Friday, 19 October 2012

Are You Unusually Good-Looking?

Well, I suppose this is somewhat outrageous, but I am a bit outrageous, as you know. And I am interested to know what it is that unusually good-looking people might have to complain about.

It is a myth that unusually good-looking people get asked out on dates all the time; sometimes they feel that their beauty isolates them. And of course they might have to deal with the resentment of others and think that if they don't act friendly and happy simply all of the time, others will snarl at them.

Speaking from a philosophical and religious point of view, all human beings are beautiful because each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. The Facebook friend of a Facebook friend has a campaign to get strangers to say that her sister with Down Syndrome--who doesn't think she is beautiful--is beautiful. And philosophically and religiously speaking, she is very beautiful indeed. Aesthetically speaking, which I suspect was the actual concern of the young lady with Down Syndrome, she has lovely eyes.

It is hard to have a serious conversation about the aesthetic beauty of human beings even though it is an absolute obsession in every culture. There has even been an attempt to quantify it, with such measurements as the "millihelen" and discussions about symmetry. The inability to have a frank and serious talk about it may be because we notice from the cradle that children more beautiful than we are get more attention, and we don't like it. It is particularly galling when beauty seems to be more important than any other consideration, including being good. I suspect there have been attempts by Christians--like the nineteeth century Canadian Presbyterian ladies Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up around--to dethrone beauty as a virtue, but they have been drowned by the pagan love-of-beauty juggernaut.

As a Christian, I feel that I should not notice when people are aesthetically pleasing and should value them only for their goodness. But as a sinner and an artist (which is not the same thing), I always notice when people are aesthetically pleasing and like to be around unusually good-looking people--to a point. If a beautiful person really shocks the stuffing out of me, I do not want to hang around. And, of course, many men look best when they are 19 or 20, and it would not be appropriate for 39+ Auntie S. to hang out with 20 year olds. At least, not now that I have just said that.

As for one's own beauty, it is very hard to be a judge. I was told almost every school day for about seven years by other children that I was irredeemably ugly. On the bright side, I was told almost every school day for about seven years by adults that I was incredibly smart. Thus I tend to labour under twin delusions that I am both uglier and smarter than I actually am. But a quick look at the one school photo I have on my computer reveals that I was a pretty little girl, albeit with a pink and undistinguished nose, and a study of my bank account reveals a decidedly impractical nature.

Fortunately for my self esteem, a number of eccentric men--usually ones who fixate on strawberry-blondes--have assured me that I am incredibly beautiful, all that and a bag of chips, etc. My husband thinks the blue-eyed strawberry-blonde Maxine on "Jewish Mum of the Year" is very beautiful, and we all know about his lifelong crush on Dame Emma.

It is thanks to these strawberry-blonde loving eccentrics--bless their hearts--that I can discuss the aesthetic beauty of humans without falling into a deep depression and can admire beautiful women without resentment. Oh, and thanks to B.A. I can admire other handsome men without wanting to possess them and grinding my teeth to stumps because I can't.

Well, enough about me. It would be kindly if the unusually good-looking were to tell the rest of us their reflections on what it has meant to them to be unusually good-looking. Anonymous comments are allowed, and even the reflections of unusually handsome men are welcome, but I now have 24/7 internet access so I will be weeding the combox with a merciless hand. Nobody is allowed to mock anyone in my combox.

If you are genuinely confused as to whether you are unusually good-looking or not, ask yourself how frequently you have heard the sentence "You should be a model." By the way, if you used to be unusually good-looking (e.g. in your twenties) and you no longer are, I'd be interested in hearing about what that is like, too. Is it a relief or a loss or both?

Update: My electronic spy says someone in the USA recently typed "What to do when your boyfriend is discerning the priesthood?" into a search engine. The short answer is dump him now. Either he is being called by God to be a priest, in which case you don't want to get in the way, or he is just not that into you, in which case you don't want to be his cozy little security blanket.

Tell him you can still be friends, and you will pray for him and hope he will be very happy. When you have finished crying and throwing things in private, have a girls' night in which your friends make you the center of attention. "I Will Survive" is a song that will be conducive to your healing. Don't take him back without an abject and tearful apology.

Update 2: A very sensible objection from a reader who was in the boyfriend-discerning boat: As a woman married to a man who tried the discernment card when he got cold feet, I couldn't disagree with your advice on what to do with a discerning boyfriend more. At least in my situation, the correct answer was, "What did your spiritual director say? Oh, you don't have one? Then get one and if he tells you we need to stop dating, I'll understand." Father Spiritual Director concelebrated our Nuptial Mass a year later and baptized our first child a little over a year after that. Well, nothing succeeds like success! I'll point out merely that my reader took charge of the situation by suggesting a spiritual director and by pointing out this discernment might mean no more her (because a spiritual authority would say so). I admit that her real-life approach is a lot more sensitive than mine. But both approaches are better than being strung along for five years and then dumped a week before Boyfriend the Pinhead is ordained to the diaconate. And I know such things happen because a once heard such a story from an overly smug priest right from his pulpit. I think we were supposed to go, "Awwwww!"


