You Don't Have to Be Pretty

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I read this post today and it really got me thinking about the idea behind "prettiness." The article is titled, "You Don't Have to Be Pretty," and it focuses on the idea that women often feel a pressure "to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness" in order to appease other people. It reminded me of another article I read about a month ago on Jezebel: "Should We Tell Little Girls They're Pretty?"

It's an extremely complex question, because while we shouldn't be teaching girls that looks are their most important asset, we should really be asking what exactly we mean by "pretty." What does the word mean, anyway?

I'm probing this because I'm thinking about the name of this very blog and if it really corresponds with how I actually want to represent it. My widget defines "pretty" as: attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome. Curious! If I had known that, I certainly would not have named my blog Prettier World (plus, Delicately Attractive but Not Quite Beautiful World was already taken).

What I was focusing on in naming my blog was the er in prettier: not accepting just a what-you-see-is-what-you-get aesthetic in life, but gaining a deeper appreciation for places, people and things that are holistically, intrinsically beautiful, quirks and all, and beyond a simple first impression. We all know that feeling of falling in love with someone or something the more time we spend with him or her or it. The more we get to know the object, we grow to appreciate its imperfections that, in the end, become the things we love most. They become prettier, and they become real. In a way, maybe it's better that pretty things aren't, according to the dictionary, "truly beautiful"? I'm not sure "true beauty" is all it's cracked up to be.

But I digress. Why not call little girls pretty? Because they'll grow vain and all they'll care about is how they look? Maybe. What if we say, "that dress you picked out is pretty" or "you did your hair pretty today"? What differences do semantics make so long as we're getting the same idea across - that it's what a girl (and any person) does and earns for herself that should be commended?

At the same time, I will acknowledge that we are visually-driven. We're humans. I refuse to not smile and flirt with a cute baby, because when I see an adorable baby, that's pleasing to me somewhere deep down in a core I can't control. It's true when some people see certain animals. It's true, obviously, with sexual attraction for both sexes and all orientations. Looks play a huge role in first impressions, and even though attractiveness varies widely from person to person, that initial attraction is based on a first physical impression. We can't be so naive to think that, even if we never call a little girl pretty, she won't someday experience a man telling her she looks good. And that she will not gain some sort of self-esteem boost or at least mild pleasure from it.

We can't change human nature, and we can't expect ourselves or anyone else to give no regard to the way people look. It's the emphasis that matters, and it's up to each individual (and, in the case of these little girls, every parent) to shift that emphasis and to appreciate the un-truly beautiful in the pretty.

Finding it too difficult to find a picture that corresponded well with this post, I just picked the last photo I admired, by the ever-talented Abby


Holly Anne said...

I thought pretty was equal to beautiful... interesting post. i think that everyone has something pretty/beautiful/intriguing about them. maybe it is because i like to take photos that i try to find beauty in everything and everyone, but as soon as i tried to see the world that way i became a lot happier ;)

Carolynn Cecilia said...

This topic is coming up a lot lately. The Huffington Post article from last month was also a great well of information and ideas.

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