Eye Candy (The Burden of Beauty)

Being beautiful is a burden. People look at a beautiful person and have a wealth of stereotypes at their fingertips. Those who are beautiful try in vain to compensate for the connotations attached to their appearance. In the back of their heads, however, there is always one lingering thought, an oft-spoken phrase: you’re nothing but a pretty face.

Golda Meir was famously quoted as saying, “Not being beautiful was the true blessing. Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl has a handicap to overcome.” Meir was the fourth prime minister of Israel. Of course, there is always the brand of beauty that is smug and sluggish, the sort that is the only asset the possessor can parade. But that kind of beauty is ugly.

I’ll tell you something I wouldn’t say out loud but which I’ve heard enough times that I’ve come to believe it is true. I’m beautiful. I’m more comfortable admitting aloud that I’m pretty, but being beautiful is what I’ve come to terms with. I’ve been trying to shrug off my looks for years. I’m riddled by insecurity, never certain if people are agreeing with what I say and my opinions because they actually see truth in what I say or because I have a likeable face. “How could I say no to a face like that?” I’ve heard that one a few times.

I never truly know if a boyfriend cares about me or is just happy to be seen with me. He means well — they all do — and I choose carefully. But there’s always a side of them that is proud when someone tells them their new girlfriend is gorgeous. They say “thank you,” smiling as if they had a role in producing my curls and the shape of my face or were present at my conception. Really, it makes me feel like they’re proud of the fact that they could land a girl that looks like me. I could be a terrible person on the inside, spewing venomous rhetoric, a ball of negative energy, and they are still happy to be seen with me. Of course, these things aren’t true of me, but the fact that they’re happy to be seen with me makes me wonder. I’m sure some of them like me for “me,” right? That is, if they get that far.

People’s compliments make me especially uncomfortable, especially when they say, “has anyone ever told you… (insert overused compliment here)” and I have to respond, why, yes, I have been told that. Slightly embarrassed for them, I secretly hope this will prod them to proffer more thoughtful compliments in the future. Or perhaps they, or someone else, will notice something else about me for once. Like my intellect. Will someone tell me I have an intelligent face, please? Or that my eyes are not just amazing, but that they betray something amazing beyond their colour? An individual being with thought, depth, experience and feeling? Perhaps one day people won’t look so surprised when I say something clever. Even better: they won’t overvalue me because they’re unaccustomed to the pairing of sharp features and sharp opinions. I’d like to be treated like an equal, a face you hear on the radio. Tell me that you can sense how much I know, and think, and feel.

I once had a boyfriend who said the only reason I get so much attention is because of my eyes. For a long time since, I’ve considered buying black contact lenses to see how people would receive me if I looked like everyone else. I feel pressure to downplay my appearance in order to be taken seriously, like Hilary Clinton when she backed out of a Vogue cover shoot from fear of looking too feminine to the public. God forbid our femininity overrides our competence. Several times in my life, when overwhelmed by the attention, I have taken to blaming my femininity and have cut my hair off in a fit. But it always grows back. And I, defiant, work harder at making my intelligence stand out first, to no avail. I will always be beautiful first and intelligent last. No matter how much makeup I don’t wear, no matter how much I don’t brush my hair, no matter how tacky my clothing choice is, I’m destined to “get away” with it because I am pretty.

I am forever trying to prove myself worthy by becoming the keener workerbee and soaking up conversations with as many bookish types as possible, only to have bosses and coworkers hit on me, ignore my efforts, all while finding time to whisper behind my back that I’m “a goodlooking girl.” Or they openly state to my face under some veil of flattery that they want me to join a project or important lunch meeting because I’m a valuable source of…eyecandy. Was I hired because of my hard-earned work experience and my education or because I’m likeable? Because, sad to say, it’s a fact that goodlooking people are perceived as more likeable.

I know, I should be grateful. There are perks to being beautiful and I can get away with a lot of things. But you don’t need to hear about those things; you know them all too well. The beautiful person’s blessings are repeatedly pounded into our collective consciousness. What about when I get wrinkles? What about my girlfriends who, as I continue onwards single and they settle into married life, are wearier of bringing me around their husbands? What about my lovers, for whom eventually the novelty of dating the pretty girl becomes old and they suddenly realize they never saw beyond my looks that they just…weren’t…that…into..me? They would’ve realized that sooner if they didn’t make such rash decisions with their eyes. And I, trusting, always hope that this one wants to get to know “me”. Every man’s trophy. The hot girl on the third floor. Arm candy. That’s me. TC mark

image – iStockPhoto.com


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  • TheOnlySanePersonInTheUniverse

    STFU, you self-absorboed cow. The world has bigger problems.

