you are pretty enough to find love

Sorry, two relationship-y pieces in a row. I know. It just happened that way. This one was on the Frisky originally, for my column there, and it was also syndicated on XoJane. So if you saw it either of those places, I hope you’ll forgive the redundancy. Even if you’ve already seen it, I always love the discussions that happen on this blog, so I wanted to share it with you guys, to see what you thought. 

The other day, a girl emailed me:

“I’m worried that I’m not pretty enough to get a guy. I’m single, and want a serious relationship, but sometimes I think I can’t find one because I’m not prettier.”

I wanted to exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” But instead I thought, Well, of course you’re worried.

When I was single, I reasoned that being hotter was always better because it would give me more options. The hotter I was, the more guys would be interested in me, and the more choice I’d have in the matter. So even if I thought I looked fine, it would’ve been better to look, well, even better. (And then there is no limit—you can always be hotter, somehow.) And when I thought that I looked significantly, depressingly less than fine, I was scared, because I felt as though I might miss out on something essential.

This is not irrational. It makes sense, when we think of women’s worth as being closely matched, at least initially, with their beauty.

 

(source)

From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught that if we were prettier everything in our lives would be better. We would have the things that we want. Girls become preoccupied with their appearances in an effort to control and improve their lives, and are too often driven to despair when they don’t see themselves as fitting into restrictive and seemingly arbitrary beauty standards. And this is not some dramatic interpretation—it’s just life. Some of us escape unscathed, and some of us are blissfully oblivious enough, and some of us recover from middle school and go on to not care very much, and some of us continue to be chased by the howling, hungry beauty demons into our adulthood and even until we die.

 

So it’s no wonder that someone might worry that not looking good enough might interfere with finding love. It sometimes feels like it interferes with everything, after all. And what is more tied to beauty than selecting a partner? Isn’t that what beauty is all about, ultimately–being able to attract desirable partners? Isn’t that the biological reason why we even have this thing called beauty?

Sure. Sort of.

Looking good is an important part of dating. But the critical part is looking good to a particular person who you would like to look good to. It’s taken me perhaps a surprisingly long amount of time to adjust to this idea.

(how many times have we seen a version of this dilemma? Let me guess…he gets the girl! we’re not given that many examples of stunningly beautiful men and the nerdy women who win their hearts….source)

“If I were prettier, I’d have more of a chance with guys,” I thought, shamefully, secretly, when I was single. At the same time I was telling my friends, “Whatever—guys are so lame these days.”

But even as I worried that I wasn’t naturally beautiful enough to find someone great, everywhere I looked, there were real-life examples to the contrary. Lots of fabulously happy, well-matched couples in which neither person struck me as conventionally attractive. Couples in which the woman was not obviously “hot,” and the man obviously thought she was. Stunningly lovely single women who couldn’t seem to go on a second date. Nerdy couples, married in their mid-20′s, fabulous women who were happy being single and fabulous women who were heartbroken over being single. Opposites-attract couples and couples who looked almost eerily sibling-esque. Couples who’d fallen in love at first sight and couples who had waited forever. Looking at the people around me, it almost seemed like no rules applied to love. It almost seemed like anything could happen, regardless of what a person looked like.

The thing about beauty is that we are taught that it applies in the same ways to everyone, and that we can all see it the same and judge it the same and experience it the same and value it the same. That is the reason why so many girls and women fight so hard and spend so much money and energy trying their best to look the same ways. Very thin and lustrously-haired and large-eyed and plump-lipped and full-boobed and narrow-waisted. And while it’s probably totally true that these beauty standards exist for a reason, that they are rooted in biology and confirmed by eons of culture, it is ALSO true that often, they just don’t matter a whole lot when it comes to finding love.

(source)

Maybe when it comes to finding a sexy one-night stand, yes, yes, definitely, the more stereotypically, standardly hot you look, the easier it might be to select from a larger number of eager volunteers. But when it comes to finding longer lasting love, it’s a different story. And that story is much more about individual tastes and conversation and that mysterious spark that wafts between people and sometimes suddenly ignites.

