don’t ever tell me that my friends aren’t beautiful

Awhile ago, I was telling a close male friend about some friends I’d met at a new job in a new city. “They’re so cool and smart,” I happily informed him. “And they’re all really pretty!” I was in bragging mode. Everything about these new friends was great! I had found them! I was going to be OK after all!

“Let me see,” he said, and we went on Facebook, of course, where people have learned to search for truth.

He proceeded to dismiss each of my friends in turn. “Eh, she’s OK.” And “I don’t know … I wouldn’t call HER pretty”. And “Seriously?”.

I was hurt and offended.

“You’re prettier than this girl,” he was saying, and I got the sense that this was supposed to make me happy. As though he were giving me some kind of medal. Well, thank god, I’m prettier than my friend. Now I can sleep at night. I have officially won at life.

I was annoyed and upset, but I wasn’t very surprised. The practice of casually dismissing a woman’s entire appearance is sometimes a part of everyday conversation. Guys do it, girls do it. Guys I’ve dated have reassured me that I’m “prettier than my friends”, even though I hadn’t asked and found that observation awkward and most likely untrue. Is he automatically sizing up my friends’ attractiveness and ranking them in terms of it? Is he compiling a quick spreadsheet in his head? 

(a boob! no, the bell curve of all of our beauty….source)

Other women have mentioned their partners telling them the same thing. One of my friends told me exactly which of our mutual friends her boyfriend doesn’t think is attractive at all. Apparently, he “just doesn’t see what everyone thinks is so hot about her”.

You know what, come to think of it, I can even remember one of my friends, at 13 years old, mentioning her parents assurance that she was the prettiest of all her friends. That includes me, I thought immediately, and wondered sadly why her parents would say something like that about me. Had they ranked me? Was I very low on the list? It felt personal at the time.


Once I mentioned a beautiful friend of mine to some other female friends, and they quickly asserted that she wasn’t really “that pretty”. Even my mom has made an effort to set me straight on occasion when I refer “incorrectly” to someone’s beauty. She has told me, gently, as though teaching me a lesson: “Sometimes when you like someone, you begin to perceive them as beautiful, even when they aren’t.”

So many of us have fallen into the habit of diagnosing the beauty around us with barely a second glance. We seem to rate and rank the girls and women in our lives without much thought. We have learned to try to make the girls and women we care about feel better about themselves by putting other girls and women down.

It’s a bad habit.

And I have this suspicion that my eyesight is not really so bad, nor my judgment so impaired by love, as my mom has suggested. After all, this type of exchange about who is “really” pretty happens constantly, and often it’s not centered on people any of us know. Over and over, I’ve heard people argue passionately about the attractiveness of famously beautiful women. They seem to pride themselves on “seeing through the hype” and dismissing actresses and models and rock stars for not really being attractive, but for somehow managing to fool the rest of us schmucks. “Ha! No one tricks me! Only Jennifer Lawrence is pretty!”

(the prettiest!!! It seems like the women who so many people can agree are beautiful tend to be 22 and brand new on the scene of our cultural consciousness…source)

Someone mentions Megan Fox and someone else says: “Ew. She’s not even pretty. I think her face is flat and weird and her hair looks like it’s made out of wax.” Or whatever.

Of course, we all have our favorite famous beauties. My friend Lucy thinks Alexa Chung is particularly stunning; the only time I ever heard my dad call a woman besides my mom pretty he was talking about Meg Ryan; and I am always (selfishly) partial to striking women with interesting noses, like Emily VanCamp, while a parade of starlets with tiny, upturned noses and enormous eyes quickly lose my interest. But let’s be real, just because I don’t think Emma Watson is the most compelling beauty I’ve ever seen doesn’t make her unattractive. And Megan Fox’s look may not be your favorite one, and it’s not mine, but it seems pretty clear to me that she’s not ugly.

It might be that people just like to assert their personal preferences and have opinions about everything. It makes us feel special and unique and interesting to do that. It might feel satisfying to be able to distinguish yourself by disagreeing with the mainstream media about anything at all — a famous woman’s looks included. And disagreeing with your friend over her friend’s appearance may just be an automatic expression of personal taste. We like different things. The world is wonderfully diverse as a result. This is good.