Meaghen said...

I think judging looks based on how many people have said you could model will get you skewed results - mostly because models not only have to be stunning, they have to be six feet tall and rail thin. That description would not fit a lot of movie stars that we consider to be supernaturally beautiful. I suppose if you mean 'model' in a wider sense - commercials or print, anything where your face/body would be an advertisement, it makes more sense. Another test might be how often you have been pre-judged based on your looks (like the slightly crazy Samantha Brick from several months ago - she still had a point).

Alice said...

Dear Seraphic,
As a woman married to a man who tried the discernment card when he got cold feet, I couldn't disagree with your advice on what to do with a discerning boyfriend more. At least in my situation, the correct answer was, "What did your spiritual director say? Oh, you don't have one? Then get one and if he tells you we need to stop dating, I'll understand." Father Spiritual Director concelebrated our Nuptial Mass a year later and baptized our first child a little over a year after that.

It wasn't the first time I'd seen someone do that, though, because it happened frequently among the women I knew in college. "Oh, I'm sure this is Mr. Right! Doesn't that mean I'm supposed to be a nun?" We were blessed with a very, very wise sister who was in charge of the women's discernment group who helped so many of us distinguish between fear and a religious vocation. Oddly enough, the boyfriends were usually very supportive, telling their young ladies that they needed to visit convents so that they wouldn't bring all kinds of "what ifs" into their marriages.

Anonymous said...

Does your mom calling you beautiful count? lol.

In all seriousness, though I've never been told I should be a model (at least not lately), I have been told I'm beautiful many times to the point that, hey, maybe there's some truth to it. And also have been told I look like many actresses considered beautiful, to the point of improbability.

That said, I'm miserable. So here's what I think is going on:

I'm pretty or beautiful enough for people to think "she's pretty but not smiling, what does she have to complain about? She's probably a b*&ch/snob" (i.e. enough for people to get their guard up around me), but not pretty or beautiful enough for men to unadulteratedly lay themselves down at my feet.

Andrea said...

Very hard to comment on this post, I suspect for most of your readers, because even if some are unusually good looking, they will also be humble folks not believing it at all when people say they are good looking.

I have a somewhat related thought, however, and that is that whatever you were in high school is what you carry forward into your adult life. So many of the very pretty, popular girls are no longer pretty and popular now, but they may maintain that image as it is what they were told day after day in school: You are pretty and popular.

I know that I was not told this, ever, in school. And so I do not believe it today when people tell me I am pretty. Which doesn't happen a lot, but does sometimes. I flat out don't see it, and I suspect it's because in those formative years i either wasn't beautiful or was never told I was beautiful, and either way, it's not something I think about myself now.

In my old age now (36) I have this immense appreciation, growing, that I am healthy though, and can run and leap and do the things I want. Beauty is somewhat besides the point at this point in my life.

that said, I am going on a highly anticipated date this weekend and you can bet your bottom dollar I will spend time "trying to look beautiful." ha!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if I am beautiful, no one has ever told me that I am, I do know on some days I look "nice" because that is what people say.

I think I am beautiful, not perfect of course, but I have a nice face, at least that is what the mirror tells me - but it hasn't resulted in men falling for me. I think I lack and attractiveness that sometimes comes with beauty.

I am not going to sign my name on this one just because I feel vain calling myself beautiful. Which I feel like I shouldn't feel vain, but I do.

~Vanity Fair

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Does anyone actually think she is beautiful? It seems like women, no matter how nice they look, are always obsessing about their perceived physical flaws.

But maybe my perceptions are skewed because I had my nose in a book all during high school and had no clue who was considered beautiful and popular.


P.S. Actually, having reread my first sentence, I have to add that even though I don't think I am conventionally beautiful, my late husband certainly made me *feel* beautiful. That is a very good trait in a husband.

Anonymous said...

This is a very Zoolander question and I feel weird answering it because I don't think I can do so in a way that doesn't make me sound awful.

I've always been called, even in my awkward teenaged super-unpopular years, when I sure as heck didn't think it was true, very pretty. Upon arrival in college, I was suddenly made aware by people outside my ordinary universe that I was cute/beautiful/hot/what have you. Bear in mind I am (still, at 30) a glasses wearing, petite brunette with a love of slightly off beat clothing. I'm thin, but at 5' 4", modeling has never really been an option, though someone once called me a pocket sized super model. I'm also married and quite pregnant at the moment, which means I hear from my wonderful husband daily how beautiful I am. Back when I was a hip little single I guess I had two vibes I gave out-one was the approachable, cute, smart girl, because of a tendency to smile when feeling overwhelmed or shy. The other was what Anonymous above mentioned- to be thought a snob etc. because I wasn't smiling or playing along with whatever half-witted attempt at gallantry was being flung in my direction. Both had pros and cons. I was approached frequently by intensely icky men of dubious intention and hipstery appearance because, if I was smiling, I looked readily available. If I wasn't smiling, or I was unresponsive I would be insulted (along the lines of "can't you just take a COMPLIMENT? What's wrong with you?").