That’s the awesome thing about people—despite everything we’re told about the way other people should look, and despite all the ways in which we are influenced by our culture, our own desires often prevail. I have always wanted a squishy, hairy man, for example. I have heard these characteristics dismissed thoughtlessly as “gross,” and I don’t admire them because I am so subversive and such a social rebel. I just like the way they feel and look. The belly that Bear is convinced makes him unattractive is one of my favorite features. Meanwhile, I’ve spent a long, stupid, but maybe inevitable amount of time hating my big nose, but on our third date, right before we kissed for the first time, my husband said, “I love your nose. It’s so striking.”

(Gisele, advocating for worldwide breastfeeding. source)

There are men, I’ve seen their comments on the internet, who complain that Gisele Bundchen needs another nose job, because her nose is hideous for being “too big.” There are men who have passed me over in a second for my beautiful blond, buxom friend. And there are men who have fallen madly in love with me and told me that I am the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. One of those men happened to be fantastically gorgeous and amazingly awesome in my eyes, and I married him. So that worked out.

I think it works out most of the time. Not just because of my own life, but because of everything I’ve seen, when I’m looking around honestly, instead of through the lens of self-criticism.

(source)

Feeling unattractive can be all-consuming, but it’s usually misleading. Just because you feel like you don’t look good enough for this or that or true love or the other thing doesn’t mean that you actually don’t. Because “good enough” is a complicated, indefinable measure that is too easily moved around to accommodate our own worst fears, rather than the reality.

Maybe ironically, though I’ve been concerned about my appearance when single, I’ve felt my ugliest in long-term relationships. Maybe because I had more time to think, and I realized that my concerns about my appearance had very little to do with other people, they were mostly about my relationship with myself.

I don’t know your whole story, girl-who-is-afraid-she-isn’t-pretty-enough-to-get-a-guy, and of course stories are complicated, but I promise you that love is not waiting for you to get prettier. That’s just you, waiting. The rest, I think, has a lot to do with coincidence and luck. But in the meantime, it’s time to start feeling good about who you are. And in my opinion, it’s really important to learn to feel better about the way you look, not so that you can get a man, but so that you can learn to stop blaming your looks for the way your life is going. And then you can be happier all around. That is the real victory.

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I feel when I look around my apartment and realize that I chose everything on the walls.

P.S. I’ve started contributing regularly to the fabulous Australian site Daily Life, and this is my first piece in what will be a series/column. It’s about why sometimes we need a thing called a friendship contract. At least, I do. I hope you like it!

30 Comments »

Kate on December 26th 2012 in beauty, being different, fear, relationships, uplifting

30 Responses to “you are pretty enough to find love”

  1. Mari responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Kate,

    This is so spot-on. I have only had a few boyfriends at my age (19) but each time none, absolutely none, of the things I dislike about my appearance have mattered. They didn’t even notice my perceived flaws!
    It’s interesting how our tastes differ so much. I, like you, like hairy, squishy, broad shouldered, intelligent, foreign (I could go on and on) while one of my friends is into tall, lean, baby faced sorts.
    There is definitely someone out there for everyone, no matter how old you are. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Hope you are getting some snow up in New York! We have had a white Christmas for once down here, it’s wonderful.

  2. Melanie responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Love this! And I too, love a furry man with a belly. Always have.

    I have my I feel ugly and my I feel cute days. I haven’t felt truly pretty in a while, but I know that’s only because I don’t like the holidays and that’s why I feel so funky.

    I like that I have in my thin body, my chubby body, with make up on, and in jeans and converse, been able to find partners to spend time with who make me feel really great. I’m a lucky gal.

    I hope your holiday time is going well and that you and Bear are keeping warm. It’s been raining like mad here and while I love rain, I’m ready for some dry days.

