Up to 9 miles already this week, and it’s only Wednesday! Today was scheduled for an ‘easy’ 3 mile run. I’m putting easy in scarequotes because my legs are tired and, even though I ran slowly, it was still hard. I unconsciously altered my stride to take some pressure off my epicly-blistered big toe, which left other parts of my foot sore, and I repeatedly had to stop and loosen my shoelaces when my left foot fell asleep. But, overall, it wasn’t too darn bad and I am pleased (if also happy that tomorrow is a rest day).
In the locker room I was thinking about a way to cheer up my fellow gym-goers, many of whom aren’t so enthusiastic about being there. "You are beautiful!" scrawled across the mirror in lipstick, like they do on the reality shows? Then I got to thinking about the complicated relationship I have with "pretty", and how pissed I get that pretty is the best and most desirable thing to be.
For what it’s worth, my appearance is reasonably attractive according to society’s standards. I have light skin, blue eyes, a "thin face" (whatever that means) and my fat arranges itself into a relatively acceptable pear/hourglass configuration. I am able, present as moderately femme-ish, and most days I don’t challenge many ideals about how a woman "ought to look" (unless my hairy legs are uncovered). No one’s going to put me on the cover of a magazine anytime soon, but I carry some privilege in that regard.
Yeah, easy for me to say, I guess– but I want to be other things than pretty. I want to be smart, and kind, and wise, and strong. When I read articles about brilliant, amazing women that proclaim their achievements, I don’t want to see at the end, "Plus, she’s hot!" They can leave that part out– I want to hear more about what they discovered, who they protected, how they changed the world. If I have beauty, I want it to be because I radiate joy and kindness and enthusiasm.
But I’m on that "pretty" hamster wheel now, and it’s hard to get off. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how the way people treat me as changed as my body changed from more-fat to slightly-less-fat. I see how people are nicer when I wear a skirt, or if my makeup is done. I also see how my coworkers take me less seriously if I wear a dress. There’s a narrow window of acceptable.
"Pretty" is determined by someone who is not me. It is a means of control. It can be taken away, by age or disfigurement or simply the winds of fashion changing direction. It’s a moving target; who says "I am pretty enough; I will stop trying now"? There’s always something else to dye or pluck or resurface.
I envy people who say "fuck pretty" and radically alter their appearance to better suit their self-expression. I also envy people who are too busy doing awesome things to bother with trying to look any certain way. I’ve tasted a little of the "pretty" kool-aid; forgive me for finding it bitter.