But it isn’t good to insult someone’s appearance. And even if it were true that the girls in my new friend group at my new job weren’t the slightest bit pretty — why did my guy friend feel the need to express that? What did it accomplish? What does it accomplish to insult someone’s appearance?

If we do indeed sometimes put some women’s appearances down in an effort to make other women feel better, this habit reaffirms an idea that the thing that is important about a woman is her appearance. We’re assuming that the thing that would make a girl or a woman feel better about herself is to feel prettier by comparison to other girls are women.

But let me be clear: when you insult the way my friend looks, you aren’t making me feel prettier, you’re offending me, because you’re saying something unnecessarily negative about my friend. And believe it or not, I am not competing with my friends to be the prettiest one. I am appreciative of their beauty, the way I am appreciative of their other positive characteristics. I am proud of them. That is why I chose to be friends with them. Because they are the kind of people I am glad to give my time to, happy to have in my life, and am proud to introduce to other people.

So when you say something about how someone I care about doesn’t look as good as I think she does, or even when you make a snide comment about a famous woman’s appearance, you don’t sound clever or interestingly countercultural or complimentary towards my own appearance. You sound a little needlessly mean, and a lot like it might be time to get your eyes checked.

(when will we finally see each other clearly, man in suit? source)

This is a version of  piece of mine that appeared on Daily Life

*  *  *

Do you notice other people casually dismissing the way women you both know look? Do you do it yourself? I’ve caught myself doing it, too. I’m trying not to now.

Unroast: Today I love the way my legs look in leggings. Cute and kind of dorkily little.

A short hair pic! I love it when readers send me these, after cutting their hair off. Yay, Ashley! You look amazing!! Enjoy!! <3




Kate on March 18th 2013 in beauty, friendship

38 Responses to “don’t ever tell me that my friends aren’t beautiful”

  1. Terri responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Ashley, before and after looks are both beautiful. Those pictures show so much personality and I love it!!

  2. Kate responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Amen! :-)

  3. D responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Ug, I have noticed this phenomenon so many times. Thank you for expanding on it! And Ashley, I love the haircut!

  4. Rachel responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:24 am #

    I had a similar conversation with a female friend of mine last week, but about a guy I found attractive. I told her he was smart and charming and charismatic – not as good looking to me as my husband, but then, my husband was my exact physical “type,” and if I was single I would probably go there. Actually, come to think of it, she should “go there” – he would be great for her.

    And then she asked me for pics. I said no, because it would be “creepy and objectifying.” But I also realised that part of my objection was that she would look at the picture I sent her and declare him not hot enough. That she would think I had crappy taste.

    So, I think it goes both ways.

    I agree with you that sometimes liking someone’s personality can make them seem more beautiful to you. But I’ve also had “objectively hot” friends (the kind people go on about) who, when I first met them, seemed neither super hot nor unattractive to me. It was only when I got to know and love them (and when I’d been told ad infinitum how hot they were) that I began to see them the same way myself.

    I also have a friend who I thought was beautiful in a delicate, subtle way that was individually appealing to me. She is now an international fashion model. So clearly my tastes are not so individual as I thought they were!

  5. Rachel responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:26 am #

    PS That I didn’t notice that said friends were strikingly attractive upon first meeting them is not to say that they are not, in fact, beautiful. Just that each of us have a different perspective on what constitutes strikingly beautiful.

  6. onebreath responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Also love the pics, Ashley!

    This was another eye opener for me – I cringe to think of how proud I’ve felt when a boyfriend commented on how certain starlets really weren’t that attractive. Or mentioned how he doesn’t get why anyone would find large breasts attractive (mine are not). Certainly plays into the body insecurities – the constant rating wars. I was always unconsciously wondering which areas I was failing at. How sad.

    I want to take what you’ve said here to heart and really hold on to it. I like that you’ve not said to simply not comment on beauty; I’ve always felt that can be really limiting too, but commenting on all the ways someone is wonderful (physically and in all other ways) does not necessitate knocking someone else down.

    I also want to remember not to do self-deprecate… I am the first to rank myself at the bottom of the list in any conversation about beauty (“my neck is too long”, “my skin is too pasty”, etc.). I may have trouble accepting it, but I want to not invalidate anyone’s assertions that I have some beauty too.