  3. San D responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Finding Mr. Right, and he you, is a combination of a lot of things from appearance to chemistry, from sense of humor, to intelligence, to serrendipity to planning. I knew the moment I saw my husband that he was the one, all things in the universe were vibrating at that one moment. As an ordinary looking “roundish” woman, I had been asked by several men (OMG! 4!) to be their wife, but knew something wasn’t quite right with the each connection. Looking back I realize I could now be living on a sheep farm in Scotland! But as romantic as that sounded at the time, finishing my college education and living out my dream propelled me to say “no”. My advice to the young woman who wondered if she were pretty enough to get someone is to have dreams for yourself and set about accomplishing them. Along the way you will attract men who think you are not only interesting, but beautiful in your own way. Beauty and youth are fleeing, intelligence, humor, passion, compassion and confidence are timeless.

  4. Claire responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Dear Kate,

    thank you for this wonderful blog. I feel so at home I would like to comment today for the first time !
    I happen to have a (very) big nose too, and I used to think everyone KNEW and was secretely embarassed for me. Then came my boyfriend who thought it made me look like no less than a queen (ahem, I know) and a few adorable friends who have told me they loved it the way it was too because it was me.

    And then I started looking around at my friends too, and noticing things about them I never had thought about : like one of my dearest friends has terrible teeth that I never actually notices. But would I like her more if her teeth were straight and white ? OF COURSE NOT, I actually love the way none of these teeth seem to match each other, it’s adorable !!!! Or another one, who someone called in front of me “the chubby one” : he is indeed a bit chubby, but I’m so fond of him I didn’t notice, and I wouldn’t dream of thinking he would be better off slim !! And of course my boyfriend, who is very hairy (I say “furry” to show how sweet I think it is) and I’m crazy about it.

    But to keep the conversation going, I would like to add something : to really understand what you’re saying Kate, I think you have to experience it… :( it’s a bit sad, but I think you can only compretely trust the fact that you’re not too ugly to find love….after you’ve found love. I thought the same when I read your last post : you’re only truly relieved you haven’t settled down with someone you didn’t entirely love……when you’ve found someone you loved. What I mean is that it’s actually the second fact that makes the first one feel true. Before that, you can never completely get rid of the nagging doubt…..

    Have a good evening !

  5. Lisa Furst responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    You knocked this one out of the park, Kate.

    It reminds me of a conversation a friend and I had, in which she said, “I feel like I’m too fat.” My response was, “Too fat for what?” Love isn’t waiting for people to be the right shape or the right size or have a certain nose or to wear certain clothes.

    I’m so happy you posted this piece here.

  6. Heather responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    I had never thought of myself as ugly or hot, but I was surprised at the lack of response I had gotten when I signed up for the online dating a few years back. I thought my clever/cute answers would be enough!
    Being able to meet people in person makes all the difference. Personality and confidence trumps looks every time.
    @lisa furst: love the response “too fat for what?” so perfect!

  7. katilda responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Love so much of this. And I love that you like squishy, hairy men. I once dated a guy with a really hairy chest and loved it in a way I didn’t expect. There’s something very manly about it, much more so for me than a clean-shaven-everywhere guy. I prefer to be the shaven one, i supposed. haha

  8. Cheryl responded on 26 Dec 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    I tend to lurk here rather than actually post, but this one hit very close to home. I had an eating disorder for a very long time – I’m in recovery now, but it’s still very difficult, sometimes, to believe in your own worth when for as long as you can remember you’ve hinged that worth on how you look. I just wanted to say that you captured so beautifully here how irrelevant ‘prettiness’ as a concept is – and how if we keep putting things off until we are pretter (we’ve lost ten lbs, we’ve got a nose job or paid for bigger boobs) then we ‘re going to be waiting a very long time for happiness.

    xxx

  9. olivia responded on 27 Dec 2012 at 3:39 am #

    one of the best articles you’ve ever written IMO. If you like someone you find them really attractive, whether or not they measure up to biological/cultural standards.

  10. daisy responded on 27 Dec 2012 at 5:46 am #

    I love this so much. I’ve only been reading your blog a short while, but you have a way of putting things into words that is just amazing and honest. Thank you :) (And I love my hairy squishy man too!)

