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Pretty is as Pretty Does: The Privilege of Beauty
Pretty is as Pretty Does: The Privilege of Beauty
You are the envy
of all parallel lines that
dream of curves and convergence
- Sara Bailey: Sieve of Words
Nothing is beautiful from every point of view.
You'll see the most beautiful woman you've ever set eyes on someday; your breath will catch, your mouth will go dry and your eyes will linger hungrily and reverently on the planes of her face and the lines of her body. She will be exquisite - the embodiment of everything you've ever wanted, or wanted to be.
Just remember this: somewhere, somebody's tired of that bitch.
You know it. I know it: women, whose bodies cradle the Seat of Creation, instinctively realize what an enormous source of power it is. Some of us will learn to use some of it; none of us will learn to use all of it; some of us will learn to misuse it. Some won't ever learn much at all, and so others will use them instead.
Society places an inordinate amount of value on youth and attractiveness. It is this, reflected back at her in the eyes of so many of the people she meets in her life, which can warp the beautiful woman's self-perception. The passing fluke that is her pulchritude can become the asset by which she inaccurately values herself: while she has it, the world owes her a living; after it's gone she may fear that she'll be worth nothing at all.
Odes and paintings and sculptures and plays and ballads and aeons of angst aside, the components of physical beauty are nothing more, at their basest level and minus that certain je ne sais quoi, than signs of genetic adequacy, reproductive capability and good health. Beautiful women are chromosomal Cadillacs, luxury vehicles for DNA: a smooth ride into an uncertain future. These oh-so-fortunate accidents of birth are nice to look at - when seen in the proper perspective. They aren't angels or devils, goddesses or queens, different from other women. Loveliness is a gift or a curse, depending on how you look at it, but one thing it's not is an accomplishment. It was not beauty alone, but the mad desire to control and possess it, which launched a thousand ships.
Pretty girls become aware of this power at various ages. They begin to notice that they turn heads, and that others, usually but not always male, are more eager to help them or please them. Opportunities and extras are offered in order to bring them closer to admirers. Praise, attention, trust and validation are often more readily given and shortcomings and mistakes overlooked, sometimes unfairly and at the expense of others. Men rush to open doors, offer drinks and hold coats, and after a while a young woman who is just beginning to discover the effect of her beauty may begin to believe the hype and think that this special treatment she receives is her due. When that happens, she can be difficult to be around instead of irresistible, and people who are initially attracted to her looks sometimes end up resenting her self-centeredness. There are few things less appealing than a beautiful girl who believes that's all she ever needs to offer the world; that said, with the way some people fall all over themselves around pretty women it's not such a farfetched conclusion for her to have reached.
Beauty is to women what wealth is to men. The more they have, the better society likes them - at least at first glance. As with all superficial things, however, it can't make up for the lack of more substantial qualities.
Beauty is only skin deep, but it's a valuable asset if you're poor or haven't any sense.
- Kin Hubbard
There's always someone around to make pretty girls feel important. It's often that guy we all know, the one who probably doesn't do well with women in his own personal life, who has learned to give great backrubs and will run errands. He's the guy who got into photography mostly so he would have a service to offer that was of specific value to attractive women, and who isn't half-bad after all that practice. You know him - the Sycophant, the Hanger-on, the Groupie: Friend and Confidant To All Beauties. He calls them all 'Goddess' and 'Mistress' and drops the names of other lovelies to show how 'in' he is and prove he's 'ok' and not dangerous. He bends over backwards to ingratiate himself and make himself indispensable and then complains, with ostentatious sighs and within earshot of other men, that he has no time for himself because so many of these exquisite creatures need him to take their pictures or give them 'a shoulder to cry on'. In school he's the Harmless Friend, loved (maddeningly platonically) by girls and ignored by jocks. He's on the debate team, the school paper, maybe the cheerleading squad. He might even show up in a Home Ec class, but make no mistake - while the Alpha Males are calling him a fag, he's in someone's room after class watching her change clothes because she feels so comfortable around him.
We all know him. Lovely women are his hobby, his passion, his raison d'etre. We've sent him for food a thousand times, asked him to fetch us a drink when we're actually sitting closer to the bar, and patted his head while ignoring his expertly, obsequiously sublimated sexual frustration. He and a million other worshippers in the Cult of Beauty (The Intimidated Woman, The Rival, The Sheepish Stutterer, The Sugar Daddy, The Tray-dropping Waiter and many others) accept, condone or indulge this behavior and even thank us for it so often that sometimes we forget that no one deserves to be treated this way. If we travel too far down this thorny-flowered path without checking ourselves we may find that we've become kind of an asshole along the way.
A beautiful woman who mistreats or disregards others is no different than a rich man who does the same thing, and she risks the same fate: a life apart from others, never truly loved or respected for who she is; ultimately she may find herself alone. She will spend her life being pulled close by those attracted to her appearance and then pushed away when her true nature reveals itself. Faces on which she has grown used to seeing admiration will eventually show her disillusionment, reproach, rejection. When her looks melt away like a mouthful of cotton candy (and they will, remember that: beauty is only lent to us for a time), so will her sense of self and her passkey to the world. In the words of Benjamin Constant, "She was a beauty in her youth, a fact which she alone remembers." Physical attractiveness is fleeting, but memories of slights and injuries both real and imagined live long and long, and grow like poisonous toadstools with time and retelling. Rich pricks and gorgeous bitches (and rich bitches and gorgeous pricks) don't have true friends, and when life hurts them or wears them down as it does to all of us, no one is sorry, and no one offers them a hand without wanting something in return. In the end, we will all be left with what we have offered others and nothing more.
Privilege is seductive and dangerous: it is a way with many pitfalls, in which our weaknesses of character are tested, revealed, and even magnified. Beauty, as with all things that have profound effect and can be used to enormous advantage, is a double-edged sword, and, like any kind of power, can corrupt.
10/31/2005 2:20 pm
The female body is God's greatest invention. Too bad he didn't publish a manual on faultless operation of the plumbing and wiring. However it would probably come to us in Japanese translated into their idea of English, leading to even graver errors than we make empirically, along with the joys.|