure to deflect the compliment by raising your eyebrows in surprise, pointing at your chest and saying, “Who me? Oh please, that’s just ridiculous.” Because that’s what nice girls do.
IN SUMMATION: I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise, but my feelings on this subject fall somewhere between “You’ve got to be kidding” and “Fuck that”. And my inspiration is this: I have a friend who is 93 years old. She recently said, “When I turned 80, I finally realized how beautiful I am. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to enjoy it, but I wish I hadn’t waited.” It’s fabulous that she’s had, so far, thirteen years of loving and admiring herself. I’d like to shoot for the next fifty so I can at least catch up to her. How about you?