  7. RitaMarie responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Wow! This post is just… awesome. I am one of those people who finds something attractive in everyone… but, quite frankly, even if I didn’t, how would the world change? I mean, who am I to rate attractiveness, beauty, etc… I agree. It bothers me so much when someone derails my friends or tries to say that I am more attractive than one of them. Firstly, why does it matter? Secondly, so does said friend who’s doign the rating go around comparing me to others? Thirdly, I am insecure and self-conscious enough. I really don’t need to be reminded how others are judging on a constant basis.

    In this last month, I have really struggled with self-acceptance. I am so quick to find the beauty in others, I need to treat myself with that much respect and adoration.

    Thank you for this post. Love it.

  8. Melanie responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    First of all, LOVE the shorty hairdo. I chickened out of the pixie and just have a way shorter bob now. :)

    Secondly, THANK YOU FOR THIS POST. I have had friends, mostly female, do this and it bugs me to no end.

    I am polyamorous. At my birthday bbq I had a friend tell me, “Well, you’re the prettiest out of all the girlfriends.” I was really offended and said, “These women are all gorgeous, intelligent, and amazing. Please don’t say things like that to me. It just makes you look petty and ridiculous.”

    Why is it that people telling us, “You’re prettier than her” is supposed to make us feel better? I think that’s tragic. I would rather the comparisons go away and someone just tell me I look pretty, than I’m prettier than…

  9. Shannon responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    I had the same conversation with my (now ex) boyfriend recently. I was talking about a friend and mentioned how beautiful and cool she is, and he was like “Emily? I wouldn’t say she’s beautiful.”

    I didn’t even know how to respond because I’ve never considered her anything but beautiful, and it felt like such an unnecessary remark to make. The conversation wasn’t even about beauty; it was just I couldn’t talk about her without mentioning that she was beautiful, because it was just that obvious.

    So bizarre that we ever feel the need to counter someone when they express their opinion of someone’s beauty — like it’s a contest!

  10. T.K. responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. The women who are happy when someone praises their beauty by tearing down another woman’s are just not thinking about the implications and the subtle context. They don’t see that the winners of today might be the losers of tomorrow because in a world where one is welcomed and even encouraged to rank you, you are never on solid ground. It is the ultimate objectification, reducing someone’s value to your subjective judgment and using it as a weapon against them. Our society encourages, practically forces, women to compete against each other in this very superficial and eltimately pointless realm. It does so under the guise of “natural order and evolution” as though thousands of years of progress and change have not had the slightest effect and humans are still little more than hunters and birthers. The more we stand apart, the less progress we make as a whole. Perhaps that is the point. Women are still facing discrimination and double standards in so many facets of our society and we always will for as long as our energies are being directed at competition with other women and race againt the passage of time rather than where they are truly needed.

  11. Mindy responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    I had a friend on facebook that had a comment thread going on that was ripping on Amanda Seyfried and her “buggy eyes”, and talking about how ugly she was. It made me so angry… why on earth do people feel that they have to tear others down? Of course Amanda won’t read that particular facebook bashing session, but other girls will, and they will think, well, if Amanda is that hideous to look at, what does that make me? There is no need to call anyone ugly. Thanks for this post!

  12. Mandy responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    “But let me be clear: when you insult the way my friend looks, you aren’t making me feel prettier, you’re offending me, because you’re saying something unnecessarily negative about my friend.”

    Exactly so.

  13. morgaine responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    For a somewhat different perspective: why must we see it as an automatic slight to be considered physically unattractive? Part of reshaping the way we think about beauty is acknowledging that it’s *okay* to be ugly sometimes. It’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t find you attractive. Obviously, context matters, and it’s rude to dismiss someone in all aspects of life based on their physical appearance alone, but it’s possible to find someone ugly *and* still fully believe in their humanity? “Everyone is beautiful”, while a noble sentiment, still emphasizes the importance of beauty. I prefer “not everyone is beautiful all the time, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that”.

  14. morgaine responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    *still fully believe in their humanity.

