I Hate Being A Pretty Girl

In the tiled echoes of the girl’s bathroom, my best secondary school friend had just found out her crush does not like her back. Solidifying me into an unwilling enemy through her flooded fingers which covered her face when I told her: “It’s Ok, we’re 14, I’m sure they’ll be others.” She smiled wickedly to me: “Oh its fine for you — you’re beautiful and everyone fancies you!”

To my college friend who burst out in front of our entire class to me: “How do you do it? Tell me, how are you just gorgeous all the time?”

…All girls have memories like this: they may only have two or a gazillion, but they have them. We’re taught to store these compliments up — for those days your hair decides to change career paths and suddenly wants to be a minefield today, or your face inexplicably turns into a pizza overnight: because so much of female self worth is taught to be parallel with being deemed pretty/beautiful/attractive by everyone else around you.

It may make me cringe to write these anecdotes, but from this to friends joking I don’t know the price of a drink — as they’re always bought for me, to whistles and hollers when I go to the corner shop in my pyjamas (as does anything with tits)…to the flatmate who made me feel like a goddess of men when she would not let me be in the same room as her boyfriend, rather than question his objectifying (even though I’d rather devour a live slug than sit next to him, he was such a douche…anyway), to the guys who think I’m somehow public property — so it’s fine to yell obscene things to me in the street, or place a hand on my thigh on the bus, smack my butt in a club or just grab my boob in the street.

Be you wearing a full hijab, morbidly obese or fifty years old, if you’re female, something similar has happened to you…but all these memories cement the disconcerting and warped self-worthiness: I am what society deems just another ‘pretty girl’. And just in case you didn’t know — a ‘pretty girl’ is a mythical entity without feelings or a name, you can call entire swarms of people under this term — accept they are not seen as people. Which is why, I hate being a pretty girl.

The complications of being a ‘pretty girl’ are just those of every woman: just multiply each problem on how others rate you in attractiveness — of course I am but one being, so I’m limited to my own experiences — but basically anyone can be determined as a ‘pretty girl’. Guys I urge and implore you, throw on a wig and dress, maybe some heels and make-up and try and walk past that building site without getting a whistle, you pretty object, you. So please, don’t think this article doesn’t apply to you if you’re not a professional model or something — if you have boobies — or no someone who does, this applies to you.

Yes, I’ve got tons of free sandwiches, shots, tickets, lifts, dinners — I can, and have literally gone around a bar taking drinks from guys: paying with nothing but an enchanting smile — because I can. I once drunkenly stole a hot dog, stopped a random guy in the street and battering my long lashes asked him to pay. He dove into his pocket and handed over a note before I could finish my sentence. Yesterday alone: I got a free bus ride, three free pints, some popcorn, some tequila shots – but this article is not to boast about getting free things. It is to point out how society is so very rewarding, for something that was not earned…because it’s just ancient tradition. Again, I’m not unusual – every female I know has similar stories to this.

And for all you penis owners that haven’t had the delight of being cougared or objectified into that mythical entity of the ‘pretty boy’ yet, I only recently found out you might not know what it is like to be offered a free drink! So, just imagine a talking rottweiler, a giant gnome, personified electrical appliance (whatever doesn’t do it for you baby). Imagine them looking at your crotch. They look you up and down, they might touch your shoulder or wrist or waist lightly as you walk past, they might wink at you. They then put a drink in your hand. What…did you ask my name? I still have my debit card in my palm…how did this happen? This is what it is like to be bought a drink/ticket/meal the vast majority of the time. And of course, from birth misogynists have made you believe: if you accept it, you’re leading them on and you’re a bitch. Or if you politely refuse (while writing this article, thanks to the ‘friend’ who actually gave me these EXACT words) you’re a nasty rude bitch. So you might as well get a free drink out of being a complete bitch — whether you accept it or not — that rottweiler is still picturing you naked.

But it sounds wonderful doesn’t it? To be adored and lavished with undeserving gifts right? Except…these are moments I always cheat myself, I always think: maybe they’ve miraculously summed up my personality; or they’re just a remarkably nice person…and those are the only reasons I’m being given buckets full of gratitude.

Again I can only speak for myself, but when I approach a guy I don’t know or they approach me, my first thought is: YAY A NEW FRIEND, exactly the same as…when I meet anyone else — a little bit like a Labrador. Even if they are particularly attractive — I just want to be your friend, (we’ll see about genital interaction later), meaning: of course I want to give you food and drinks and hugs — to show I am a generous friend. To be slammed with the reality someone might use these exact same tactics solely to get into your pants, is very confusing…and to be honest, gut wrenching, and rather heart breaking/soul destroying. And unfortunately, the more ‘attractive/pretty’ you are, like a numbers game: the more often — this is going to happen to you.

“That’s O.K it’s on the house” says the bagel shop owner when I ask for the bill.

“Are you sure? I am English so — ” I weigh the change in my hand “convert the dollar against the pound!?” I offer up my money once more, grinning.