Basically, like anything else, it had its good points and its bad points. I like feeling like I look pretty, but I don't feel like that most days. And on the days I do feel like Maria from West Side Story, I usually end up falling over while standing still, or, after one glass of wine, and I start throwing my silverware about accidentally.

Bernal Diaz del Castillo said...

Well, since Seraphic says my earlier comment on previous post partly inspired this, in which I made the absurd assertion that "when I am in full form I am attractive," to subsequent silence in the combox, I'll assume that I was teased for it, and Seraphic mercilessly weeded the critique.

Or not. It's funny how physical beauty, or the lack of it, is the object of such self obsession. The most likely source of vanity, both when you have it and when you don't. As Seraphic says, intelligence is the only other thing that breeds such contempt for self and others, and it comes a far second to physical beauty. Because vanity is a type of pride where you glory in what is accidental, gifted, received and make a type of idol out of yourself, placing yourself above others, and God..

I'll just say that I am under no great illusion that I am exceptionally attractive, and only make the assertion that I am occasionally somewhat so, based on the emphatic reactions of others. Those reactions are frequently annoying, because to be very honest, to be the object of desire is unsettling, and both feed vanity and disrupt one's enjoyment of the moment, because you have to deflect other people's advances, which takes energy and grace, if you want to do it well. It's dangerous to one's peace of mind and soul, to be desired.

And Lucifer appears beautiful, doesn't he? And according to Isaiah, Christ had " no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men.. his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not."

I'm not just waxing philosophic and making lemonade when I say it's better to be ignored than the object of adulation. Nuns take the veil for a reason. It's because they seek the attention of God alone of all men, whose assessment of beauty is one with his assessment of truth and goodness, because the three transcendentals are in fact like the Trinity in that they are all one, inseparable. And man is not their judge.

I'm not negatively seeking flattery in that first paragraph, by the way. Being a hetro male is both a curse and a blessing, because we get to both love women (who are all beautiful, and that beauty is a fine thing) while having to put up with you. Men really are somehow simpler in how we desire. You girls are all riddle and paradox, and trying to figure you out is - besides impossible - quite a chore. Being gay or a monk would be so much easier..

Terrified of Men said...

Hm. Well, I'm "Terrified of Men" from yesterday's combox and I have been told that I'm pretty, even beautiful, and look like certain famous, beautiful actresses. I've never been told to be a model, though, so I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle. I feel like I'm the kind of a girl a guy would like to settle down with and that seems to be the majority of the male attention I get. I have friends who are dating now, both of whom are beyond gorgeous. I think they find their beauty frustrating since it gets one of them all but stalked and the other hit on all the time by guys she would really rather not be around. She used to tell me all the time she wished she were dating so she would stop getting hit on, or could at least have a good excuse for turning them down. She also finds that they, as a couple, get an unusual amount of attention. Being a shy, quiet person, she doesn't like that everyone seems to care so much about them. I told her it was because both of them are good looking and that's just the way it is. She, being humble, didn't comment. :) All of that said, I don't think they would trade their beauty. It's a blessing in some ways and a curse in others.

Also, I have to say that goodness in people is ultimately much more attractive than beauty. I'd rather take a mediocre looking man with a heart of gold over a jerk with a gorgeous face any old day.

Jackie said...

Hrmmm! Very interesting question. My grandmother used to say "Beauty is pain" and from the experience of high heels, hair dye and a restrictive diet I cannot disagree. The times I have looked the most supposedly beautiful have been the times I have been the hungriest, for sure.

My experience with this phenomenon has been one of profound discomfort:

Men asking to take pictures of me for later (eek! No thank you); men taking pictures of me surreptitiously; worst of all men taking the pics in secret then telling other people about it, with me finding out through a 3rd party (EEEK!!!).

(I should say, then, that there was nothing I should be ashamed of on the pictures. Some were even just my face. It's the idea of being a utilitarian object, without even getting permission to have your own person reproduced. Blech!!)

And in my experience, it's not like you can ever enjoy it from "the beautiful side." Even compliments -- recently someone called me a "9+" on the 10-pt scale-- aren't really a compliment. To be numbered is rather de-humanizing, insulting even.

And it's not like it's some eternal verity that is going to last. If someone has placed you on a pedestal it's only a matter of time before the plaster cracks or you get tipped (or pushed) over.

Lastly (and then I'll shut up!) I think that whatever looks you have, it tends to pre-influence people's perceptions. And they have been, at times, disappointed when the cover doesn't match the book. When your personality or quirks seem to contradict their pre-formed image of you. It's almost as if you are a thing or toy doll more than a real person.

