Maggie: Do you think there’s still a problem with being smart and pretty?
Kate: Are being smart and being pretty two things that can’t go together? Ha! That’s ridiculous! Angelina Jolie is an ambassador of some sort, right? I had this really gorgeous professor undergrad. There’s Michelle Obama, who’s totally rocking her own unique look.
As a homeschooler, I thought I was positive extremes across the board. I was definitely smart. I was definitely beautiful. I was definitely awesome. I was definitely going to rule the world some day. In college, I felt suddenly dorky. I began to pick up on all these subtle rules. Like: If a heavy girl talks too much in class, she’s annoying and obnoxious. If a thin girl talks too much about gender in class she’s a lesbian feminist. If she’s really pretty, then she’s a little less annoying.
But mostly the really pretty, thin girls knew not to talk too much in class. So I figured I must not be that hot, since I talked a lot. And then I figured I must be annoying. I went to a big, state school, and I definitely didn’t wear tight enough pants.
In grad school, at a small, Ivy League school, in a department that only had about three other women, I wanted to be pretty so that I didn’t have to rely entirely on my intelligence to represent me. Because my intelligence wasn’t doing so well that first semester. It was huddling in a corner somewhere, weeping softly and rocking itself back and forth. Grad school is hard.
Sometimes the really beautiful girls got forgiven when they said something stupid.
I wanted to be pretty because I was already one of the only woman, so I already stood out, and I might as well stand out in a positive way. I wanted to look like I had options. Not like I’d only started reading a lot and studying so much because I couldn’t get a boyfriend. This is also part of why I always had a boyfriend. Not a great reason.
I wanted to have a competitive edge. Everyone around me was smart. I wanted something extra.
Sometimes being smart is a very disembodied thing. As though we have to develop separate relationships with our minds and our bodies. As though there are two distinct people existing together: One is Brain Woman, the other is Body Woman. After all, those guys who yell something at you on the street aren’t talking to your brain.
Sometimes smart and pretty women are confusing, especially when they do both to an extreme extent. Like my friend Emily, who is a PhD student in a competitive philosophy department. She sometimes likes to show up to teach a class wearing a little pink dress, with her long blond hair in braids. She’s adorable and sexy and totally stereotypically feminine. And she’s wicked smart. Her students are baffled. They’ve never seen anything like her before. But why not?
Sometimes women who are both really smart and really pretty are threatening to other women. Like, just pick one! You can’t have everything! Apparently they can.
I don’t know. But I have a feeling there’s still plenty of stuff going on there. Because I’m such a rebel, I’m gonna try to feel smart and pretty at exactly the same time. Here goes.
Un-Roast: Today I love my chin. It’s sort of pointy. And cute.
Everyone: Do you feel pretty and smart? How does your intelligence inform your beauty, if you think it does? How does your beauty inform your intelligence? Liane, if you’re reading this, I would love love love you to write a piece for me sometime. Seriously. Please.