“No, it’s not every day we get a girl as pretty as you in here.” Completely brazened by my lame attempt to show economic wit, being rejected once more in favour of “I don’t care if you can afford it, or even if you can relay it to me in a mildly comical comment you can — you’re a girl, you’re pretty, so, just on account of your female face/body — you don’t have to pay.” I stubbornly placed a $5 note in the tip jar. Even when I politely say thank you but no — I’m still presented with this idea that I am somehow better than everyone else and don’t need to pay…thanks for the flattery and kindness…but this really does play absolute havoc with a girls ego/self-worth. It leads to the next time I go to a bagel shop, and I have to pay — I’ll immediately ask myself: what I can’t not pay for all this existing I’m doing? Am I not extra special anymore? No — because I never was in the first place.

And of course, for all those wonderful people that are just naturally generous and dole out favours and tokens to EVERYONE — keep doing so! Please keep restoring my faith in humanity, some people just give for the sake of it, and not in the sneaky guise of objectification.

I can say without hesitance I know my physique has also helped me to acquire employment before: I have never had a job interview and not been offered a job. Am I just super-humanely employable? Probably not: when I was 17 I ended up in an interview for a job which requires heavy lifting…the very polite male interviewer asked his first question: if I would be comfortable heavy lifting for a living? …I am not, and said so. The employer paused and replied: “but we do have a receptionist type of job, I’m more than happy to offer you that” — I had NO receptionist work experience and, I had only demonstrated my ability to read a job advert incorrectly.

I should not have been offered that job — whoever is best for the job should get it. It is not fair to me (you’re completely tarnishing the way I deem myself valuable) as well as stopping someone else who really deserves it from getting the role. Again, every girl you know will have a story something similar to this one.

However, an administrative job I was extremely happy to accept in a creative industry has probably left the greatest scar. The company was struggling to find, train and keep new employees. It was fast paced and cut throat TV business. Being one of the trainees — I would offer feedback to my managers. For example, there was often only one trainer to six trainees — so a good couple of hours a day would be wasted making faces at each other, while we waited in line for our work to be checked. I pointed this out and offered, maybe using a projector screen or another assistant might be a more efficient way to train us? Every time I was completely ignored. I put it down to being a newbie/my ideas being utter rubbish.

One morning, the top manager sat beside me to go over some tasks he wanted completed. “Sweetheart, if you could go over this list and then darling this…” AND THERE IT WAS. The knife through the chest, the cliff jump, the crash, the penny drop, the reason everything I said that isn’t pleasing is ignored. Right THERE. I glanced at my colleague Stuart, biting my lip under the reeking coffee breath of my employer, I asked myself: “How come you never call Stuart sweetheart or darling?”

Later that week I was called in for review. I was told the management had noticed a change in my work, and wondered if I was O.K/fitting-in. Of course I fucking wasn’t. I was shattered under the full bulldozer weight of the realisation I’m nothing but office eye candy, nothing I say is of any importance: I’m just a ‘pretty girl — darling or sweetheart’, no feelings, no name.

The most awful thing about this is — my employer was not trying to demean me or make me feel like a fucking stupid, incapable little girl (which is exactly how it made me feel). This was not by any means the first job I had been subjected to pet names. But this was the moment it really hit me: this is how some people see you.

When I was 10 years old, after being patted and cooed by adults with “what a pretty girl you are” (as if this is the ultimate compliment), I can still remember looking myself up and down in the full-length hallway mirror, thinking: “Thank God I’m pretty; I hope I stay like this.” Even then I was fully aware the costs of life would forever be subsidised: I could just pay out from the genetic bingo cash prize I won at birth!

Now I want to go back in time and slap her, rebuke her: you are not just lucky genetics or a member of the ‘fairer’ sex: you could be funny and friendly, or top of your class or anything you want to be. Please can we stop telling little girls their entire self worth depends on what they look like — and how much these subsequent looks can gain stuff from some guy — how much free shit you can get is not another marker for judging female self-worth. 21st century and all you know?

At least physical beauty fades, I may only batter my fists against the impregnable fortress walls of in-built judgment due to our primary sense being sight — for the next 10 years till society deems me OLD. Maybe then I’ll yearn to be seen as a pretty young girl again; or rejoice free from the shackles of lying awake at night deciphering:

“Do they like me for me…or could they just see down my top?”

For the moment I have many male friends, with all newer ones it’s like a god-awful game of minesweeper that is my very real life, I catapult like a pin ball on thin ice from sabotaged friendship, to warm acceptance when I finally find someone who is not just looking at my mouth when I talk. I’ve had male friends who spend all night deep in conversation with me — where I’m left thinking I’ve made a life-long friend, to have him never talk to me again. But he did tell my other friends “I didn’t put out”. You just never know. But I do know all too well, this is a common anecdote for far too many; it’s just universally accepted as being OK to treat someone like this – remember you’re just a pretty girl, you have no feelings, no name.