This was waaaaay too long! Sorry, Seraphic!

Seraphic said...

Don't apologize! That was exactly the sort of comment I was hoping for. My mother used to say that if I looked like Brooke Shields, I'd just have Brooke Shields' problems, and it just occurred to me to wonder what those problems (besides being in "Pretty Baby" at 12) might be!

There were only 2 comments yesterday. I didn't have to do any weeding. Haven't had to do any weeding today, either.

Anonymous for obvious reasons said...

I don't perceive myself as uncommon or beautiful, but I think I am, based on other people's reactions.

Part of it is that I learned early on that attention from men--bad and good--was just going to be a part of my life. Lots of it. It started when I was 12.

It's made me a bit bored with men and dating in general.

I've been held to a higher standard of behavior than other women. I like flirtation and banter as much as the next girl, but what is girlish flirtation in one girl is vixenish in me.

I think also, the way I look matches up to a lot of men's romantic notion of a mysterious or artistic ideal, so I get a lot of strange projection.

The weirdest thing, though, is knowing that the way people perceive me is not the way I perceive myself--I can't be objective or aestheticize my own face, because it's so much mine.

Also weird is knowing I have to constantly check my experience of dating against the fact that I am in some ways an outlier.

The most interesting thing is that I am endlessly unphotogenic, and so while people often tell me I should model, I know I wouldn't last a day.

The weirdest part is that, like most people I think, I

Anonymous for obvious reasons said...

oops--forgot to finish deleting a thought up there.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go off topic a bit because I don't fall in the category of super beautiful, or even pretty but this is a topic I think about a lot. I think that personality is a much bigger and better asset to anybody - man or woman - when it comes to the dating world. And that's just the truth. You always hear: oh she's such a smart, beautiful woman, why is she still single, blah, blah blah. You are much less likely to hear, "oh he or she is such a wonderful personality and fun to be around, I wonder why he or she is still single?" And you have to know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about the girl on campus that was friends with everyone, was charming, charismatic, always happy and had that sparkle in her eye that made you feel like you were the most special person in the world. It was her confidence that got her courted by the most attractive man on campus, not looks, brains or any talent that we all might aspire to have in order to bring good relationships in our lives.

Why? Because at the end of the day relationships and love is an emotional business, and those with emotional strength, force and confidence are those that are most "lucky" in love. By the way, those are the people that we are least likely to be jealous of, because they're so likeable!

Men and women both want someone they can talk to and be around under any circumstances and enjoy their company. So whether you are at the opera, a fancy dinner or a rock concert the most exciting thing is being around someone you can talk to and connect with in an emotionally meaningful way.

Your happiness is driven by one thing predominantly, the quality of your relationships. Beauty, Intelligence and wit are all good things but it can end up alienating you from other people. Sometimes it can make the one who possesses these things feel entitled, or sometimes it can be the insecurities of others that are heaped on to you.

BTW "Bernal" men are not as simple as they appear. This is over 20 years dating experience talking here. Married women constantly talk about how men are hard to understand, so don't feel like men are the only ones that wrestle with the mystery of the opposite sex. In fact, mystery is the point and trying to fully understand another is more about control and a false sense of security than anything else and entirely beside the whole point of love.

Bernal Diaz del Castillo said...

More about control and false sense of security, eh? That seems about right. Touché.

n.panchancha said...

Re: Anonymous comment that "This is a very Zoolander question" - HA.

From someone who is not really, really ridiculously good-looking... should I even be answering? - but it is something I've thought about before. I've worked on-and-off with a Catholic midnight street outreach program to young women in the sex trade, and the way we value (and talk about) beauty becomes problematic in that context. Most of these are young, often shockingly attractive women, almost all of whom have heard from (good and bad) men that they're beautiful since they were very young, and who very likely have suffered a lot because of the attention. These women don't need someone to tell them they're physically beautiful - or, as they've experienced it, valued as something to be possessed and used; they need to know they're valued as human beings.

That being said, I think it's very possible to love human beauty without desiring to possess it or objectify the person. It's occurred to me that God likely delights in a person's particular beauty, not because that person is better than other people, but because beauty is good, and reflects him. I wish there were a way to express that to women who have suffered because of their beauty - even to celebrities.

Physical beauty is particularly tricky, I think, because it's so obviously undeserved. We can't do anything about our genes, nor, often, about the circumstances in which we're raised, so it seems unfair to praise a person for being naturally beautiful when he/she had no say in the matter. And we could go on forever about how this places pressure on the rest of us to become more physically beautiful, by whatever means necessary.

But isn't there, I wonder, a way to admire human beauty, without valuing beautiful people any more highly than ordinary or homely ones? I fully agree with what Seraphic says about every person being inherently beautiful, because each person is made in the image and likeness of God - and this is a great mystery... BUT... we're creatures with bodies and faces! And some of us have especially beautiful bodies and faces. And I do think that those bodies and faces matter - not more than goodness and kindness and courage and faithfulness and humility (in fact, less than those things), but as well as them.

This might be very wrong, but I wonder if perhaps part of the problem is not loving beauty, so much as covetousness and/or envy. Is there a way to separate them, I wonder, or is this prelapsarian thinking?

Urszula said...

I feel like I'm going to echo a lot of what has already been said above, but since you asked, Seraphic...

I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm exceptionally beautiful, but have been told that many times, and my figure and hair color fit into the currently popular slim, long-legged blond model. I also know I have a 'baby face' which makes people think I am innocent and way younger than I am. I'm also friendly and I tend to smile a lot which I suppose makes them think I am approachable.

In my case it was something of an ugly duckling story since I didn't really grow into my skin until I was 22 (my teenage years were the awful, stereotypical shy girl with large glasses and braces and no fashion sense trying to make guys notice her). So I've experienced being both unattractive and attractive and I can't really complain about the latter, except for...

the attention. If you don't have it, you yearn for it. If you have it, you find yourself yearning for the days when you didn't get catcalls on the street (especially in the south of France...) or your male boss(es) didn't try to hit on you or the creepy guy didn't try to follow you home from the metro. It's fun for a while, but frankly it's sometimes just annoying - and dangerous.

And this may sound like a first-world problem (or reference Samantha Brick), but people seem to think they can make any insulting remark they want about a slim person. Believe me, I don't starve or exercise myself into oblivion. My Polish grandma never succeeded in fattening me up even through 10 years of feeding me potatoes and kielbasa ;)

I think the problem with being pretty is people either think you are superficial, or are superficial themselves in how they react to you. It can also make you blase and kind of cynical - it's hard to believe the men are all sincere in their appreciation if most of them just want to sleep with you.

Anonymous said...

It feels so prideful to talk about myself in this way, but here goes…
I have gotten the model comment many times, and since I’m thin, in my 20’s, and 5’10, I fit the whole package. I also get told that I look like a particular famous movie star, on more than 5 separate occasions. I wouldn’t call myself shy, but I wouldn’t put myself in the attention seeking category either. I’m somewhere in between. I think I have a very innocent face, and I think that saves me from the more crude comments some gals get.

One struggle as an attractive woman that I face is coming across as intimidating to guys. I’m usually taller than the average guy, and along with my looks I think they quit even before they start. (I feel that girls who are less striking get the better deal in regards to attention from guys.) In the traditional Catholic community so many men are man-boys, they don’t know how to act around women! For example: I went to a wedding this summer, that there quite a few beautiful, eligible, encouraging, single women there, including myself. There was also a large group of good looking single guys. Out of this large group of guys, only about 4 of them were on the dance floor dancing with the girls. (And I’m talking about swing dancing and typical wedding freestyle, nothing complicated or dirty.) The rest of the guys? Outside smoking pipes. The entire time. My own father, after the wedding, expressed his shock with these words, “What is up with these guys? They had a handful of beautiful girls at their fingertips, and they were outside smoking? What is wrong with them! When I was their age, everything was about girls!”

The only other thing I have noticed is that I tend to gather more admiration from friends who are 30+ years older than me. They adore me and ask why I’m not married yet. “You’re so sweet and a good Catholic girl and so beautiful!” Every time someone says that, I can’t help thinking that I wish a good Catholic guy would say that to me instead.

To finish up, I just want to say to any girl who says to herself, “If only I was more beautiful, I’d get a husband/more dates/attention from guys!”, that I haven’t had a date in over a year, nor do I have any husband prospects in my life. Beauty doesn’t obtain every desire.

Anonymous said...

I'm a late bloomer, and was teased a lot in grade school and felt very self-conscious for a long time about my appearance. By the time I got to highschool and college I had developed confidence in being smart and having an interesting personality, and then somehow in my mid-twenties I got much prettier while losing my earlier confidence because of other things that happened. I get told now fairly frequently that I'm beautiful and on the right days I believe it. I definitely attract a lot more attention from men than I did. And you what? My life hasn't improved. I echo what a lot of the women here are saying--some of the attention is downright creepy, but mostly it's just a string of flakes. I also haven't noticed that men are kinder to me because of my looks. So I basically went right from being ridiculed by boys to ignored by them to flaked out on and prejudged by them because they're expecting me to fit their perfect little wife role or perhaps just their casual little fling. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I'm not quite pretty enough or because I'm too pretty (unlikely...but they do seem intimidated sometimes) or if there's something else about that invites this kind of useless attention. Or if it's just that even as I approach the end of my twenties, men haven't matured at all since highschool. Anyway, lots of dates for me seems to equal lots of rejection and hearthache. I kind of miss the days when I felt confident in spite of not getting a ton of attention but at least believing that love and eventually marriage was something realistic in my future.

And I have a friend who is gorgeous...a definite natural beauty with a lovely personality. She doesn't chase after men, and she often says she wants a confident guy. And what's the result? No men around who fit that description, of course.