  15. Rosanne responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Yes, this, it’s very much a thing. It just happens way too often, anywhere, and it can really sneak up on me. It usually leaves me at a complete loss for words. Seriously, how does one respond? If it happens one of my friends is the subject, male or female, regarding their weight, facial features or any other aspect of their appearance, I have no problem responding. I get fierce, snappy, protective, angry, hurt and passionate in my defense of my friend and of the issue at large. But when it happens, say, at work or in a public setting… I find it so difficult to respond in a way that is ‘appropriate’. I mean, getting snappy and all fired up at someone at work… not ideal. In this context I am still looking for a way to stand up for what I believe (is wrong) without coming of condescending or judgemental. It’s hard :)

    Another beautiful post, Kate. Keep ‘em coming!

  16. Brittany Ann responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    When I was in my early teens, my dad used to tell me my best friend was fat and when I told him she liked this boy he would say that he couldn’t imagine anyone would want her. Now I know my dad was completely sexist and believed women were all on display to be judged by him, particularly young ones, but at the time it used to upset me so much that I had nothing to say to him. Yes, my best friend was chubbier than I was…she was also about six inches taller and built completely differently. I thought (and still think) she was/is beautiful. Ironically, with her honey-blonde hair and blue eyes and perfect nose, she would fit the world’s standard of beauty to a T if she was skinny.

    I think my dad believed he was complimenting me, but it never made me feel good to hear that he thought my friend was ugly or gross-looking. Still makes me angry to think about it.

  17. San D responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    I also wonder if your male friend was making a judgement about your ability to judge. In other words, calling your standards. That would be sad too.

  18. Johanna responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    @Morgaine — Thank you for a profound perspective. The first thing that I thought upon reading the initial post was, “Why is Kate mentioning her friends’ looks in this context?” It just struck me as a bit odd — when I rave about my wonderful friends, I don’t really think about how physically attractive they are. I have friends who are hot, but not pretty. I have friends who are pretty, but not sexy. Etc. I can’t say I’ve spent much time thinking about it, except in the case of my best friend, who is sort of heavy and not typically pretty, but attracts men like you wouldn’t believe. She’s confident and brilliant and sexy and fun, and I love all those things about her. But, yeah, she’s not pretty in the generic sense. And she doesn’t feel the need to be — if it’s working, it’s working. She has a fabulous, enviable sex life, and I get a vicarious kick out of that, since I have never had the experience of enjoyable sex even though I am considered quite pretty, and even sexy. That’s another story, though.

    I have had my husband tell me that he didn’t think certain actresses are pretty, when I think they’re lovely. But then, he also had a “thing” for women with interesting features, and loved my Jewish nose (which I hate, like every good Jewish girl :) ) I will say that it made me feel good when it became clear that the more an actress looked like me (fine-boned, dark-haired, irregular features) the more attracted he was to her. It’s always nice to know that you are your husband’s “type”. And to be clear, my sexual dissatisfaction was not his fault, but the result of a physiological issue that caused me pain during intercourse. Which led to the types of psychological ramifications one would expect, and which have lasted long after the surgery that corrected the physical problem.

  19. Johanna responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    @Morgaine, you also bring up the important point that looks shift all the time. I don’t look good when I’m tired. Or have been crying. Or am angry. And I’ve been told that my face lights up and becomes quite lovely and animated when I am social, happy, or watching my children.

    That’s true for every one, in individual ways. The very notion of a static, black-and-white label of “pretty” is kind of ridiculous. Thanks again for the expanded insight.

  20. Sarah S responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Along the lines of Morgaine’s comment, I often think the ideal state of mind is to view beauty objectively, without judgement (have a subjective opinion of what is or isn’t beautiful, but not attach “good” or “bad” to it). As a semi-experiment I took a little more time with my appearance last week; I wore makeup and cute(r) clothes, as opposed to my usual bare-faced, yoga-pants-clad look. I actually felt worse about myself. It was as if by paying attention to my appearance I was giving it more power than I think it deserves. I’d rather feel like my authentic self (proverbial warts and all) and LIKE it than feel a little “prettier” and not like the person inside as much. I know this doesn’t hold true for everyone, but it’s what I’ve found for myself.

  21. Melanie responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    @Sarah S, Thank you for verbalizing what I never can. When I am in a dress and make up I actually feel really vulnerable. Whereas in my bare face and jeans I feel powerful, which is the opposite to what most of my female friends seem to express. I feel truer to myself when I am just “me.”