  11. Amy responded on 27 Dec 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Well done, Kate!

    This piece made me think of how my perception of people’s “attractiveness” is SO incredibly dependent upon their personality. For example, I had a friend a long time ago, whom when we first met I did not find at all attractive. As I got to know him, his features that I originally had thought to be rodent like became much more pleasing.
    The reverse is also true. I knew a woman who when I first met her thought she was SO gorgeous. Turns out she is not a very nice person and I find her now to be less pretty.
    Everyone’s perception is different. Your perception of yourself is different from everyone else’s. There is a lot of pressure to be “pretty” on the outside but being pretty on the inside sure doesn’t hurt.

  12. Rachel responded on 27 Dec 2012 at 10:21 am #

    For me, this insecurity has always centered around my weight. I’ve always thought that I have a pretty face but am too fat. I lost a ton of weight a few years back and was downright skinny, but much of it came back when I stopped restricting as much and now I’m healthy but plus size.

    I’ve blamed my weight for almost all my romantic failures. But recently I had the realization that I’ve had all my best romantic experiences when I was plus sized. And I think it’s because when I was skinny, I was conventionally attractive, which meant I was attractive to guys whose main priority was having sex with the ‘hottest’ girl in the room, the one who would impress their friends. When I’m a little bigger, I don’t fit into that category- and that means the men who are into me are only thinking about how hot THEY find me, not how much I’ll impress their friends with my conventional hotness. It actually filters my romantic possibilities in a very positive way (and I actually get to eat!).

    All that said. . .it’s only on a good day I can recognize this. I’ve been feeling shitty about my romantic potential all week because some pictures that were tagged on Facebook made me look awful and fat, at a party where I actually felt pretty attractive. So thank you for continuing to write about these issues so eloquently- we all need to read it again and again for it to finally sink in.

  13. Sheryl responded on 27 Dec 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    When I was single I always had a litany of reasons in my mind as to why: I’m not pretty enough, I’m fat, I’m too high strung, I’m annoying, etc.

    By the time I found my husband I wasn’t concerned with finding a man, or all my perceived flaws. I was just totally in the moment, as myself and completely unconcerned with all the things that would “stop” me from meeting someone who was right for me.

    Being in a relationship I’ve come to a hard realization that the physical things I obsessed over? They don’t matter. Or if they do matter it’s more in a sense of mattering to other girls and how feminine I feel rather than how easily I could attract a man.

  14. Beck responded on 28 Dec 2012 at 12:17 am #

    This is the first blog of yours that I’ve ever read and I loved it. I really love that you didn’t dismiss the feeling of needing to be prettier but acknowledged that it exists (for biological and media created reasons) but has no real bearing on most people’s lives. I once told my friend how I was jealous of the way her hair sits on her forehead and she was shocked because she’d always wanted her hair to sit the way mine does. It’s a small, silly thing but really brought home the message that we’re all attracted to different things.

  15. Rae responded on 28 Dec 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    I know you’re speaking specifically of beauty, but I would love to extend this to personality (cause frankly the world is just too judgmental now, even about personality). We think thinking of beauty is “shallow” and that judging someone on personality alone is the right way to go. But I think what you’re saying extends to personality; I want to believe that everyone has someone / people they can vibe with regardless of how “unfunny” they may think they are (or “introverted,” but just insert undervalued quality in the quotes).

  16. Sonya responded on 29 Dec 2012 at 12:28 am #

    I had to read this through 3 times before I could put my thoughts in coherent sentences. I love this post for a few reasons: A) It’s dead-on. We are taught very early to attach value to our appearance because it’s always the thin, beautiful princess who gets the prince in the end; B) It honestly gives me hope. I spent (and continue to spend, although less so now) a lot of time wondering if there’s something wrong, either I look wrong or I’m doing something wrong. But I’m starting to believe, as you did/do, that it has more to do with the relationship you have with yourself than anything else. And I often wonder it affects some more than others. Maybe some people have more shaming events in their past, or some other traumatic event. I used to think it was weakness. I know it’s not, but I can’t think of many explanations.

