After cooking dinner for my grandma and sipping on rosé, we (my mother, my grandma, and I) rushed from the table to meet my aunt, uncle, and cousins at our favorite mini golf spot. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and slathered on some pink lipgloss and
who knows? Maybe it was the rosé, maybe it was the impending round of mini golf, but I was feeling good. I saw myself in my grandmother’s huge bathroom mirror and said aloud, “I’m so pretty.”
“So vain!” my mother yelled from the other room, overhearing me.
But I don’t know.
There’s a lot of pressure on girls to see themselves as “pretty,” which is, in my opinion, largely bullshit. It’s not enough to like yourself, you have to worship your own unique brand of beauty. It’s always being shoved in our face by beauty brands who scream from advertisements: EVERY BODY IS BEAUTIFUL! If that empowers you, I say with all earnest, that’s nice for you. You can click away now. It was nice having you!
If you stayed, you might want to join me in examining our relationship to the concept of “beauty.” Thanks! Me too! Ok, let’s get down to business:
Because, if you think about it, what does “pretty” get you?
Maybe it helps you get the job you want… but it might diminish your credibility at that same job. Studies have shown that “physically attractive” scientists might be considered less trustworthy compared to their older (typically male) counterparts.
Sure, you might think that good looks give you an edge in the swipe-right modern dating world… but it doesn’t protect you from harassment, in-person or online.
Health care, career advancement, even romantic prospects, studies have shown that beauty can be a burden.
So I ask again, what does being “pretty” get you?
You’ve heard the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Well, it’s true. It’s almost impossible to determine who is good-looking unless we’re basing it on someone else’s opinion. In other words, can you declare yourself to be beautiful? I believe — and feel free to fight me on this — I believe the answer is NO. I believe it is impossible for me to stand up and say, “I am beautiful because I think I am.” How could I possibly make that judgement? How can I behold myself? Through my own reflection, like Narcissus? Well, then, I would be a narcissist, casually speaking. Go ahead and try to declare yourself beautiful by your own standards, and see what happens. Those lotion commercials don’t want you running out into the street naked (but for the lotion, obvs) screaming “I AM BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE I SAY SO THAT’S WHY!” Society hates a woman who thinks she’s all that. Need proof? I present to you The Kardashians. It’s totally okay for magazines to vote Kim K. the “sexiest woman alive!!” but when she posts her own pictures with confidence, oh how we rush to tear her down. Clearly that other expression, “Confidence is the most attractive thing about a person” is not true, otherwise we shouldn’t be so eager and vicious to tear others down for feelin’ their oats.
So why do we want to be pretty? It doesn’t help us in life (that much), and it doesn’t do us any good to know it, so what good is it to be assured that every body is beautiful? Isn’t there something more important than beauty out there? What if we filmed that same gauzy lotion commercial but changed the voiceover’s message to “Every body is deserving of equal respect.” I mean, that’s something you can use! “Every body is entitled to autonomy.” Okay, I’d buy that lotion! Or, “Every body is capable of happiness.”
That’s what we’re supposed to believe that beauty is the ticket to, right? Happiness? Otherwise we wouldn’t have to keep assuring ourselves that beauty is attainable, is the ultimate goal? I mean, who ever heard of a pretty, un-happy person, right? It doesn’t make sense. Beautiful people have everything they could possibly want, therefore, who doesn’t want to be one of them? Meaningless phrases get repeated like mantras: “True beauty comes from within” or “You’re beautiful just the way you are.” Swap out the word “happiness” and they make a lot more sense: “True happiness comes from within,” like, duh. And who doesn’t want to be: “You’re happy just the way you are.” Isn’t that what we’re really trying to say?
Zooming back to the mirror, to the ponytail, to the pink lip gloss. Maybe if I was thinking clearly, you know, before the rosé went to my head, I would realize that the warm glow I felt came from inside, not outside. It wasn’t the pink tint on my lips that changed me. If I wasn’t in such a rush to hustle my Grandmother into the elevator and out to putt-putt, I might have paused to think about confusing beauty with happiness yet again! I wasn’t feeling “pretty.” I was feeling “happy.” And that’s something no lip gloss — or lotion — can give you. It was all me.