I kind of hate being complicated by men. "You're pretty" is such a throw-away phrase that requires NO effort and generally strikes me as being exactly what a man thinks a woman wants to hear. Sorry, this is all a bit cynical. I guess what I'm trying to say is that being at least considered beautiful by other people is worth very, very little.

Anonymous said...

Oops. Meant to say "complimented by men."

Seraphic said...

Goodness me, what great comments! I will be thinking about what you have to say for some time. I don't have any solutions or suggestions, but I am grateful to read the points of view of women who do come under the "unusually good-looking label."

And, yes, I realize how Zoolander my question sounded, but you know what I meant!

CK said...

I don't know!
I'd say I'm happy with how I look. I may not be the most beautiful lady out there, but I honestly would not change my looks.
I have something of a baby face, I think, because countless times I've been told by people that they thought I was younger than I actually am.
I've been called pretty by the man I am very much interested in, so that's what counts to me!

Noelle said...

I am in agreement with a lot of these comments. I'll talk in retrospect because I have a wonderful boyfriend now of over a year that things are looking very good with.

I am also tall and thin, and modeled two shows, and ever since puberty I was getting complimented by older family members and family friends that I was so beautiful and so nice, and they were surprised I didn't have a boyfriend. This was something I was very sensitive about, and for years I felt sick to my stomach because clearly no nice young men my age thought so, so every time I heard that compliment it was like twisting the knife in my stomach because I knew I wanted to date and marry, and I wanted to marry younger anyway. But throughout high school and middle school, I didn't even get asked to dance, let alone as a date to a dance, or even just a little date. Throughout high school my part time job exposed me to a lot of creepy old men too, as other commenters have said. I remember expressing my concerns about why boys didn't like me (I had A LOT of crushes that fell through) to my parents on more than one occasion, and my mom thought they might feel intimidated (I was very book-smart too).

Come college, I made a lot of acquaintances that were nice tall good looking Catholic men, and in the first two weeks, my now boyfriend asked me to dance, and I didn't feel things were so helpless any more. However that first year before we started dating was like high school all over again in some ways, although I did get asked out twice by friends. I remember one occasion that there was an event where everybody was learning how to salsa or something, first individually. But when it came time to pair up, literally I was the only girl left standing alone, and it had to have been one of the most heart breaking moments in my life.

Now my boyfriend tells me that at the time, everybody thought I was really pretty. I think it was something of a curse to be pretty and single for so long. It killed me to have never been the subject of anything but negative attention from men when all I wanted was somebody to love and share myself with.

There is a happy ending though, my boyfriend is very handsome and Catholic and tall, and he is very kind to me, and wants to take me off the market, haha! :)

Anonymous said...

Late bloomer again...

I just read your comment on the other post about beauty being interpreted as aggression, causing people to respond with aggression. I think it's an interesting idea, definitely. I feel like I've experienced a lot of aggression and arguing from men--whether my looks were a factor (which an older woman actually said to me once, now that I think about it) is hard to know. There have been plenty of times when I've simply expressed a differing opinion or wanted to do my own thing, and the reaction from men was over the top and out of control. Once this was with a friends' fiance. A few times it's been with married men who I barely knew and who didn't react to other people the way the way they did to me. A few times it's been with guy friends who it became pretty obvious later one actually did like me.

I definitely don't think I go around driving men mad, but something about me was setting them off. Certainly, these men are NOT normal and probably have a lot of suppressed issues about women. I'm not the type who gets in peoples' faces if there's an issue. I just stand my ground quietly, unless it's gotten to the point where I'm really upset.

And it goes without saying that there have been plenty of married and/or engaged men or whoever who just act normal and kind. It mostly seems to be the ones in my extended social group. But it's happened more than I really care to remember.

And of course anyone who's ever been on a dating website has probably gotten mountains of creepy/threatening/bizarre/lewd messages. I have.

Also, I'm guilty of being weird and shy around the guys I find most attractive, and yeah, it IS sad. It's easy to tell myself, "He's probably taken/not interested/whatever" and then act really distant. I know you talk a lot on here about women who make it too obvious that they're interested but sometimes I envy that it comes so easily to them. A lot men like outgoing, flirtatious women.

Seraphic said...

Hmm. What is with 20 year old men, traditionalism and pipes? It just struck me that Anonymous-at-that-wedding was talking about the USA, which means that both sides of the bond features young men congregating outside with pipes.

I wonder if this is because pipe-smoking is just something very few women outside of the Ozarks would do? I mean, there are women who smoke cigars, but pipes + women conjure up imagines of an Ozarks granny in a rocking-chair with her corn-cob pipe.

If its a Chesterton-Tolkien-Belloc thing, someone should tell all those young men that all the above got married in their twenties. I think. Better check on Belloc.

Seraphic said...

Yes, they all married in their mid-to-late twenties. Interesting.