  17. Danielle responded on 29 Dec 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Thank you Thank you Thank you. :-)

    This is the lesson I’ve slowly been learning through college, and friendships, and for the first time ever dealing with guys who like *me* and not just my friends, although sometimes they do still like my friends, and the whole complicated mess that arises from all that. (even if I don’t like the guys back. I’m just wide-eyed, asking, “but WHY? I don’t UNDERSTAND you. Guys don’t ever LIKE me, I’m too BIG.”)

    And I see from reading your other, you know, maybe it’s okay, and I should let myself spend that time and emotional energy on badminton. :-)

    Being about a US 14, who at my slimmest was around a US 10…and who attends a teeny-tiny private Christian school (which I love) but whose female population is probably averages around a US 6…the whole self-esteem thing is difficult at times.

    I’ve just been through so many of your posts, and I just wanted to comment and tell you thanks, and I *love* your perspective. So many feminist/”appreciate yourself” blogs I’ve stumbled across are so angry, or one-sided, and don’t show just the experiences of life from all it’s confusing facets.

    I truly feel encouraged from what you’ve written. Also, your Unroasts are so genuine and uplifting. :-)

    Thanks again.

  18. Danielle responded on 29 Dec 2012 at 2:09 am #

    (just saw that you were homeschooled, as was I, [until college]. This is awesome. That is all.) :-)

  19. Jessie responded on 30 Dec 2012 at 12:46 am #

    My friend just posted a link to your site on facebook and I have now fallen completely in love with it. SO. COOL. You just seem like an awesome person who thinks without overthinking, and is realistic without being overly positive or negative. I normally spend my time at nail art blogs but I’ve subscribed to you now! Thanks for the great posts!

  20. Joanne K responded on 02 Jan 2013 at 2:37 am #

    Beauty exists not in sameness but in difference

  21. Shybiker responded on 04 Jan 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Great post. Sound points, lucidly made. Yes, there are innate inclinations we have but, equally as important, there are standards we create in our own minds on who to love. A LTR won’t work if based solely on superficial beauty.

    I sympathize with women’s plight in worrying about this. Understandable and sad. It’s better, if possible, to focus on other things in life, like improving one’s piano-playing, etc.

  22. Links Lundi | Ruby Bastille responded on 07 Jan 2013 at 8:05 am #

    [...] “Love is not waiting for you to get prettier.” Share this:FacebookTwitterTumblrMoreStumbleUponDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in Uncategorized [...]

  23. April responded on 07 Jan 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    I needed this more than I can say. Thank you so very very much.

  24. You Are Pretty Enough To Find Love responded on 20 Jan 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    [...] originally appeared on Eat The Damn Cake. Republished here with [...]

  25. Melinda responded on 27 Jan 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    I would say this is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I agree wholeheartedly with April…I needed this post, too.

    As a woman who has never felt beautiful, I was often reminded of my “ugliness” or “Plain Jane” status by people around me. I grew up in the shadow of my older cousin who always felt loved and beautiful, and she would throw it in my face in a very cruel way.

    I also had a very abusive stepfather and my environment was generally hostile. So I never quite learned to appreciate who I am, inside and out. A verbally/emotionally abusive ex left me feeling like I would never be loved by anyone.

    I’ve been married for nearly 4 years and although my husband tells me I’m beautiful sometimes, I still feel like his words are insincere because I know that he didn’t think I was pretty when we were dating. But I guess it was because he was blind to the beauty of different types of women before.

    I’ve never had an issue with getting male attention or men to notice me. But I think there is a very pervasive, damaging notion in society that if a woman isn’t considered beautiful, she isn’t worthy of love.

    Like for instance, in some of my past relationships…some of the guys I dated encountered disapproval from their friends and families because I wasn’t “pretty” enough. The concept of dating somebody to impress one’s friends/family is still somewhat ridiculous to me. I’ve been with all kinds of men and I can honestly say that while I do appreciate fine-looking guys, I was more concerned with inner beauty and how the guy treated me.

    My husband is very conventionally handsome. He is 6’4″, white, athletic, with dark brown hair and deep blue eyes. I think most people are a bit surprised to see him with somebody like me. I’m short, with dark hair and dark eyes and very light skin. My heritage is a blend of Jamaican/Lebanese/Scottish/Indian. People never quite know what to make of my looks or even just me as a person. I believe that society, for the most part, expects my husband to be with somebody they see as being more on his level.

