Friday, May 23, 2008

Reasons To Be Pretty

The other night, I saw Neil LaBute's new play Reasons to be Pretty. It begins with a young couple arguing over the fact that the guy hade made a comment that another girl was beautiful...while his own girlfriend isn't. Her face is ordinary. She is regular. She is not pretty.

And, ever since then, I have been wondering...what exactly ARE the reasons to be pretty?

Last weekend, I was going through my local paper and reading the wedding and engagement announcements. (Which I tend to do, because I'm starting to know a lot of people who are getting married. Now, the New York Times wedding announcements are my absolutely FAVORITE to read...if only because the names of the people always crack me up. Seriously. Check them out on Sunday morning...and report back to me.)

I saw a girl who looked vaguely familiar, and then I saw her name.

And I instantly remembered this girl.

We sat at the same lunch table our freshman year of high school. We weren't friends. Two of my best friends also sat at that table, and we really just talked to each other.

One day, I was sitting in algebra class, and a random girl handed me a note she had found. She had highlighted part of it, because it was about me. (Looking back, I think this girl was wrong in doing so. What good was she hoping to accomplish by highlighting that stuff and showing it to me?)

I read the note.

It was written by the girl whose face I saw in the wedding announcement last weekend.

She was writing to her friend, and the entire note...both sides of the paper...was attacking every girl at our lunch table except for the two of them.

She said that I had frizzy hair.

She said that I had fat legs.

She said that I shopped at Motherhood Maternity.

Kids can be cruel, indeed.

I still remember that note...her handwriting...the way I felt when I first read it. I cried for a long time.

I remember thinking that she didn't say anything negative about me as a person...she COULDN'T say anything negative about me as a person...because she didn't even know me...instead, she attacked my appearance.She also attacked my friend's appearance...and the fact that she had red hair.

(Sidenote...when we confronted this girl about the note, she said that she didn't write it. Her stalker did. Uh-huh.)

So...why was that upsetting me so much? Why did I take this one cruel, superficial's comments so to heart? Why did I let it dictate how I felt about myself for a long time?

And...just as the play questioned...why is everybody so obsessed with what is on the outside, when we have been taught our entire lives that it is inside that counts?

I really don't consider myself a shallow person...or am I? I think Adrien Brody and Sarah-Jessica Parker are wonderful-looking when many would call them "ugly". (Their words...not mine.). I don't spend much money on cosmetics, and I don't even own a blow-dryer. (Or a straightening iron!)

But...for some reason...when that girl attacked the way I looked, it hurt so much more than it would have if she had attacked my personality or brain. I don't know why. Is it because we have been brainwashed into thinking that being pretty is all that matters?

That note/lunchtable incident was over ten years ago...and yet I still remember it. Today, I KNOW that my hair is not frizzy (it is curly), my legs are not fat (they are muscular) and the majority of my clothes are from the (non-marternity) section of Ann Taylor Loft...and yet that girl's words still sting. And yet, I still remember that day...I still remember that girl's face and name...and it still hurts a bit remembering that fourteen-year-old girl who came home from school and cried.

I have a friend who is strikingly goodlooking. As in, I often forget how handsome he is sometimes, and then look at him and think, "SHEESH!" I once commented to him, "You must get sick of people telling you how handsome you are all the time..." and he said, "Who would ever get sick of people telling them they are handsome are???" He was right. Everyone likes to hear that they are beautiful...and the opposite hurts. No matter who it is from.

A couple of months ago, my picture was in a newspaper and somebody commented that I was "fugly". I took this extremely badly, and wondered if being "fugly" (my gosh...HATE THAT WORD) was the reason I've had some hardships over the past few years...difficulty finding a job...hard time getting published...am single...then I realized that, the odds were VERY good, that the person sitting behind their computer making nasty comments about people they had never met were the "fugly" ones.

Like the girl in the play, I definitely have my share of insecurities, and I'm pretty sure if my boyfriend said something similar to me, I would react that same exact way that she did.

Looks don't matter...looks don't matter...looks don't matter...

...but they really do.

And I hate that.

And I really hate that they matter to me.

Diana Rissetto