All the way back in October I remember getting ready for a Halloween dinner party with a friend. As we danced to Taylor Swift we glued on fake eyelashes, plastered on black lipstick and other festive makeup. She looked in the mirror looking positively ferocious and frowned. She lamented that she didn’t think her boyfriend would think she looked pretty. Without much restraint I snapped back “It’s Halloween, not everything is about looking pretty“. I immediately regretted how harsh I’d sounded, relieved when my friend laughed it off I held onto her comment for the remainder of the evening.
Clearly Halloween is long gone, and I’m not quite psycho enough to cling to a single comment for so many months. However, the deeper meaning behind the sentiment stayed with me as I interacted with friends and strangers for the months to come. Though I adore makeup and clothing and dressing up, it bothers me that beauty must be emphasized above all else. Don’t get me wrong, I lap up superficial compliments, I love when my boyfriend tells me I’m beautiful, but I can’t live constantly seeking validation from him that I’m pretty. Somedays I’m going to wear costume-y makeup and it’s okay that it doesn’t make me look pretty. Somedays I’m going to wear sweatpants and have greasy hair and on those days I’m not worried about being pretty. Sometimes other portions of the world surpass beauty on the scale of what is important. If a boyfriend (or anyone else) can’t understand that beauty isn’t always my top priority I find that a serious problem.
I went on a few dates with a nice guy I met on the internet. Prior to our first date he downloaded “1989” and listened to it to prepare, on our second date he made fresh squeezed orange juice for mimosas and on our third date we painted pottery and flipped through an old psychology book he’d found in a used bookstore, on the fourth date he told me he thought I was beautiful. What stood out to me about this guy was how much effort he placed on knowing me and my mind before he ever attempted to swoon me with praises regarding my looks. “I wanted to have an intellectual connection with you before I said this, but I want you to know I think you’re really beautiful” he remarked. I was swooning, and practically handing him my heart until I met Jordan and I slow faded out on the nice man from the internet (not my proudest moment, but casual dating is awkward right?).
I admired this guy not because he called me beautiful, most guys trying to get you to have a “sleep over” with them are going to call you beautiful at some point, but because he placed so much emphasis on everything else before placing emphasis on beauty. He wanted to discuss psychology and creative outlets and our mutual dislike of team sports before focusing on ooh-ing and aww-ing over each other. He wanted an intellectual connection with me because “pretty” is easy to come by.
I’m certainly not advocating that attraction isn’t important. I don’t want to belittle beauty or anyone’s desire to feel beautiful but shouldn’t we demand someone who calls for us to be more than pretty? I’ve actually ended relationships in the past because I felt like I was expected to be a pretty bubbly bobble head and nothing more. When you share such a close emotional intimacy with someone it seems like a disservice to yourself to allow that person to view you as a creature only meant to be pretty.
Somedays I won’t be pretty. After a tough workout I’ll be sweaty and red faced and strong. After a night filled with sorrow and tears my eyes will be puffy, my skin will be blotchy and I’ll be filled with emotion, I’ll be vulnerable and raw. When it’s Halloween I might cake on black lipstick and weird eyeliner and sparkly eyebrows and fake blood, and I’ll be creative and silly. When I’m laughing so hard my abs hurt, my nose will scrunch up a little, my mouth will open a little too wide, my cheeks with wrinkle a smidge and I’ll look slightly like a hamster, I’ll be joy filled and elated but I won’t necessarily be pretty. Life isn’t always about being pretty. We are so much more than pretty.
My intention is not to undermine our attempts to feel pretty. Feeling pretty can be incredibly empowering whether you’re getting dressed up for yourself, for an event or for someone else. I savor any excuse to buy a new dress and have my makeup done at Sephora. Bring on the manicures and pretty high heels and beachy Victoria’s Secret waves but don’t let me place my value in something so trite.
Let’s give our boyfriends the chance to see us as more than air brushed barbie dolls, because chances are if he is a person you love he’ll still love you with under eye circles and blemishes. More importantly let’s give ourselves a little more self worth. Your story, your mind, your passions, and your sense of humor all mean just as much (if not more) than your beauty. Being pretty is just a piece of you, you’re more than pretty!