Frankly, I think one principal reason women marry later now than we did is because men marry later now than they did. However, I can't find it in my heart to blame the under-30 set for neglecting the business of courtship and marriage, for the economy is simply terrible.

Anonymous said...

I never really felt comfortable being who I am until maybe my second year of college (I'm in my mid 20s now). I was always very self conscious in school and growing up. I didn't really feel pretty or anything, even though I am very comfortable with my God-given body/face now.

That maybe had to do with the fact that I felt like my older sister was extremely beautiful and heard lots of people compliment her and me not so much.

Later in college, I traveled to Europe and spent lots of time with friends experiencing culture/nightlife and was often approached by men. I guess I started realizing that maybe I was attractive then and that sort led me to think that I must be pretty if people are complimenting me/giving me attention. And if people weren't, then I wasn't. I kind of became obsessed with making sure I looked perfect/attractive all the time.

Well now a good amount of years later, I know, that's just silly. Truthfully, I can't help my genes. My parents' ethnic backgrounds give me a unique look. Also, I don't need to exercise much to stay thin.

On another note I feel one can contribute to one's appearance and demeanor with the way one dresses and it not be materialistic. I enjoy wearing stylish/flattering/feminine clothing because I feel most comfortable in public when I'm put together.

Miss Doyle said...

I was never told by my mother that I was pretty (in fact I overheard her tell one of the other mothers who did say that, to be quiet or I'd hear!), but I don't think I'm ugly.
I know that I'll be attractive to the man who might want to marry me one day and that's good enough for me.

I have one friend in particular who is absolutely lovely but goes a bit quiet and nervous around men she finds attractive. She does get some unwanted attention and finds it intensely uncomfortable. I've known other girls at school too who had the same problem.
I'd rather be found attractive to fewer men who might fit the bill for me.

I'll put it out there and suggest that the Fall is responsible for women having a difficult time seeing that they are beautiful in the eyes of God. Wasn't that an element of the first sin? The relationship between our first parents and God must have been so intensely intimate for them to see themselves as an integral sharer in God's own nature.
With the fall that's been clouded and hence the misunderstanding between both sexes as well as those particular struggles that women deal with.

Note to self: Learn to graciously receive compliments.

Anonymous said...

Q: Why do young traditional Catholic men smoke pipes?

A: Because they would look absurd carrying around their toy swords.

Seraphic said...

That never stopped anyone in the Knights of Columbus.

Maria said...

About my "good looks":
I am not a supermodel but I'm attractive enough to get propositioned fairly frequently. I don't flirt, I don't lead men on, and I don't throw myself after them, but every time I am disappointed by someone who seemed serious for the first little while and then turns out to only have been after a good time, I sink into self-hating depression and tell myself there must be something wrong with me if he didn't want any more than that, and I must have done something to make him think I was that easy. But if so I haven't figured out what it is. So though I generally have a good view of myself and am happy with my looks, during those phases I am capable of thinking myself ugly. I admit there is almost always a little voice in the back of my mind guffawing and saying "you know that isn't true", which I hope is God and not my vanity :P.
The point is, despite being quite attractive physically (and in my late 20's), I've been asked out on real dates maybe half a dozen times in my whole life (actually I should point out I'm including the hazy "Let's hang out sometime" approach: maybe that doesn't count), so looks don't seem to really have helped. I should add in all honesty that most of the men who asked were completely unattractive to me and quite frankly I would have preferred if they'd never asked. Saying no makes me feel uncomfortable and guilty. MEN: don't make a woman feel as though it is of crucial importance to your future happiness that she go on a date with you! And it takes very little for me to get that impression. But perhaps I am particularly sensitive on this point.
Um, what was the original question? Oh yeah. I guess being good-looking has primarily meant attracting men in a way that's basically useless to me. However, I wouldn't give it up had I the choice because being a beautiful woman is something I hope to give to my husband someday, assuming I get married before I'm 80 ;).
I just looked in the mirror and this entire discourse seems so vain, ahaha. I am sitting in decidedly unsexy pyjamas with bags under my eyes and the morning-after ruins of copious back-combing. It looked good last night...

MaryJane said...

Just a note to Miss Doyle and others who might be interested, there is a book called "Captivating" by John & Stacy Eldgredge. Although they are Protestant, I think their book was one of the best I've seen in working through some of the ideas about women & beauty mentioned briefly by JPII in Mulieris Dignitatem. They especially focus on the lies that Satan tells women about their beauty, and how important women's beauty is in revealing God to the world.

I highly recommend it, with the one exception that they are in favor of rebuking spirits, and the Church of course tells us to leave that to the experienced and instead address only God when we need help from oppression. (Or of course in serious cases, consult an exorcist.)

Alisha said...