But enough ranting — you want to know what it feels like when you meet another girl who just wants to be your friend because they think you have an awesome personality? Or a guy who also thinks you’re awesome because, you know, you’re funny or weird or clever or whatever it is that makes you so — YOU (but you know, those guys that think: you’re sort of like my sister, I don’t want to sleep with you, ewww) — or a guy who is honest: yep my penis is feeling you – but I’m at least going to treat you like an actual person with feelings — IT FEELS LIKE FUCKING MAGIC UNICORNS ON ECSTACY PILLS. Yep, you know who you are — you non-judgmental, up lifting friends. The ones that demand me to be the very best person I can be, the ones who tell me off when I dumb myself down or start to think I AM SO WORTHY OF FREE THINGS FOREVER. No — they tell me, you are you, which is worth more than any material thing in the world, and cannot be judged in the undeserving collection of free material things. You know: the same as every other uniquely brilliant person on the planet.

Of course, I can still hear some readers roar: shut the fuck up. Stop complaining about all the free rides, people hitting on you and how wonderfully easy you have it compared to the rest of the world.

However, generally, I never really talk about this to anyone. I feel as if people will quite rightfully reply: oh you poor girl! Everyone wanting to give you free things and take you home — yeah, poor you. The grass is always lusher and seemingly that tiny bit greener on the other side right? But I cannot recount the amount of times I have wanted to scar my face, adorn a bin bag, to be ugly to everything for a day, or suck my boobs into my ribcage, just to know that everything you have: every friend, every lunch and promotion, every partner or other goblet of human acceptance and success — is built on the unshakable foundation of you: your unique personality and individual splendour…not because you just happen, by inter-galactic chance, to be one of millions of replaceable female bodies/faces (that are always easy on the eyes to someone).

I’m also very worried by articles like things pretty people shouldn’t do imploring silence in case you upset someone when you reveal your spirit was yet again encapsulated to being nothing but flesh. While discussing this with a close friend about how bloody ranty I am and an incident with someone professional recently — I realised, the idea that anyone should not complain about being objectified ever, as it should be seen as a compliment — right here is what made me think this particular professional incident, was nothing, just me complaining about being hit on ( — damn you, you arrogant person, I told myself.) After talking with friends…turns out I was actually sexually assaulted. Who knew?! I certainly didn’t. I’ve been told to just accept these things — no — I’ve been told to be grateful.

We talk about discrimination against disabled people, racism, and homophobia — but if I complain I’m being objectified — both men and women have told me to shut up. Quite frankly — erm NO, if you feel misjudged, speak up — just because the judgment happens to come in the guise of wonderful tokens and compliments, or being apparently flatteringly hit on — still doesn’t make it OK to be judged and treated like (be it prize winning or rotting) meat.

I imagine while many desperately strive to be seen as physically desirable and not just for their winning personality: I sometimes feel I’m forever fighting to have people see me as a non-physical entity, and just appreciate I do actually have a personality. I’m fed up of being told I surprise people or I am not what they expected: it’s not my fault if people expect a Barbie doll and I turn out to be a bona fide person.

Usually my relationship’s are crushed or blossom with the acceptance that I am a real human being: I swear and sweat and fall over just like everyone else — I’m not any more special than the next person. So please, don’t put this sort of ridiculous perfectionist pressure on to anyone. My relationships with guys also often fester with futile back-lashing to not be labelled as an accessory. As “you know that pretty girl so and so was with that night.” How about defining me based on, I don’t know me? And not the nearest guy to me.

I really cherish the female friends I have –but another ridiculous phenomenon I’ve stumbled upon is ‘pretty girls’ who are heart-breakingly won over and self-esteem scaffolding their label as a beautiful air head. Stifling their wonderful vivaciousness in replacement of what is deemed ‘attractive’. Although I am absolutely guilty of this — dumbing myself down or biting my tongue because, ‘it’s not lady-like’ to be opinionated — we should be sticking together; uplifting each other that we are more than walking skirts, not checking each other should we permeate individual personalities, then gouging each other’s crowd stopping eyes out. And no I am not saying woe betide me I have no female friends because I’m just oh so completely gorgeous — I have some wonderful female buddies, it’s much more a plea for all females to help yourself to some of my (often ridiculous) confidence: we all have days we look and feel amazingly stunning (and others where people just ask: woah, what happened to you?) – but lets not tear each other’s faces off because we’re different yeah? Let’s enforce each other to be people — not bitches being compared by coat and pedigree. You may not be able to get that guy who lives at the end of the street to stop commenting on your tits — but you can change how you judge yourself and other ladies.

Personally, my own shoulder chip I can’t help but think in a parallel asexual universe:

Am I confident? Fearless? Successful? Do I get the same grades and opportunities — none at all, or better ones? Is everything I’ve achieved/not achieved based on nothing but properly hard won merit/lack of? As generally I come to the conclusion: I have boobs so yeah, probably…probably not. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – hillary the mammal

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