It's hard not to get sucked into the cycle of wanting to be pretty, because getting compliments and attention feels good. Yet, as I get older and the pretty part of my equation continues to decline, I am finding myself less concerned with being pretty. Perhaps that's because it's more difficult to achieve or perhaps it's because I'm seeing the insidiousness of the pretty trap with more clarity.
Funny thing happened on the way to this essay. I wrote the previous paragraph and stepped away to tend to my dogs. Before I returned to the keyboard, I visited social media for a moment, and stumbled onto a thread discussing my writing. This particular morning it was a particularly shitty discovery. It's one thing when a stranger insults you, but a different thing when it's someone you know.
In this thread I was insulted by being called a lovely person. This sounds weird, I know, but stick with me here. The woman began by calling me a lovely person, but she countered that with an unceremonious and unsupported dismissal of my talents. Being lovely was the consolation prize.
Gosh, thanks! I feel so much better now! You think I'm a shitty writer, but I'm lovely so it's all good.
I could go into a long winded diatribe about how she was wrong and I feel offended, but what's the point? She's already dismissed me in public. And you see, by calling me a lovely person, she's made it seem as if she's not insulting me. This happens to women all of the time. Men do it to us. We do it to each other.
She's lovely...but she's not a real (insert something important here.)
I am tired of the pretty trap. I don't care if you think I'm pretty or lovely or gorgeous or beautiful or resplendent or any other adjective related to the supposedly appealing nature of my meat suit. I'm far more interested in being interesting than in being pretty. I also don't care if you think I'm interesting. If you don't like me or something I've created, feel free to keep that to yourself, or whisper it under your breath, or if you can't control your unbridled enthusiasm shout it to the roof tops.
If you wish to give me a sincere compliment, I will graciously accept it. If you want to give me a critique, feel free, but have facts to back up your assertions. If you have a back handed compliment you feel compelled to hurl in my direction, I suggest you take it and forcefully stuff it into your posterior.
Own your ugly words.
Don't roll shit in sugar and call it candy.
It's none of my business what other people think about me. I don't have to empower or own other people's opinions.
I am going to work at not falling into the pretty trap. I am going to remember this when I become jealous of another woman and start to hide behind an insult disguised as a compliment. I am going to work at being more supportive of other women and what they have to bring to the table. I am going to check my envy, ego, and insecurity at the front door. I'm going to remember this when I talk to my daughter, and bemoan the fading of my youth and the indignities of aging. I want her to know that the pretty trap is a lie. Who we are and how we treat others is far more important than how we look.
There is room enough in the sky for every star to shine. Competition is a myth. If women could stop competing with each other and start supporting each other, we could change the world.
I'm starting with me.