It's been coming up a lot more recently. Like, so much so that it's almost unsettling. Over the past few months it has become incredibly rare that I get a compliment not tied to the way I look.
"Charity, you're so attractive."
"I wish I had your smile."
"Your eyes are just perfect."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not being ungrateful or making an attempt at humility or self-deprecation. I really do appreciate the sweet words. But it's started to bother me to a weird degree and this post is about why.
First of all, pretty implies a lot of things. At least in my experience with media and peers, pretty means you aren't held to the same standard of morality as so many others. If you can flash a winning smile you can get out of the speeding ticket with a warning or get the cup of coffee at a discounted price (if not for nothing at all). Pretty gets away with poor choices. Pretty gets things for free. Pretty just doesn't have to work as hard.
This is where the pretty-does-not-equal-smart stereotype comes from. Pretty learns from very early on that in life, stuff will just be handed to her. Oftentimes this means that she just doesn't strive to improve herself or sharpen her mind because she doesn't need to. Other times she may be absolutely brilliant but it gets overlooked because she has clear skin and shiny hair. Tell me honestly, how many times have you looked at a physically attractive person and unintentionally assumed that they were not too bright?
Yeah. That's what I thought.
Then there's the whole thing about looking in a mirror and having nothing but disgust for yourself in spite of what everyone says. Pretty is better according to, well, everyone. And so we shave and bleach and starve and paint and think that maybe we can someday be that. Pretty has completely consumed our society. It's eating us alive and while there have been attempts, no one really knows how to stop it.
"Don't worry, you're prettier than her."
I've been told this a handful of times before by men (and women) just trying to boost my self-image. But contrary to popular belief, it is not a compliment. It's a competition that none of us signed up for. It leads to arrogance and tearing each other down. It is so unhealthy.
But the thing that irks me the most about this is that there is so much more to me than pretty. When a person sees me or talks to me and out of all the things in the world that they could say, choose to compliment the random selection of genes that make up my outer shell, I can't help but wonder what it is that I'm doing wrong. I'm smart, I'm talented, I'm outgoing. Why does everyone only see the pretty?
So call me brilliant. Tell me I have a phenomenal singing voice or writing ability far beyond my years. Call me brave and tell me that my sense of adventure is inspiring to you. Even more than all of that, tell me that my love of my Designer makes you want to chase Him even more.
But don't call me pretty. That is not what I want my legacy to be.