    Like a tall, willowy blonde or even the very trendy Latinas in my city (I live in Miami). They don’t expect to see him with a woman who looks ethnically ambiguous and is the opposite of what is considered “hot”. I remember once we walked by some people and heard one of them say, “why is HE with HER?” I feel like that is just so insulting when people judge the relationships of others based on looks, race, or age.

    I wish more people would see that being beautiful has very little to do with being loved.

  26. Eat the Damn Cake » love letter to a beauty queen responded on 13 Feb 2013 at 10:49 am #

    [...] and acceptable to other people. We’re worried about how we look to them, how we come across, if we’re pretty and likable. But once, when I was a kid, I saw a woman who made me think there might be another way to do [...]

  27. emjay responded on 24 Mar 2013 at 2:25 am #

    This post struck me enough to comment. I could be considered somewhat beautiful, I am thin with symmetrical features and was asked to model when I was a little younger. I write, and have won awards, I’ve travelled the world and forged a career but when people describe me I’m ‘so pretty’. Women whom I’ve just met remark on it. It makes you feel like that’s all that’s important about you, it’s your only adjective, while less conventional beauty gets all sorts of wonderful words bandied about to colour in who they are. The thing is, I’m almost 30 and I have a terror that I will never find anybody who will love me. Men are attracted to the surface so beautiful people attract people who don’t really care about who they are, and I’ve been treated far worse by men than most people I know. The men whom I have loved called me beautiful again and again and I’d have to tell them to call me charmingly hilarious, or admire my rapier wit – because god knows beauty becomes boring fast. And I am funny, damn it! I find it hard to love back, as well, because there’s forever men groping for your attention, it makes you want to push them away to reclaim yourself. I guess I’m saying that I fear I might be completely unlovable, and I envy you people who have somebody who loves your noses, because I’ve never found someone who’d love mine, not properly. It’s terrifying.

  28. Carrie responded on 30 Apr 2013 at 11:14 am #

    I think I am pretty enough, yet I know my chances of finding a guy are slim, not because I don’t think I’m pretty enough, but because I am too picky and am not going to go out with just any guy who is going to treat me like trash because I want to be with someone so much I will put up with anyone. If I meet someone decent great and if not I’m fine with that too, but it took me a loooong time to get here. And a lot of heartache. I wish I could have realized this a lot sooner in live. Anyway, I see many many women who are, in my opinion, not better looking than me and they have guys. Just hang in there and be yourself and be happy with yourself and your life. If the right one comes along so be it, but don’t waste your life on the jerks or wishing you had one. It’s not all a cup of tea and roses. A lot of guys are with you, but they’re sneaking around behind your back, they are with you, but they make you miserable by saying mean things, or fighting, or even abusing you. They are with you but they drink and are getting worse. You don’t want any of those wrong ones. Hold out for a right one. You are worth it. We all are. Being single isn’t bad at all once you get the hang of it. Besides, you wouldn’t want to be with a wrong one and miss the chance when the right one comes along. :)

  29. Megan responded on 10 Aug 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Kate,
    I have just recently discovered your blog and I LOVE it! I am currently recovering from anorexia and I can never find the words to explain how I feel, but when reading your columns it’s like you took the words right out of my mouth. I have always felt inferior to my friends. They always have a boyfriend or at least some guy chasing after them. Myself on the other hand is a completely different story. I have never had a boyfriend before and I am surrounded by girls in relationships. I would always think “It has to be because I am not pretty enough” and of course I thought losing weight would then make me “pretty enough”. Anyway, I just want to thank you for taking the time to write these articles and to let you know that what you do matters. Your articles have really inspired me to stop believing that beauty comes from the number on a scale.

  30. Why is beauty so important? | CL Mannarino responded on 22 Mar 2014 at 7:02 am #

    [...] so desperately. But in listening to Boyfriend’s reasons for why he contacted me, it mattered. Being physically beautiful mattered, to the point where I was waiting to hear that he saw something alluring in me. Or not even [...]