Monday, September 3, 2007

More on pretty

I tried valiantly to award a perfect post award to anno for her piece entitled Ad Hoc Meditations on Pretty. I didn't manage to get the attention of the powers that be that award the little button, but I do hope you will read this fascinating post. Ever since I read it I have thought about it on and off, and what "pretty" means to we women. Anno told me that she had been inspired in turn by my musings about "pretty", probably from this post.

What is it about that pretty thing? That beauty thing? I don't want to think or write about all of the sickening cultural motivations behind needing to feel pretty. I feel I'm not up to that. At all. But why is beauty such a trap for women on a personal level?
If I were to ask women questions to shed light on the pretty thing, they would be:

Do you feel pretty? I know we all have bad hair days, but do you generally feel pretty (I equate pretty with feeling like a flower, myself)?
Do you feel you were once pretty but now aren't, and does it matter to you? How does it matter?
Do you wish you were different, some other way, some other type? Do you think this would make you happier?

My own naked replies would be:

Yes, I generally feel pretty. Perfume helps alot (the flower equation). I have bad days, but those are usually the minority.
I know I used to be prettier than I am now. That's just aging and having babies. I don't think it matters so much just yet. It may in the future. It may alot.
I've wished to be thinner and less busty my whole life. Thinner because that's just the way it's supposed to be, and that makes me feel like an idiot. Less busty because having a bust calls all kinds of attention my way, and I've not liked most of it. As for whether or not that would make me happier, probably not. The grass is always greener.

What about you? I would love to hear answers from anyone else who would like to think about it. Men are most welcome, too.


Rebecca said...

ooh great posts (both yours and Anno's)

I wish I could say that I didn't care about what I look like - but I do.

I hate my belly - the loose floppy, wrinkly skin that I've had since I had the twins. (and I tell myself that it's the mark of womanhood - something I should feel proud of blah blah blah - but, really, that doesn't make it look or feel any better.) I don't think about it every day or all the time but I can obsess about it sometimes (ie pull my top up when I'm sitting down and pinch and pull and tug and say yuck yuck yuck and then go and look up tummytucks on the internet) But then, I guess, I just tuck it back into my jeans, shrug and try not to think about it.....

And I always wished I had different that tanned instead of turning RED. skin that didn't show my emotions, or shame, or my tears so very easily.

And I wish I were ten kilos lighter....and that my legs had some muscle tone, that my neck wasn't starting to sag a bit, that my teeth were straighter and many things....

But, honestly, I wouldn't really GIVE much to have these things....I know, deep down, that they don't really matter. Although, saying that, I think it IS very advantageous to look attractive (I think people respond more positively to you)

And I'm not making sense at all, am I??

anno said...

Oh, thanks so much, Jennifer! And you are absolutely right about the post that inspired it.

These days, I usually feel pretty. But then I don't spend much time reading fashion magazines, watching television, or shopping at the mall... any of which can have me feeling ready for botox, liposuction, a new haircut, and a complete makeover at the Estee Lauder counter in no time.

It also helps being past that awful analytical stage of my teens and 20s. None of my features holds up to close scrutiny. Taken as a whole, though, things work. Usually.

As long as I stay away from the mall.

These days, passion and competence are what I find most compelling. If I can grow old like Georgia O'Keefe, I'll be happy. There was a beautiful woman.

Some days, though, I still wish I could wear my favorite "thin" pants.

Thanks again, both for the recognition, and for another one of your thought-provoking posts!

Carol said...

I don't feel pretty these days. I could write an entire post on it. Hmmm... maybe I will!


Fourier Analyst said...

I also loved Anno's post. Great choice!

I used to be pretty, back in my 20's when I really did not care that much about it! Now that I've suffered the effects of age and mommyhood, I know that I have lost the looks, and at times it matters more than it should, but not yet enough that I am consistently motivated to do something about it.

Upon occasion, I do "clean up" pretty good. But the 20 pounds extra still take their toll...

Jen said...

I loved the post by Anno, and your original one, too. There are a lot of areas in which I don't feel pretty, but I'm fairly sanguine about it.

It's interesting, last night I was sprawled on the floor playing with the guinea pigs and DS asked, "Mom, why do people care about whether someone is pretty or not? Handsome? Fat or thin?"

We talked about it some. He's pretty puzzled by it all. I could go on and on here...

jennifer said...

Rebecca- isn't it ironic that the most magical thing we do as women leaves us feeling flabby? And that pinching and pulling torture is the worst! You better stop that!

