Thursday, November 15, 2007

About 15 Minutes...

There's a new girl at work who was introduced to us here in the IT room. She's quite lovely, petite, and blond, and the lot of us engaged her in our usual sort of introductory banter. As the boys and I chatted with her, I found myself thinking about how much easier introductions must be for the traditionally beautiful.

One of the assistant managers from one of our corp stores, also slim, blond, magazine-beautiful walked in earlier, and one of the guys commented that he now understood why it was one of the hardware guys liked to go over to that store so often.

How different it must be, I thought, to not have to prove yourself all the time, to be accorded a certain amount of respect, regard, and attention for being lovely. When I walk into a room, I feel like I have to measure everything. I have to stand tall, walk confidently, look everyone in the eye, be witty, quick on the uptake, breathtaking, interesting. In short, I try very hard to garner respect for myself because I know it's not going to just be there. I know I have to work harder to get looked at, and harder still to have my voice heard and my opinion valued.

This is not just the realm of those who don't look like the lad's mag ideal, either, of course. These women may be getting immediate attention, but real respect? People assuming they're smart? Not so much. They have to prove it as much as I do.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I have to prove a lot more.

If I can't be thin, I can be strong. If I can't be blond, I can still have great hair. If I can't get respect by sheer virtue of my loveliness, I'll get it by virtue of my wit and strength, cause we're all going to get old someday. Not all of us are going to look like spring chickens forever.

I suppose this is the stuff that spills over when you live in a culture obsessed with youth, boobs, and beauty. That's all very well and good a pursuit when you're 14, but when you're 22 you realize that if you ever had it, it's gonna go, and if you never had it, you're not going to get it. So if you haven't been cultivating a personality before 22, you sure as hell better start.

I know that there are people - men and women alike - who get by on youth and beauty and charm. God knows I've been stunned and tongue-tied by beauty quite often, and I don't expect that to go away, but you can only get by on youth and beauty for about 15 minutes... after that, you better know something.

I always get angry at myself for resenting beautiful people - beautiful women, in particular - because it's incredibly unfeminist. It's the old divide-and-conquer thing, and on top of that, it's all fucking bullshit. T&A doesn't really mean anything, though we've attached a shitload of bizarre cultural significance to it.

Whenever I catch myself straying off into that "Gosh I wish I was magazine-beautiful so life wouldn't be so hard" fairyland, I remind myself that it sure as hell beats having nothing but looks to go on, cause at 40 or 50 or 80 (or, in this culture, to be dead honest, 35), we're all pretty much in the same boat. We're all fucked by the same cultural assumption that youth and beauty are a religion, and that only those who've got it get love, respect, attention, devotion, compassion... all those terribly human things that we crave.

There's enough love and compassion to go around. Love's not just for beautiful people.

But sometimes it's hard to remember that.

5 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Travis said...

Real respect always goes farther than beauty 'respect'

They may be beautiful on the outside... But are they beautiful on the inside?
That's the real question.

Kameron Hurley said...

I'm just not so impressed with this culture's notion of "beauty." It's way too narrow and doesn't speak to actual experience. It's... well, it's Hollywood fake. Real life doesn't work that way, but our knee-jerk reaction is to assume that it does.

It gets folks into trouble.. as you well know :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with your remarks. But then, when I looked at your picture, I had to chuckle and shake my head. Sweetie, you ARE one of the beautiful people! Sure, maybe you don't feel like it, but the blond with boobs doesn't feel like it either. That's the secret of the system....

Kameron Hurley said...

Well, exactly. The system's made to keep everybody down... The beautiful people are all trying to be more beautiful, and getting told they're not good enough, and on up and down.

The trick is knowing that it's a game you'll never win, so you need to opt out.

What fucking pisses me off is that sometimes I get wrapped up in it again.

Wendryn said...

My sister is one of the tiny little blond people, and she's been fighting her body all of her life. She is very smart, but people don't take her seriously at first. She's always having to prove herself - she gets their attention, but only superficially.

In some ways I think I'm lucky - when I say something intelligent, people don't assume it's a fluke.

I recently started belly dancing, and the range of gorgeous people in that class is quite amazing. I never really had a handle on why some people were beautiful to me and others weren't, but I am (finally) realizing that it's confidence, enjoying yourself, and enjoying life. A lot of the traditionally beautiful people don't have that, so it's hard for me to see what other people see. I mean, nice cheekbones are nice cheekbones, but if you spend all day obsessing about whether you've run enough to get rid of calories you ate, it shows through in what you can talk about & are interested in.

Love isn't just for the traditionally beautiful, whatever our culture wants us to believe.