When I was a preteen, I was too tall for my age and the boys came up only to my shoulders. I was called a ‘giraffe’, and other horrible names, which fuelled my crippling insecurity. Once I started high school, older boys towered over me and I lapped up the attention I received from them. All I yearned for was someone to tell me I was pretty.
Five years later, the compliment no longer bears the same flattery. In fact, I find it rather offensive. Being pretty in itself is not a negative attribute unless it becomes something that people define you as. People refused to recognize me as anything other than pretty regardless of the fact that I played varsity sports, was president of three service clubs and got a 4.3 GPA in high school. Never once was I called smart nor kind nor sporty. This in itself is a tragedy. A woman’s self worth extends far beyond the symmetry of her face, the shine of her hair and the tautness of her belly.
You may scoff. It’s pretty pretentious to complain about compliments. After all, why do I deserve the right to complain about being pretty? Here’s the thing, when I was a size zero, when my daily schedule required me slathering on a pound of makeup and my diet consisted of salads and water, although other people did, I never once considered myself beautiful.
A model once told me that models are the most insecure people. Yet, those are the once riddled with insecurities and eating disorders. There are exceptions but for the most part, it’s true. As spectators, most would think they couldn’t have a care in the world and their life would be perfect. After all, how could someone that attractive not be oozing with confidence?
It’s often the people you envy, those gorgeous girls whom we stop in the streets to look at who are the most insecure. Why? Well, humans are simple. We look at appearances first and rarely bother looking skin deep. We’re shallow creatures and most of us base our compatibility on the physical attractiveness.
It is because of this that being pretty isn’t a compliment. Firstly, it has nothing to do with who we are, and what we have made ourselves to be but the fact that we won the genetic lottery. Thus, when we are labeled and recognized for our physical appearance and our other attributes pale in comparison. Secondly, there is a nagging understanding that beauty is temporary. While we may be in our prime at 20 with perky boobs, no cellulite and our face devoid of a single wrinkle, the day will come when the same boobs will sag, those thighs will be speckled with cellulite and the crow’s eyes will start to form. Beauty is quite simply fleeting. Just as the timer of our life is running out, as is beauty. Wrinkles start kicking in while the skin starts sagging and everything that has ever defined us disappears.
Instead of being called pretty, I would like a guy to compliment my mind instead of my body. I would rather someone tell me I have a beautiful soul rather than a beautiful body. Mostly, I would just love someone to tell me that they appreciate that I’d rather read Dostoevsky than Nicholas Sparks (Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with enjoying his books, they’re my guilty pleasure). I would fall in love with someone who could appreciate my mind.
A few days ago, I was talking to a complete stranger. It wasn’t anything more than friendly. We emailed about our favorite philosophers, religion and even sex (nothing sexual) without the constraints of trying to impress another. Yes, I have a first and last name and a few tidbits about his life, but that’s all. I lack a face to put to the emails, but that’s the beauty of it. Neither of us knows if the other is attractive, or even if the other person is who they say they are. I likened this to conjuring an image of your favorite characters in your novel. The person you envisioned may be distinctly different from the cast of the movie. But for once in my life, I got to know someone without knowing what he or she looked like.
Getting to know someone on the basis of their personality, rather than their attractiveness – like clicking if they’re hot or not on tinder- is such an incredible way to get to know someone. It’s liberating. What if we met everyone that way? The relationships we choose to form would be entirely different.
I want someone to get to know my personality before they factor if I’m attractive into the equation. I want to have debates about religion and philosophy before a guy decides if he wants me to sleep with me. But mostly, I want guys to stop calling me pretty because I am so much more than that. Beauty will fade but the mind is timeless. The curse of knowing your beauty will fade is a paralyzing fear, and when you don’t have that crutch you have to strive to be other things: smart, witty, intelligent, musical etc. If I ever have a daughter, all I can wish is that she’ll be average looking.