  22. Kate responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    @Melanie, Sarah S
    I wrote about something very similar here:

  23. Kate responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    The beginning of this comment annoyed me, honestly. I feel like you’re making me out to be weird for even thinking about my friends’ looks. People’s appearances are part of who they are! And as I was writing this, I was thinking, “Someone is going to get nit-picky about me even MENTIONING my friends’ appearances, in the context of writing about this topic.” When I get a comment like this, I feel frustrated, like it’s very hard to represent myself in a way that might make everyone happy. But I guess that can never be the goal, anyway!

    And @Morgaine
    Yup! And I’ve written about just that a lot! This, most recently, I think:
    But this piece is more about other people needlessly critiquing girls’ and women’s appearances than whether or not physical beauty SHOULD be what we care about ourselves the most.

  24. Jade responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    This is a really great post! It makes me a bit sad though that its needed in the first place, that we are all so judgemental and so quick to bring others down. Thankyou for bringing this issue up!!

  25. Johanna responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    @Kate: I’m sorry, that was totally not how I meant it, although I can see why you’d read it that way. I don’t think you’re weird at all — at least, no weirder than any of us (and who’s to say that it’s bad to be weird, for that matter — IRL, it’s pretty much a prerequisite to be my friend). I am cognizant of the courage it takes to blog, and I would never intentionally criticize the person brave enough to put it all out there — I’m sorry I did so unintentionally! My only excuse is that I was trying to write quickly before my kids got home from school. :)

    In the abstract, I do still think it’s troublesome that physical attractiveness plays such a prominent role in so many female friendships, either a negative role, such as women who are too insecure to have friendships with other pretty women, or even in a positive role, such as your enjoyment of your friends’ prettiness. That doesn’t say anything bad about you — quite the opposite, as it speaks to your self-confidence and generosity.

    But… I am still bothered that looks are part of a girlfriend’s portfolio at all. I can’t imagine men mentioning how handsome their new male friends are, outside the “all the women are paying attention to him” type of complaint. Men’s value isn’t linked to their looks, at least socially. I know that studies show professional benefits to being attractive, regardless of gender, but it seems like beauty has inserted itself into every aspect of a woman’s life, and I don’t see that being the case with men.

    I guess that’s what I was trying to say, poorly — that I don’t like the *idea* of mentioning how pretty new friends are as a way of praising their value. I think it’s a symptom of the larger problem that we women deal with every day of our lives in this culture. It makes me sad. But it doesn’t make me think any less of you — it doesn’t really have anything to do with you as an individual.

  26. Kate responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Thanks for clarifying! I really appreciate it!
    I’m not sure how I feel about mentioning friends’ attractiveness, but I know it’s a part of how I think about people. And I’m definitely proud of my friends for their looks, among everything else, of course. Which is not at all to say that I choose my friends based on appearance (at least, I don’t think I do! Unless there’s some crazy subconscious thing happening), or that I think mostly about their appearances or anything like that. Just that when they’re gorgeous, I’m like, “Cool! I have gorgeous friends!” And maybe I mentioned it specifically to my male friend because I thought he’d appreciate that detail– being a single guy. It was an easy way to brag to him. Totally not saying this is awesome behavior, but not feeling incredibly self-critical over it either :-)

  27. Johanna responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    @Kate: At the risk of saying the wrong thing again… ;)

    The idea of being proud of someone for their looks troubles me. I can understand being proud of the effort they put into themselves, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. But just because they got lucky in the gene pool? What about friends who aren’t gorgeous? Would one feel disappointed in them for that?

    Putting in my new caveat: These comments are just meant as food for thought, not personal criticism. After all, you’re the one brave enough (not to mention disciplined enough and ambitious enough) to *have* a blog — I’m just a faceless respondent. :)

  28. Sheryl responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I have such trouble sometimes with the concept of physical beauty. Someone who is incredibly beautiful, for example, could be also completely unphotogenic and there’s so many different “types” of beauty that it’s hard to say what’s what.

    The other complicating factor is of course how personality plays into it. A great personality can light up the looks of someone I might have originally not considered attractive, and once personality gets into it I find I’m constantly changing my mind about whether someone is as attractive as I think they are or not.

