This is going to be contentious. I hope I won’t have a posse of pretty women upset at this post. For I really don’t mean to be mean. Honest.
It’s just that I have come across this phenomenon a lot. You know pretty women? The word pretty is subjective and I get that, but the sort of women, who by a broad consensus would be regarded as really beautiful. The sort of ones who are beautiful and who know it, and who are given and get used to the attention they get.
And get very upset when on a rare occasion that attention isn’t on them or is diverted to someone or something else. I struggle with women like these. Not all pretty women are vain or attention seeking, but I have met quite a few who love to hold court to their prettiness. They get willing courtiers. Men and women who comment on how beautiful she is, how beautiful she was, how many suitors she once commanded or still commands. Your contribution to this conversation has to be equally earnest and also of awe.
It doesn’t appeal to me. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I can give a genuine compliment any time. On a beautiful outfit, on how warm and welcoming a smile is, on how a person’s hair catches the sun at an angle, on a good hair cut – but I can’t always sit around a person and comment without fail, reaffirming their own opinion of how beautiful they are every time. I make a bad courtier to a pretty woman.
I don’t even know what to do when friends post one selfie after another. I mean, one selfie is enough, but three or four every week – what is one supposed to do with them? Similarly, how many times does one tell a beautiful woman that she is beautiful? Is hundred times enough or a thousand?
And that is why, I try and stay quiet when I am in such situations. I had an ex colleague. I do not wish to be mean but she was coquettish as hell. And beautiful. And wanted to be told all the time that she was beautiful and wanted us to observe and comment on what she wore every day. She had enough admirers. Both men and women. Once she came to work, pointed at her toe nail and said, do you see that? I saw where she was pointing. I could see a toe nail. An ordinary human toe nail. Was there a miniature unicorn that I was missing? One that was hiding behind her toe nail?
It’s your toe nail, I said, a little bewildered. I didn’t know why I needed to see her toe nail.
Do you see the nail polish?
It’s pink, I said, my bewilderment growing every second.
She sighed loudly.
Everyone says I have a very beautiful toe nail.
I looked at her blankly, half irritated, half exasperated at her need for approval for her very pretty, painted pink toenail.
Then I met another woman. She was in her late fifties. She was a friend’s aunt and I used to meet her quite often when I accompanied my friend to her place. She was very beautiful when she was young and she was, still beautiful for her age when I met her. She considered herself a queen, and an exquisite one at that.
I had no problems with how she perceived herself. Everyone has a right to perceive themselves the way they want. It was rather about what she expected out of other people. Constant praise for her physical beauty. And she got that from most people. I tried. I complimented her a lot and at most times, I truly meant it. If she wore a pretty dress, I would comment on how the colour reflected on her skin. I would comment on her hair, its silky texture.
Then I noticed something. It wasn’t very obvious at first but there would be a stray comment here and there. She would comment on people’s appearances in a slightly disparaging manner. It was as if everyone was beneath her. And in all the time we knew each other, she would never compliment me. On anything. You look pretty is different from you are pretty. You can always compliment someone on the effort he or she has taken to dress up, on a good haircut, anything really.
I remember her as a guest at my wedding. You know usually, people come up to the bride and compliment her on her big day. She was warm to me, but never once commented on how I looked or what I wore for the day. I usually wear little or no make up. My wedding (and reception) were the only two occasions in my life that I had make up done professionally. I remember distinctly her eyeing me up and down, but she never came close to saying how I looked.
Our friendship waned. I grew tired of constantly paying obeisance to her beauty. I also got tired of never getting complimented for anything. I understand that compliments aren’t run on a barter system. But I did find it odd that for a woman who constantly thrived on references to how beautiful she was when she was young and how pretty she still was and the number of suitors she still attracted, she would choose to be miserly about how she complimented others. And that she could hold out on giving a compliment even if a person truly deserved it. The turning point came when she once commented on a person, who was her friend and was doing poorly on health issues.
Look at her now, she used to be pretty, she said this as we left her friend’s place.
I think, she’s still pretty, aunty.
Ha! You call that pretty? She’s haggard. Well so much for her famed beauty. It’s all gone now.
In her tone was a note of victory as if she had at last vanquished an old enemy.
These are just two examples. But somehow most of my interactions with very beautiful women have gone a bit on the weird side. Sometimes I find them on the border of being self obsessed. Sometimes, I find that everything takes a back seat to their constant need for praise and flattery. I discover to my that they can get insanely jealous if you were to praise someone else before them, someone they consider a lesser mortal, much below their standing in their standards of beauty.
I know for certain that this is not true for all exquisitely beautiful women and one cannot generalise or make broad, sweeping generalisations at all. These are just some experiences that may have coloured my perception. And as is the nature of life, one is always surprised, perceptions always challenged – and more so when you least expect it.
My apologies in advance if I have upset some very beautiful but not self obsessed women with my post. I am happy to be challenged on this, to have my perceptions or prejudices questioned and change for the better.
2 thoughts on “The durbar of pretty women”
Such a beautiful read, my friend. I think that today’s “beauty sick” culture is distracting girls and women from more important goals to the point where the obsession with being beautiful and perfect becomes disease. There is no other explanation. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva
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Yes, beautiful women are in greater danger than plain ones, of getting self-obsessed. If you think about it, what a lot of insecurity they must have! Beauty is so fragile and ephemeral a thing to base your sense of self worth. Being a bit of a plug-ugly, I always felt inadequate. But now, past middle age, I’ve come into my own – I have nothing to lose and don’t give a damn! I know what I have going for me and that’s enough.
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