    • idk

      i've been saying 'absorboed' out loud to myself over and over for 30 seconds
      thank u

  • Mendelsohn

    I don't want the only comment here to be a negative one. This was a really interesting article, and honestly, you were bending over backwards not to be seen as boastful or conceited about it. Thanks.

    • Fnueraloplipasiou

      ” you were bending over backwards not to be seen as boastful or conceited about it.”

      that's a compliment?

  • cecile

    if you don't like your looks you could give them to me. maybe people will like me.. for “me”.

  • em

    Listen carefully at 1 minute 30.

  • Goprey



    You're the worst.

  • weltschmerz

    Is this a joke?

  • Really?

    Wah! Wah!

  • Guest

    no offense but i seriously doubt youre as considered universally beautiful as you think you are. ive met some very attractive girls in my life, like, could be on billboards, but they rarely are universally considered beautiful. its a lot more in the eye of the beholder than you think. on the other hand, ive met many many girls who get compliments as regularly as most young, attractive girls, and took them to their head to mean theyre more beautiful than all their friends. you sound like one of these girls 

    im serious: think about the people you know. are there any you'd consider universally beautiful/visually appealing? like pretty much everyone would say they were attractive? how about girls who think of themselves as a lot hotter than they actually are considered by everyone else because they read too much into the gestures of the few guys that are attracted to them? everyone thinks theyre the former; most are the latter. but if your beauty was as much of a burden as youre saying it is, you'll probably be happy to know youre in this latter group. people probably don't think of you as as attractive as you think they do. so get a real problem to complain about.

    • anonymous

      SO TRUE. This author does sound like one of those girls who reads too much into the festures a few men give her, and also “ive met many many girls who get compliments as regularly as most young, attractive girls, and took them to their head to mean theyre more beautiful than all their friends. you sound like one of these girls ” = SPOT ON.

  • Silvia

    Bitch, please.

  • chelseafagan

    Don't worry, your physical attractiveness won't last that long. If this is you now, though, I wanna see the existential crisis you go through when you notice your first crow's feet.

  • zip

    pix or it didn't happen

  • Pfft

    OMFG shut up and do something with your life instead of writing bollocks articles about how pretty you are.i hope you put on 20 pounds tomorrow, by breathing.

    • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

      That was mean.

  • Pfft

    also, lesson learnt- some things, you should always keep to yourself.

  • Pfft

    ps. don't listen to anything chelsea fagan says- she's a stupid prude who thinks pretty girls should get raped.

    • chelseafagan

      This is true.

      • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey


  • Lolz

    In the author's head right now: “Oh how I wish I could be one of these jealous plebians with their mediocre looks! DAMN MY BEAUTY!!! DAMN IT TO HELL!!!!”

  • Jht

    I think this is a wonderful article and it's painfully true. Especially your worry about not being seen for who you are.



  • http://www.aquaticcousins.blogspot.com/ SparkerPants

    This really isn't something you can discuss without sounding like an asshole. I applaud you for the attempt.

    Aside from anything else, if you're a young, attractive woman you are always going to wonder if you earned something based on your merits or based on the way you look. Yes, there are much bigger problems in the world. But that will still make you feel like shit.

    • Ted

      Not knowing why things are going your way can make you feel like shit? News to me.

      • http://www.aquaticcousins.blogspot.com/ SparkerPants

        Don't be an ass. Unless you were just obtuse enough to miss the point.

        It's a horrible, sick feeling to realize you might have gotten something- a job, for example- not because you worked hard to earn it, but because somebody wants to fuck you. It reduces you from feeling excited about something to feeling awful because someone regards you as more of a sex object than a person with capabilities.

  • Oliver Miller

    If you guys don't like this one, you're really going to hate my “controversial” new 12-part series, “WHY AM I SO DAMN SEXXXY?  WHY, GOD, WHY?”

    • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

      lol.  can't wait.

  • Teukros

    It looks like you've discovered the perfect way to get excoriated (rather than worshiped) for your beauty!  Just post an article about it on Thought Catalog and let your vitriolic readers go to town.  I wonder why “the world has bigger problems” when you're talking about your struggle with beauty, but a piece that goes on in lurid detail about personal sex practices is beautiful and moving and resonates.

    That said, you're missing a pretty big fact of life here, especially when you say that “I will always be beautiful first and intelligent last.”  In two words: no kidding.  People (who can see, anyway) are stimulated first and foremost by vision.  No one's going to say you have intelligent eyes because intelligence is not something one sees.  The girl who is ugly is ugly first and intelligent last, and the redhead is a redhead first and intelligent last.  Your advantage over the ugly girl (and perhaps the redhead!) is that people, who are driven by what they see, will find your appearance appealing and seek to get to know you better.  But like the ugly girl and the redhead, you still have to prove your worth in the intelligence department.

    In any event, the best way to overcome this problem of yours is (as you may already have noticed) to showcase yourself in realms where people can't see you — i.e., via your writing.  Except don't write about your appearance, and don't post a picture at the end.  Then people will judge you on the strength of your intellect and ideas, as you want.

  • JD

    I think it must be different for a guy. I've been ugly (all through middle school, high school) and then I got hot in college. It's far, far, far better to be attractive, in my experience.

    As long as you don't use your looks as a crutch and develop your brain and personality, I don't see the downside outweighing the advantages. A beautiful girl who is also smart, funny and down to earth is a rarity, and people who are also smart, funny and down to earth (I'm assuming the people you would want to meet) will recognize this and look beyond your beauty.

    • Smart

      JD, this comment is extraordinarily wise, and quite true.  

      To be honest, my evil side twinged a little bit from reading this article.   I have scars on my face, back, and legs from a disease I suffered when I was eighteen, and because of them, I will probably never see myself as anything more than “cute.”   Other people do.   Other people tell me as much.   But no matter how many times I get hit on, no matter how often my husband stares at me with glowing pride, I see myself as damaged goods.  Beauty I had, beauty I lost, whatever.  

      But you know what I've been learning?  No outside opinion can make you into a thing you don't believe yourself to be.  Validation should come from inside you, then get reflected back to you.  If you sincerely believe that you are more than just beautiful, then live it.  Should Daphne spend her whole life waiting to be recognized as smart and hot?  Is that really more satisfying than letting the Hot give her the confidence to use the Smart, and be herself without waiting to be patted on the back for it?  

      We all want to be known as who and what we truly are.   We all want to believe that our good qualities will shine so brightly that Someone Will See Them, and we will be happy.  But here's the thing.  If you want them to be seen so badly, you've got to show them.  

      Daphne, I'm sorry that you suffer indignities that go unnoticed because people think you should just be glad to be beautiful.  But you're letting yourself be ruled by all of these outside assessments, letting other people tell you what kind of person you must be behind the face.  Can't you see that's just as bad as me hiding behind my hair and my friendliness, but wishing people would see how beautiful I am when the scars don't show?  Can't you see how dumb we're being?  

      Stop waiting to be coddled, and be the things you wish people would find in you.  Right the hell now.

  • Igabe.Photo

    All of this made sense, and I agree that often smart beautiful girls often get dumped into the 'blond joke' crowd. Sorry about all the jealous haters. :/ There's got to be a prince charming out there who will love you for BOTH your looks and personality, don't give up hope :)

  • SomethingBlue42

    As someone who didn't win the genetic lottery it's nice to hear that there are some pretty people out there who do acknowledge the fact that some of things they get in life are due to their looks. Although forgive me if I still think that being beautiful is the better way to go. I've never doubted my abilities or who I am and not being chosen just because I'm not as easy on the eyes as the Barbie standing next to me is one of the most infinitely frustrating feelings. Working hard for something and getting it but worrying you only got it because of the way you look seems more fair than working hard and not getting it because you didn't look the part.

  • Xnk

    I mean, we can't see you here, but you definitely don't seem smart.

  • Nick

    This just made me really sad. I can't wait for your next article about the pitfalls of being exorbitantly wealthy.

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