I just turned 29 and I’m flipping shit about it. I’m paranoid about losing my looks. I’m not gorgeous or anything: I got rated a 7.5 on Plenty of Fish. (Which is a deliciously trash website by the way.) But I don’t really know how to talk to people. So I’ve formed an identity around being a hot babe. I am terrified of losing it, because I don’t know what I’m going to focus on after it’s gone.
I think there are a lot of us out there who are worried about the transition. I’m getting more into current events and autism advocacy so I’ll have something to focus on in five years. But none of it gives me that same visceral thrill as some guy thinking I’m hot.
Remember that dirty little thrill you got when guys started looking at you? You were about thirteen, right? It was like someone just dropped this rare, undeserved gift on you. You had to cultivate it. You might have been smart before. I know I was. But then I started devouring those magazines that talked about how to get Angelina’s bee-stung pout with that fawning, almost religious tone. Fuck climate change: this was important stuff.
It’s a terrible thing to get your power before you know what to do with it.
I remember the first time a guy told me I was beautiful. I was twelve. I was at our town pool at teen night with my best friend and this mildly intellectually challenged looking high-schooler ranked us. He put me at the top. It was crack for me. And death for Heloise.
I kept reading beauty stuff with more fervor. And then I started reading about how to flirt so some higher-value guys would tell me good things about myself. And this was in middle school. Which is a bad age to begin with. You think you’re the only relevant person in the world, but you’re still terrified of what everyone else thinks of you. I was hypersensitive and keenly aware of my competition. If people weren’t paying attention to me, I was ugly. I was minus ten compliments away from becoming Salacious Crumb.
I remember how disappointed I was when, at fifteen, my dad told me that every guy hits on every girl. He also said that a lot of girls think they have to act stupid to get a guy. But that it’s not how you get a guy worth having. “You used to have interests,” he told me. “What happened?”
Well, puberty happened. It took me about ten years to accept that there’s millions of women who have nice hair, a shy charm, and can write informative but irreverent Internet think pieces about relationships.
All of this is forgivable of course. Most people get by with the least amount of effort they can get away with. I wish men had held me to a higher standard. I wish they’d required me to bring some sort of competence to the table, like they expected from each other. And I wish more women had talked to me about Big Ideas so I’d know that they were ultimately more valuable than having a pretty face.
Five years from now I’ll look out-of-place at a lot of bars. And if I still want to fit in at the intellectual dive bars I like, I’ll have to be able to talk on par with the men about Russian politics. Otherwise they’ll have nothing to say to me. I won’t be able to just sit there looking coy, occasionally interjecting a comment that I think is so smart while they fall all over themselves trying to explain things to me. I’ll have to know something to be relevant.
It’s tough to come to some far-reaching suggestion to solve the problem. Men want hot women. That’s a given. Just like women have the inherent need to help other people, men have the inherent need to conquer the biggest, best thing they can in one way or another. That bearded hipster reading Hegel on the L train so everyone can see is doing essentially the same thing as Donald Trump.
But men also want the same thing we do: a companion.
Your looks are what they are. I’m sure you look presentable to most people if you’re reasonably health-conscious. A good man (and there’s enough of them) would be delighted to be with a woman who’s good to him and can converse on his level. He’ll be loyal to her and proud to call her his wife. He won’t dump her when she’s old because she’s his best friend as well as his partner. If the guys you date don’t see you as a multifaceted individual, then they’re primitive dirtbags and you shouldn’t be going out with them anyway.
Sometimes I wish I was born ugly. That way I’d be smarter. And have a better personality. It’s better to be the girl who writes science fiction or can grow her own food than to be the hot chick. Because that way you’ll never be replaceable.