Beauty is as beauty does.


When I got out of the pool, a group of boys shouted at me, “Hey, you’re ugly.” I was 19. They were 12. And though I know better, it has been near impossible not to equate beauty with success. Or more to the point–if I were prettier, I’d be more successful and more talented. More the fool me.

Anyway. I saw these videos which I can’t manage to post here, but it would be grand if you went and had a look. (And told me what you thought.)

How about you? Do you ever think (wonder) that you’d be more successful if you looked different?

12 thoughts on “Beauty is as beauty does.

  1. This isn’t just false perception. Many, many studies have been done showing that taller, better-looking (by societal, Hollywood-type standards) people earn more money, get job offers, have more monetary success and opportunities in every industry.

    For myself, I have self-image issues. I do. I believe fully if I were taller and thinner (better looking wouldn’t hurt either), better in this way, that way, the other way … I’d be successful. Worse, though, I believe I’d be HAPPIER.

    Yep. I’m in it to my eyeballs.

    1. The tall/thin thing has driven me crazy since I was old enough to care about such things. Everywhere I’d look (and plenty of my friends) said that being tall & thin was where it was at. If only they could be… So, when I went month after month without a date, years without a boyfriend, (because like lots of women I judged myself based on how men saw me) I could only think–I’m tall, thin and blue-eyed…something must really be wrong with me.

      My shorter friends would always complain and I’d want to shake them because they’d have boyfriends. They’d have dates. Guys talked to them! But you know, we’re all in it up to our eyeballs.

  2. I agree with what Darc said, with emphasis on the “just” in his first sentence — a lot of it is false perception, too. I don’t know how women keep from being driven insane by the Hollywood/Madison Avenue bombardment.

    (It’s hard not to be a bit cynical, too, about Dove’s having made those little films — there’s definitely a “Dove woman” type, after all, a sort of fresh natural (fighting the air quotes here) wholesome woman with flawless skin and silken hair, who presumably bathes in rain water (except on Saturday nights, when warm milk and rose petals is the bathwater of choice).)

    Wouldn’t it be nice to think that the online revolution would be the end of all that? that people would finally concede that who’s “attractive” has little (if not quite nothing) to do with their weight/height/hair color/etc. — and a lot (if not quite everything) to do with their manner of speech, what they speak about, how they reciprocate the attraction, and all that?

    I bet those 12-year-olds were in for a lot of shock and disappointment later in life, when they discovered that they weren’t — they almost certainly couldn’t be — regarded as Hollywood-handsome, and had to hurry up and develop personalities (or at least personas) to make up for it.

    And then there’s the whole issue for writers: if we truly want to be open-minded about these issues, how good are we at avoiding the physical stereotypes for our characters? In our heads, do our characters look “plain” — i.e., just fine, in the middle of the bell curve — or do we exaggerate features to emphasize personality traits? Is it important to avoid the stereotypes? Can we afford to avoid them?

    1. I don’t know, JES. Maybe many of us are insane.

      And yes, I thought that too about the Dove campaign. They are in it to make money after all. But even if it is done for cynical reasons, something good can come out of it. Some girl out there might think more about those magazine cover models. So whatever their motivation, I’ll take the concept.

      I bet those boys have no idea that something they said years ago and quickly forgot, has stuck with someone for years. The carelessness of youth!

      Oh characters. I struggle with that. And I don’t know how to answer the question–but it is good to ask.

  3. Knyt: But why do attractive people make more money, on average? Is it because they are attractive or because we’re taught attractive people are worth more, overall?

    JES: I think even if we make our characters plain, if Hollywood ever gets ahold of them, they will be fit into the Hollywood box. Happens all the time.

    Marta, I used to think if I were prettier life would be easy, partly because of my mom’s bias and low body image. When I aged enough to separate myself from the young thing I used to be, I finally started seeing how pretty I was in my youth, and it didn’t make it easier. Don’t you see how pretty you were? I won’t ask if you see how pretty you are, because it’s hard to be objective about your current state, but I’ve certainly learned to back off judging myself. I’ve never had a realistic view of myself, so I can’t be trusted.