Hi anno- Throw those thin pants away! (at least that's what I try to tell myself). I like the idea of taking things as a whole. We are whole, after all.

Carol- I'm sorry. That's a drag, because your words are so warm to me. I certainly think of you as pretty.

Fourier Analyst- I clean up pretty good, too. But what an effort! What a time waster!

Jen- those are exactly my questions. It's quite puzzling when you really think about it...

cathouse teri said...

I feel prettier than I ever have in my life. And I feel every day should feel JUST LIKE THAT.

My scars and wrinkles and all the signs that show I have had children and worn through the trials of life make me all the prettier. I know you agree with this, so this is my admonition to you to make sure you see yourself as tenderly.


Greg said...

Sometime in my mid to late 40's I stopped caring as much about socially constructed ideas of being attractive. I started to care a lot more about how I felt...physically, mentally, spiritually. In other words, if I carried extra weight I didn't feel good. Other people would tell me, "you're not fat", etc. but I wouldn't feel as healthy with the extra weight.

Then my hair got thinner. As a younger man I had long, thick hair...a virtual lion's mane. Now, it is rather more like an old broom.

The problem is we see ourselves through our own eyes AND through other's eyes. Our self-image is at once an individual thing and a social construct...Or so I think, today as I note the crest of flesh spilling over my belt!

jennifer said...

Thank you Teri- you are an inspiration!
Greg- guess that belt overflow thing isn't strictly feminine territory, after all.

BBC said...

Well, I avoid really attractive women because they all seem to have issues I find hard to deal with. I would rather accept some flaws because we all have them.

It's hard to say what might attract me to one. How she is has a lot to do with it.

But I'm not attracted to one if her tummy sticks out as far as her chest. Well, I may like other things about her but that is a sexual turn off.

And lets face it, people get together for the sex as much as anything else.

I find it very hard to find a woman that is into my main interests that I would like to do with a mate. Hiking, biking, camping, dancing, live plays.

And many I meet feel challenged by what I know and can do and feel they have to compete with me to show me they know as much as I do. What is with that? They know things I don't, why not just let it go at that?

It's just all gotten too complicated to me, the women that are available to me are women that are hard to get alone with in a close relationship. But they don't get that this is why they are alone.

The sweet and wonderful old lady next door to me could teach them a lot about getting along with men, not that they would listen.

Karenkool said...

Hmmm... I'm not thrilled about my hair a lot of the time and that is due to aging and graying, or my mid section after having 6 babies, but I'm not a primper and haven't cared so much about my appearance. I think I'm cute enough--but pretty...? Well, that's something I have to feel from the inside. Lately, I've been very sad about family matters, and not so interested in being pretty to anyone. I've been rather ugly--coming right from the inside of my GUT! (HA) But, I'm mostly a happily contented person.

I basically have no eyebrows and hardly ever wear make-up so... I look kind of plain and short, but my fun-loving personality tends to shine through--just not today.

Betsy said...

What a thought provoking post! I've been mulling over this all day long!

One thing I keep getting hung up on is the word "pretty". For me pretty conjures up visions of pagent contestants and movie stars. I equate it with manicures and matte foundation and countless other facets of the female riddle that I've never quite figured out. Pretty is two-dimensional and flawless, and as often as I've wished otherwise I don't think I've ever been pretty.

The word "attractive" speaks volumes, however. Attractive suggests that extra spark regardless of gray hairs or extra pounds. It implies grace and warmth and accessibility. Attractive means being comfortable in one's own skin and often increases with age and wisdom.

I aspire to be attractive.

Traditional wisdom tells us that thin & fit = pretty. The ironic thing is that the thinner and fitter I am, the more insecure I feel. I am judgemental of myself and others. And that is not attractive.

I never felt really attractive until after the birth of my second child when finally started feeling at home in my body again. Bought some flattering clothes and I felt radiant! How sad that it took more than 30 years for me to feel like I'd earned membership to this secret club!

I really enjoyed reading your answers to these questions and everyone's comments. It gave me a lot of food for thought today and I savored every bit of Anno's post. She really deserved this award. Thanks for sharing!!!

seventh sister said...


I once heard a poet reading on our local PBS station. I don't remember the exact quote but he said that stretch marks on a woman's stomach are the footprints left by the souls who entered this world through her. You don't say that you have stretch marks but I think the analogy still fits. We all have changed bodies from bringing our children into this world but the kids are worth it, aren't they?