I’ve often thought about blogging about this because it’s something that has fascinated me: the last taboo among women. You can never think you’re pretty. This column by Tracy Moore at Jezebel answers the question, and it’s a welcome relief to know that it’s not just me. See, I thought I had great self-esteem. I reveled in knowing that I secretly think I am pretty – not stunning, not a head-turner, but commonly quite attractive – until I hit the knock-out blow that my friend posted: “Tell me how awesome YOU are!” and I couldn’t respond. Overlooking those pounds I swore I was going to lose by January, I have a good smile … but my teeth are crooked. My calves are a good shape … but my skin is pale and blotchy and I have thread veins from pregnancy. My eyebrows aren’t symmetrical, and my nose turns up slightly more on one side than the other. I can’t think of anything about myself to compliment without slapping some huge caveat over it.
As Tracy writes:
In response to a piece called “Why Can’t Women Think They Are Pretty?” — a thoughtful look at how rare it is for women to simply admit they are pretty, when instead they are armed with a laundry list of their flaws at the ready — I was all prepared to write at length about the fact that it would do us well to focus on anything but the pursuit of beauty, so tenuous and undependable it is.
But then I put the question to four of my twenty- and thirty-something friends instead, and discovered that rather than hand-wring about the issue, every one of them had a totally figured-out narrative about their own prettiness and prettiness in general, full of exceptions and asterisks and rules, honed over a lifetime.
For them, it wasn’t that they couldn’t think they were pretty. It was that they all knew, after lifetimes of being shown images of what is pretty, cute, beautiful or not in staggering detail, EXACTLY what kind of pretty they are or aren’t, to what type of person they were most appealing, to what degree their prettiness abounds. Just saying they were pretty without acknowledging the exceptions seemed to be like admitting that you didn’t understand how pretty works. And “pretty” isn’t a permanent state, either: it’s a complicated, evolving assessment, discussed with a detached, almost economic appraisal.
I’m not going to quote or summarise the whole article, because that’s rather cheeky, and I think it’s it’s a very interesting – perhaps important – read. You’ll find it here: