Body Image, Feminism, General Life

“You Would Be So Pretty If…”

We’ve all heard it. “You would be so pretty if…”

“…you just smiled.”
“…you lost some weight.”
“…you changed your hair.”
“…you changed your clothes.”

When I was 18, I had a dentist tell me that I would be “so pretty” and “attract so many boys” if only I just got braces to take care of my crooked teeth. (Well newsflash to THAT dick-for-brains, I’m a lesbian. An even better moment in that story? I was wearing a cheeky shirt that said “I Know What Girls Like” on the front. Guy was a moron.) So let me get this straight (ha), Mr. Dentist-Man. If I spend $2,500 dollars, and two uncomfortable years with a mouthful of metal, I will have done enough to change myself in order to make boys like me? Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Because you know what, when people drop these little lines, these “you would be so pretty if” nuggets, what they are really saying is: “You need to change yourself to measure up to what I find attractive, and only then will you be worthy.” And do you know what I say to those people?

You can fuck right the hell off. Seriously.

This morning, as I was sitting in rage-enducing traffic, I was tagged in a comment, meant to draw my attention to one of these “helpful” commentators. It was on an image of a woman on one of my favorite Facebook pages. She was kind enough to post a picture of herself in a new outfit, so that her fellow clothing-enthusiasts can see the products on her specific body type. In this particular photo, she was rockin’ a new top and some high-waisted shorts, and looked great, just stony-faced. She’s a regular contributor to the page in question, and I always look to her photos to get an idea of how any particular item would look on me, as we are close in shape. To clarify, this girl is a minx. She could be wearing a scowl and a burlap sack, and would still look good. So, when I saw one of those helpful “you would look so good if you just smiled”, I couldn’t help but be indignant.

Excuse me, Sir. She didn’t post that photo for your specialsnowflake eyes, only. In fact, I’d wager a guess that she didn’t post that photo for your eyes at all. (Shock. Gasp. Dismay.) And FURTHERMORE, if you’re only looking at this particular website to scope out clothing options for your wife, why the need for color commentary, huh? The jig is up, perv. And you aren’t fooling anyone.

This scenario is just one of many in which women are treated like, and expected to be accessories or objects. We’re expected to be malleable, and mold to become whatever any given person wants us to be. Because god forbid, we be whatever we want. Or who we are.
I’ll end with this little PSA for anyone who might be guilty of dropping those “helpful” lines:
I am not an accessory. I won’t smile/lose weight/gain weight/change myself just to gain your approval. If you aren’t willing to take me as I am? Well, you can go sit over there in the Box Of Shame with Douchebag Dentist and Pervy Facebook Guy. Because just like them, we don’t care what you have to say, anyway.

20130610-140631.jpgimage from

16 thoughts on ““You Would Be So Pretty If…””

  1. After I went from a bob hairstyle to a pixie cut, I had a guy friend nearly cry and tell me that I would always be cute, but I would just be so much cuter with long hair. Why couldn’t I understand that? Why did I want to damage my attractiveness by chopping off my hair? Don’t I know that guys prefer long hair? Don’t I know that, with my small breasts and short hair, no would would be able to differentiate me from a boy! (Which, by the way, I have never been mistaken for a boy.) Ok, so I embellished that a little, but all of it was implied. I took it gracefully, but the only man whose opinion about my hair holds any weight at all in my husband’s. And even then, I didn’t ask him what I thought before I got my hair cut. I wish that people, instead of commenting on what you should do to make yourself look even better, would just compliment on something they like. “That outfit is awesome!” “Your hair color is great!” “You have such gorgeous eyes!” Or even just shut up. That would work too. Appearances don’t always need to be commented on!

    1. Ah, KyotoRedBird, we meet again! Yep, deciding to cut my hair was a struggle for similar reasons. My husband said (and meant) that he’d still find me beautiful if I did it, but he’s just been hard-wired to prefer long hair. I cut mine into a pixie anyway, and enjoyed it – but the whole process was so much more of a soul-search than I ever expected over HAIR.

      Like a dear friend of mine said when I asked her what beauty means: “Beauty shouldn’t be about ‘excepts.'” If I may leave a link here, more of her and others’ smarts are highlighted in a project I did called the Model Community, which ties right in with the brilliance in this post.

      Thank you for writing about unconditional self-love!

      1. My hair falls out periodically. I used to have waist-length hair, but then shortened it because of the hair loss. I played with extensions,wigs, hats, the works.

        Then, 5 years ago, I shaved my head down to a grade 2. My husband was worried, but not because of how it might look, simply how my self-esteem would be if I didn’t like it. It was the single most liberating thing I’ve ever done. As it started to grow out, my husband took me to his barber as he’s really good with razor cut styles. Since then, I’ve never gone anywhere else. I get it shaved on the back and sides and a short spiky top.

        If anyone told me I would look better with long hair, then I would have to throttle them. It’s none of their business. It’s utterly rude and socially unacceptable, and I also think it’s wrong. My husband says the cut really suits me and he likes it this way (although he’s quick to add that it’s my head and my body and I can do what I like, but he will remind me when he likes something) and he’s the only guy hose opinion I give a stuff about.

        I have, however, been stopped in public and had positive comments about it. An older gentleman stopped me at a trade fair a few months ago, apologised profusely for the intrusion, and said he had to tell me that he wasn’t trying to be creepy or weird, but he thought my hair was ‘lovely’. It made my day. As the other commentators have said, what’s wrong with just being nice to people. When they look lovely, tell them so. If your opinion on improvements is not requested, then its not required.

      2. Charley, my husband prefers my shorter hair, too. I am growing it out right now, but not because some guy told me to. I just haven’t had long hair in a really long time and my face has changed a lot over the past five years. I’m curious as to how it would look now. Plus I’m a huge fan of pin-up hair and I want to have victory curls! It’s not for male approval; it’s for my own pleasure.

      3. As it should be! Hair is fun. I wish you great success with the victory curls.

        With my lack of grooming skills, I can’t imagine doing them on myself, but I can envision how great they’d look on you with that vivid red!

      4. I have no hair skills, either. But it’s never too late to learn! I am prepared for vast amounts of trial and error. 🙂

  2. More women do need to just own who they are I didn’t ask anyone about getting tattoos, piercings, hair color/s or gauging my ears to 1/2 inch I don’t care if anyone else likes it I do.

  3. I totally receive your message; I’m the same way….but then immediately felt guilty as f*ck because I actually pulled that line out on my 12yr old daughter who wants to dye her hair. She looks so pretty with her natural color….why change it to black…or blonde…or auburn….I let her cut it in any style she wants but the color thing….uhg…..

    1. I totally get it. No kids myself, but I nanny full time for three, part time for five, so I can understand. I think that kind of falls under the “wear what you want unless you’re a child” thing. At 12, does she really need to dye her hair? No. Is there a better way to get that through to her without sacrificing that lesson? Damned if I know. Let’s brainstorm!

    2. first time I dyed my hair I was 12, I got red highlights and then blonde highlights, it’s been about 12 different shades red, blue, had some pink in it, black, bleached, and I am SO glad my parents let me experiment with it, I learned some lessons, decided what I liked and didn’t like and it helped me figure out who I am. Hair grows back, dye isn’t permanent. I’d try a compromise, like highlights instead of an all over color, or a demi-permanent color so she can experiment a little, but it washes out in a few weeks.

    3. I desperately wanted to color my hair all crazy shades from about age 12, and my Mom told me she didn’t like the idea, so wouldn’t pay for it. Just like that, she kept me from doing it until I was 16 with a job and a bit of a better sense of myself. I had a pixie cut in 20 different colors over 3 years, and my Mom ended up helping me choose what color do to next because she told me straight what suited me better; she liked pink and purple, but red made my skin redness more noticeable and black washed me out.

  4. I totally agree with how upsetting is to have someone (specially someone you dont know) telling you that you should/could change something physically in order to look more attractive/nice/beautiful. BUT i have to say that my husband looooves my long hair and I have decided not to cut it in a short bob because of him specially, dont think there is anything wrong in accept the opinion of the people you love and trust (or just doing so because you love them). Sometimes we are so worried about proving to ourselves that we are ourselves that we forget that is ok to listen to other’s people opinion and maybe yes, I may look nicer with a long hair and will let my short bob for another time (or maybe never, im fine with that)
    Much love x

  5. Starting from when I was a small child, it was my MOM who pummeled me/us with “pretty if’s”, then hammered and hammered until we caved! You would think she would see her daughters as beautiful in their own way, but we were pounded with “No one will want to play with the girl who (fill in the blank)” Mom wanted each child to appear cultured and upper crust…to her that meant conservative and goody-goody. I aspired to look like the well-read, well-informed hippie, sister wanted to reflect Cyndi Lauper or early Madonna…Mom could not understand why we wanted to “ugly ourselves up” and be like our peers (ie: normal teens) Nowdays we are middle aged and neither of us tries to look like anything besides neat and clean. When Mom starts in on “your purse doesn’t match” or “is THAT what you’re wearing”, we make into a joke, and answer her with, “Yep, I guess you’ll have to be seen in public with the likes of us!” But it took 35 years to get Mom’s scolding, disapproving voice out of our heads.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s