Part 1:
These comments are really fascinating...I am intrigued by the idea of beauty being interpreted as aggression - perhaps there is the element on the part of the other person of somehow trying to save face, esp if it is a man - because it is somehow more embarassing to be bested in a discussion or an argument by a beautiful woman. Whether this comes from some kind of prejudice (like pretty women are dumb) or mysoginistic/immature attitudes, who knows but I have found lately that either my radar for rude behaviour from men has become more sensitive, or suddenly there has been an increase in rudeness/inappropriateness around me.
Bernal, your whole comment was awesome - but I disagreed with the last part. It's not true that all women are a riddle; that's too much of a generalization. Besides, if it's true that women tend to talk a lot (another generalization), it is very easy to find out information about what they are thinking and why: my guess is either, if they are open and extroverted, they volunteered information and you didn't notice or if they are introverted, you didn't ask any questions. I don't think sitting around and trying to figure anyone out is a very effective way of determining what is true and it's sort of rooted in pride to think we can decipher particular details about a certain aspect of reality without consulting the reality in question.
But as for the topic at hand, I cannot really comment from experience all that much but I will make a few observations.
- We, as a culture, don't know what to "do", with beauty - in fact, that is the problem: we think we have to be utilitarian and do something with it as opposed to letting it lead us to the infinite. I do see how some clearer social boundaries might help that in male/female interactions without being restrictive of genuine friendships. I was just thinking today that the convention of men not being able to talk to women first on the street (with exceptions perhaps for needing directions or something) would be so helpful for safety, to not feel obliged to entertain a stranger's attentions etc.

Alisha said...

Part 2:
-I also think that social conventions that bring men and women together like dance can be really helpful for so many reasons: it can encourage respect of personal space, appropriate touching etc. if taught properly. It's funny because while I am now used to having people in my personal space, I realized that it has made me very conscious of when people are in my personal space and I am NOT comfortable. I am in a show right now with older men I don't know very well who touch me on the shoulder and arm as though they know me and I have been feeling very uncomfortable - yet I am not nearly as physically close to them as I am when I am dancing with someone! Somehow they have failed to understand that that contact is not something they can take for granted because we are in a certain space - that has to be established, the way that dance establishes an agreed upon space to be closer and create. You can feel it when someone is there for that or has other ideas. I think not having a culture of dance is one of the things that breeds that kind of fear that was spoken of. It used to be a sign of good breeding - you wouldn't give a sword to a man who couldn't dance.
If I was trying to date, I would be very annoyed by men who smoked cigars instead of making an effort to dance precisely because smoking is easy and dance requires far more courage, skill, interaction.
-I have a friend who is extremely good looking, he models, etc...I remember thinking when I first met him that I wanted to not be in any way a bother to him, demanding of his attention because I was sure he got that everywhere so I wanted to be distinct enough so that he would never feel as though I was anything but a sister. I thought it was worth mentioning because perhaps there are some men (or women) out there doing the same - out of respect towards people who they find beautiful, they are trying to be sure to be the opposite of all the creepy, negative attention they know you receive and be as "neutral" as possible so you feel comfortable.
- I think we also need to rebuild a culture of friendship and genuine "seeing" of the other person, basic basic Christian relationships so that this can all be handled in the light of Christ instead of so much fear. Fear is not of Christ.

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

Apologies for being late to this discussion.

I heard "You should be a model" quite a lot in my younger days. Of course, what people mostly meant by that was "At 5'11 and 125 pounds, you won't have to diet! All you need is some serious bra padding." ;)

Magazines lie, and I heartily recommend not wishing to be tall and rail-thin. It has its advantages, of course. I like reaching things off the shelves in grocery stores for short customers. However, I dislike being taller than the majority of men even in stocking feet, let alone heels. And I hate it that department stores don't sell clothes proportioned to look right on my body. They just don't. Sometimes not shoes, either. Even if a store has a few selections in my size, shoes that are cute at size 6 or even 8 look like boats at size 11. They need a pond and a set of oars.

Beauty does not get you married. It gets you looked at, which is nice when it's not creepy. I did not date till I was 28. I wasn't asked. Well, I was once or twice, but only by creepy.

I have long seen boys and men attracted, but not enough to come all the way. Well made up and dressed, I can look close to ten years younger than I am, and I see boys take notice. But only notice. Maybe they see the ring now--and good for them if they do--but that's new.

First boyfriend was uncomfortable with my age--he was much younger--and to some extent my height. Short relationship, that. Second boyfriend was crazy about me. I married him. I got lucky.

I reiterate: some of the most beautiful, well-put-together, good-natured women I've ever known are single over 30. It's natural to want to be beautiful, but I think as women we want that for ourselves. It is not--it is never-- what makes us loved.

Anonymous said...

Not that there's going to be a support group any time soon, but attractiveness can have some weird downsides. I work in a technical field and it's hard enough to be a young woman, let alone an an attractive one. It seems less forgivable (to dermotologists, salespeople, coworkers) that I get older; or don't spend a lot of time or money on my appearance. I also have a little social anxiety, and it's hard to convince yourself that people aren't staring at you or judging you when yes, they're totally staring at you. Boo hoo, I know, but true.