    Then there’s the fact that beauty is so subjective. I could have a friend who I think is pretty, and take two photographs of her. I think photo A makes her look gorgeous and photo B is unflattering, and yet when she looks at them she’s in love with photo B but wants me to promise never to show photo A to anyone. Same person, both viewer think she’s pretty but given the same contexts we have opposite reactions.

    All things considered, I prefer to keep my mouth shut about my opinion on someone’s physical beauty. My opinion says as much about me as it does about the person I’m judging. Which isn’t to say that it’s constantly on my mind how pretty people are (although it maybe sounds like it) but the concept of beauty is intriguing whether it’s related to people or not.

  29. Ceci responded on 19 Mar 2013 at 2:08 am #

    I think perhaps that attractiveness comes into play when I think about my friends not as some physical objectification, but because I see all of their qualities wrapped up together in how they look. When I look at my friends sometimes, I think, “gosh, she’s beautiful,” not because I value her physical attractiveness as an isolated quality, but because in whatever moment, I see all of her wonderful qualities–her kindness, her humor, her weird dislike of feet, the way she incessantly hums–sort of radiate out through the shape of her nose, or the way her hair curls out of her forehead. It sounds weird, but when you actually know someone well, I think their physical appearance ceases to be this distinct, separate quality about them–it gets tied up into how you feel about him or her.

    I, like Kate, am often in awe of my pretty friends–but I don’t think acknowledging their prettiness or being somehow proud of it is dehumanizing or trivializing them. Maybe its the same way that a parent can be proud of their child’s beauty without it necessarily being “weird”; because no matter what that child looks like, he or she will always be the most beautiful child in the world to that parent, simply by virtue of love and connection. It’s inextricably linked to how you feel about that other person.

  30. berick responded on 19 Mar 2013 at 4:48 am #

    I am so glad you wrote about this.

    It is a tangled web. I used to think it foolish to praise people for being beautiful when that was largely a genetic lottery. And it was so temporal – “beautiful” not being the same from culture to culture other than a preference for facial symmetry. But then, why do we celebrate people for their athletic abilities, or their brains, especially in cases where those are largely genetic?

    Related too, I had a woman friend who was complaining that a half-dozen of her friends who were all “smart, thoughtful, industrious, and so pretty” could not find worthy men. When I actually met the half-dozen at a Christmas party, I saw immediately that to my eyes they were not the amazing six, but instead six regular women, varying in shape, size, look, smarts, and everything else.

  31. Marijn responded on 19 Mar 2013 at 5:55 am #

    Great piece of writing!

    I have noticed this soooo often, and find it really annoying. I have even caught my parents doing it, when I tell them about one of my friends and how incredibly pretty I think she is.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am proud of the way my friends look, because that would be sort of judging them for their appearance as well (albeit in a positive way). So no bragging here, but I DO think they’re all crazy gorgeous. And I really don’t care if the only reason I think so is because I like them.

    ‘Cause isn’t being likeable & nice enough to make people forget you don’t have the looks of a supermodel WAY BETTER than having the looks to begin with?

    Actually I am just really against comparing. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, not to be compared to anyone else. And I find it disturbing to say the least when my male friends do not get that I’m not flattered when they call me the most beautiful one, or more attractive than my friends. Because of all people I do not wish to be compared to, I really really do not wish to be compared to my girlfriends.

  32. em responded on 19 Mar 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I have been the recipient of those types of “compliments” through my life. Around age 13, my friends’ MOTHERS started saying to them, why didn’t they try doing their hair like mine, or why didn’t they dress more like me for school or functions. Groups of these teen girls being programmed to imitate me in appearance, because of the baggage their mothers carried about what is “attractive” or not, what will help their daughters to be popular or to get the interest of the right boys.

    Its effects are insidious, even to those who often are the ones coming out on “top” of such worthless comparisons. When I was around 20 years old, a boy friend told me that he thought Drew Barrymore was way hotter than me. I thought to myself, Drew Barrymore, are you kidding me? She is far from being known or considered to have the ‘right’ kind of facial beauty (like mine), nor the ‘correct’ body either earned through hard work or bequeathed through genetics (like mine), nor in any paparazzi photos does she ever look anything but a slobby mess (unlike me, if I had paparazzi following after me to class or errands or parties). And my personality and ineffable cuteness was surely already equal to hers.

