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.