I stood outside the Thoroughbred 20 Theatre in Franklin, TN with a group of friends after watching To Joey, with Love. Trying to shake the solemnity we all felt, we made small talk and joked about the theater’s renovations. The marquee above our heads read,
“COMING SOON, EXTREME MAKEOVER: THOROUGHBRED EDITION”
I confessed that I initially interpreted the sign to mean the theater would soon feature a special edition of Ty Hamilton’s “Extreme Makeover” and laughed at the natural blonde side of myself that I can’t seem to escape.
My antecdote earned some chuckles, and one of the guys smiled at me and said,
“You’re so pretty!”
“Thank you!” I grinned, choosing to take his lighthearted joke as a compliment.
He eyed me, his hand on my shoulder,”You know what I mean, right?”
“I know pretty means stupid,” I retorted, surprising myself that the answer came quickly, without a thought.
Pretty means stupid?
I ran those words through my head all the way home, wracking my brain for the last time a boy had called me, “pretty”or “beautiful” without another meaning or a hidden motive attached. Forget being pretty for pretty’s sake. But what does it mean for a girl to be “pretty”? Why do we, as women, compliment eachother on our hair, makeup, and shoes? We know beauty isn’t skin deep, but we perpetuate the lie that the most important thing for a girl
to be is
I asked my friend about her experiences with this,
“I’ve been told, ‘You could be so pretty if you tried’ just about my whole life….We’re degraded to objects and not minds and hearts and souls.”
You could be so pretty if you tried.
“One of my favorite quotes is,” she told me,
‘We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong.'”
I asked another friend, and she said her problem with being called “pretty” means it’s usually followed by “for a dark skin girl”.
“My biggest thing with the word pretty is that often times me and my close friends get the ‘you’re so pretty for a dark skin girl’ as if my personality and who I am in general is not enough. Darker skin has been connected to such a negative term. It’s literally leading people with my complexion to think they cannot be beautiful if they do not have lighter skin. And it doesn’t help that most men go for people with lighter skin tones or we have to be mixed with something. It’s a very frustrating thing to experience. I think being pretty should be more that. I wish guys would comment on something other than my skin tone (and trust me I LOVE my skin complexion) but I wish it wasn’t a deciding factor in deciding my Beauty or not!
I think “Pretty” is only part of the problem. We all know we’re more than that-we’re tough, strong, smart, kind, adventurous, loving, and can still rock high heels and red lipstick when we want to. There is an obvious expectation for a woman to be pretty, and a certain stereotype and responsibility she possesses when she meets those standards. The problem is how society views women. But I’ll narrow it down a bit.
The problem is how my male friends view me.
In my musings, I realized the last person I dated never called me pretty, and also that I didn’t care. The closest he ever came was to say, “I mean, you look great.” And that was enough for me. But why was that enough?
Because in my experience, being pretty always means something else.
It means I’m funny and dumb. It means the boy I’m talking to only wants one thing. It means my male friends aren’t really my friends and they’re baiting me up, hoping I’ll be their next girl in line. It means a guy can blame his actions-his lack of control-on me. Because I’m pretty. Don’t believe me? Here are direct quotes male friends (here I admit I use the term “friend” loosely) have said to me in the past two months:
“I know how I am around beautiful women.”
“You’re so sexy. I can’t help myself.”
“It’s a good thing you’re pretty.“
“If we hung out, I would just try to hook up with you.”
“You look so pretty with your makeup on.”
“I want to *@&# you.”
I’m confronted with words like this on a regular basis. “I know how I am around beautiful women…”
Because I am “beautiful” I am responsible for how he “is”.
We know women are more than pretty. We KNOW women can be pretty AND kind, smart, funny, etc. Here’s what pretty does NOT mean.
It does not mean I conform to YOUR version of beauty.
It does not mean I am stupid.
It does not mean telling me will make me hook up with you.
It does not mean you have the right to tell me what you’d like to do with me.
It does not make me responsible for your actions.
“Feeling beautiful has nothing to do with what you look like, I promise.”
Let’s help eachother-men AND women- feel beautiful. Not because of our bodies, and not because we can’t be anything more. But because we are people.
And we deserve more than this.