    Sickening! I am convinced as much as these constant comments and comparisons harm and wound the people who struggle to conform to or attain them, the twisted “affirmations” they are to other girls and women are just as damaging, for all of us together, female and male, all ages. I never had the temperament for it, but there are women fully reveling in the nasty competitiveness fostered so enthusiastically in this culture.

    I really dream of a day when we’ve broken through women being so identified with and valued for their appearances, period (and what a long way we have to go). When I read some historical personal writings and accounts of life, I feel like the greater modesty of dress and conduct in the past, and the lesser amount of modifications and maintenance of appearance women were expected to do, while some felt it was oppression and were glad to discard it, it did at least protect us from being judged in quite so MANY ways (whiteness of teeth, cellulite thighs, perfect symmetry of breasts, etc. ad nauseam).

  33. natasha responded on 20 Mar 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    This is interesting. Although I may have an internal dialogue with myself as to what I think about a person’s looks, it’s not something ever discussed amongst my group of friends. I think when you are in a position to really get to know someone, their personality becomes the defining point of attractiveness. I have a friend who is attractive depending upon whether he’s on a bi-polar high or spiraling in a bi-polar depression. It’s kind of freaky because I can always tell where he is on the continuum by the way he’s looking that day.

    I’m glad I’ve never really been in a group or family that focused on looks as a subject. Every person is a unique human being and it is the differences that make each of us special. It seems counterproductive to classify any of it subjectively and put people in a category based on something as superficial as external features.

  34. Rapunzel responded on 20 Mar 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Ever listen to “Friends” by Band of Skulls? You should look for it. One of the lines in it is “my friends they are so beautiful.”

  35. Iris responded on 21 Mar 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    The second to last paragraph of this is perfect. Celebrities are one thing, but when people need to feel the need to make disparaging comments about people I care about – ESPECIALLY if they’re doing it because they think it’s somehow going to please me – it pisses me off to no end.

    I’m so happy that my closest friendship group is one that is gushingly complementary not just about each other’s looks, but about other people’s. I didn’t realise before it became my social norm how wonderful it is to have that open attitude toward beauty and to commenting on others’ rather than being critical.

  36. honey_susu responded on 25 Mar 2013 at 4:37 am #

    A few weeks ago, I attended a banquet for a regional conference with my coworkers (who also happen to be some of my best friends). Two of my male coworkers were very obviously ranking girls from other locations on a scale of 1-10. I was somewhat offended for these girls, but trying not to blow things dramatically out of proportion, I just asked, “Are you really ranking these girls right now?” in a tone that sounded more amused and curious than offended. One of the two guys replied, “yeah; want me to do you? I can break you down right now if you want, and I’ll be completely honest about it”. It was the most out of character thing I ever heard him say. He’s usually such a gentleman. One of the reasons I’ve become so content with my physical appearance over the years is that I’ve taught myself to NOT compare myself with other people. And I’m so much happier for it. Thankfully, another coworker who was sitting at our table swiftly changed the subject and we moved on.

    I totally agree with you; what a bad habit. And that’s really what it comes down to, is it’s just a habit. I know my team and the guy who made that comment to me is so much better than that. He has such a good heart. I think he’s just a victim to cultural norms, just like the rest of us.

  37. Eat the Damn Cake » make the world a little better: compliment another woman today responded on 15 Apr 2013 at 9:47 am #

    [...] of “ideal” women, we overhear clips of conversation between guys; without really noticing, we notice people casually evaluating the appearance of our friends, of every girl and woman they encounter. We soak up headlines and ads that pimp dieting trends and [...]

  38. Rebecca C responded on 16 Apr 2013 at 3:06 am #

    There is something about liking a person that makes you accept their “flaws” in how they look more easily than if you don’t like someone. Regarding actresses in Hollywood, for example, there are a few that I can’t stand and I don’t think look good at all. The main reason is because I read that they did something horrible and I start to think they are bad or vapid, then I start to not even like their looks anymore. Sometimes that happens in my brain anyway. I’d also say that if I find out that someone has done some wonderful things then that affects my view of them as being more attractive. For that reason I think my friends are good looking, because I know they are good people. Does that make sense?