    Your title is right on, pretty is as pretty does. It’s all about knowing you’re attractive, even with your flaws. I love those videos, and I love the campaign. I think what JES said about the internet leveling the playing field certainly applies to me. Seeing so many more types of people than I ever would otherwise helps with the judging I mentioned earlier.

    1. Sherri, I guess that’s just one reason to say no the first time someone wants to option a book of mine. 🙂

      Seriously though: in my WIP, one of the main characters is, well, fat. Like 350 pounds. It’s not incidental to his nature; it’s important. The idea that someone remotely more svelte might be cast to play him, just ’cause he’s a hero — wow, that would really bug me.

      1. They might not change that depending on who made the film, but take into evidence–

        Frankie & Johnny. They Michelle Pipher (sp?) to play a role that was ALL ABOUT BEING A PLAIN JANE.

        And then there was the American take on the Brit com Red Dwarf. The character is supposed to be a mess. You’re supposed to believe that even though he is the last man in the universe, he still can’t get a girl. (of course, the guy isn’t ugly either, but he is neither tall nor svelte.) In the American version they made him a hunk.

        One does despair.

      2. Yeah, the movie I had in mind was Where the Heart Is, based on the novel by Billie Letts. They cast Ashley Judd to play a woman who (in the book but not in the movie, obviously) is obese and obsessed with dieting. I guess it could have been a time issue, taking out that sub-plot of the supporting character, but…No, I changed my mind. It would have fit just fine. I was mad through the whole movie.

        Having said that, if somebody waved some dough in my face, I’d probably let ’em make my movie with whomever they wanted. I’m easy.

    2. When I was a kid, my dad would joke that he was going to use my school picture to scare the roaches away. When I was teen there was the boy who said he liked me, but I wouldn’t impress his friends. And then there was the tactophobe boyfriend, who could not find me even attractive enough to kiss goodnight. And I hardly feel it is worth it to go on about such things, but, while sometimes I do think–hey, that girl in the picture isn’t so bad–I have a hard time believing it. Always working on it though. Trying my best.

  4. Oh no, I love myself just the way I am. *sarcasm*

    I always thought of myself as plain, then I came across some old pics of me – when I still had old pics – and realized that the girl in the photos was actually kind of pretty. Not so much anymore, aging and all that. We are never as good as we want to be. I should be taller, thinner, younger, prettier.

    But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think my husband is a stud, he thinks I’m a babe, so other opinions don’t seem to matter as much anymore. Except, you know, some of those internal ones that never seem to quite go away.

    And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen all these pictures you’ve posted, and I think you’re quite lovely. Reading your posts, I think that loveliness is also on the inside too, where it counts the most.

    I think when people like us, our faces become cherished, because they represent the person that is cared about. “That is Marta’s face – I like Marta, so the face that belongs to her is lovely for that simple fact alone.” I bet your son’s face is one of the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, because it belongs to him and you love him so much. 🙂

    1. I’m with DarcsFalcon all the way.

      I’ve fought my own “shoulds” all my life, but I’m down to one instead of 12 (yay for progress) and I’m resigned to the fact that as long as Bowser thinks I’m babe-a-licious then it’s all good. 😎

      Even though I have my own “should” (my should is “firmer”), I look at my friends and husband and children and I think they are perfect. Like DF said, “faces become cherished.” The thing that kill me about plastic surgery and photoshopping are they steal away someone’s face or body. They steal away a person’s story and smooth over some very cherishable features.

      And, I know kiddo is still young, but you’ll soon realize that 12 year old boys are stupid and speak out of their asses when around their friends. I’d bet $10 that this part of you will heal a bit when kiddo is 12 and you see what his friends are like.

      I don’t think you are beautiful, I know you are beautiful. Beguiling even. Yes, particularly beguiling.

  5. Meant to tell you, I just reviewed a non-fiction book which had much to say about attractiveness. The author had this one throwaway line which nearly knocked me over with surprise. Something like, “As most researchers know, if you take any random sample of 100 facial photos and combine their features, the resulting ‘average’ face is invariably beautiful.” That word “any” — wow, instant whiplash!

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