Pretty Is As Pretty Does

I had a bad week.  It doesn’t matter why, and I don’t really want to talk about it anyway.  I already got it off my chest at brunch.  So there.  What does matter is what I learned this week about how I react to having a bad week.

Instead of thinking “why is s/he such a jerk?” or even “why did what s/he did annoy/upset/anger me?”, I immediately started wallowing in a vat of self-criticism.  That reaction was (sadly) not new – but what leapt out at me this week was the nature of that self-criticism.  I didn’t say to myself  “it’s that I’m stupid” or “oh, I’m a bad friend”.  I thought “it’s that I’m fat” and “I wish I were pretty”.  Wow.  Just wow.

Realizing that made me remember this article about talking to young girls about beauty.  It was somewhat of a response to this article, which presumed to instruct everyone in the “right” way to talk to little girls.  Reading these articles is really worthwhile.  Trust me.  So read them now.  I’ll still be here when you get back.

I’ve said before that, in my family, I was never the pretty one.  While I’ve finally “grown into” my looks (and if you want to know one thing I’m sure you should NEVER say to a little girl or young woman, that would be it), and I’m basically happy with them, it’s still a constant struggle.  No-one has ever spontaneously told me that I’m pretty.  Ever.   And you know what, I bet it would feel really good.  Especially in a bad week.  (Oh, and if you were wondering. “you look pretty” is not the same thing.  At all.)

I’m not saying all women, or even most, care about this, but I do.  And if you were planning to lecture me on how society made me this way, shut up.  I’m not stupid.  And at this point, it doesn’t matter why I care, it matters that I do, and that I have to deal with that.  I’m all for working on changing societal expectations for young women (and men), to allow them to grow up without some of the internal limitations I am constantly surprised to realize I have, but it would be stupid and blind to pretend those expectations didn’t exist when I was growing up, and that they don’t still exist now.  It all affected me, despite the best efforts of the most amazing mother on the planet.  (Yes, yes, your mother is too.)

So, as politically incorrect as it might be, I’m going to keep telling little girls and young women that they’re pretty, and I’m even going to tell little boys and young men that they’re handsome.  Sue me.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gablesgirl
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 21:25:05

    Are you kidding me? I always thought you pretty. Sorry I never said it first….and good Lord my parents ingrained that t-shirt phrase in my brain.


  2. Anne Gaioni
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 04:27:42

    second paragraph, “Wow. Just wow!” …I so related to that statement.


  3. Cindy McGean
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 13:23:49

    What a great post! I’m always amazed at how many of us carry this stuff around. And I get so frustrated with myself that, despite years of wisdom and experience and growth and blah blah blah I can still go to this place. There’s something very powerful in seeing it named out loud the way you’ve done here.


  4. Mary K Klinger
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 14:54:07

    When I first met you I thought you were startlingly beautiful! I still do.


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