Why I don’t want to look “Beautiful.”

You're so pretty at owning a business
I know you know I'm not normally a ranter, but something got me in a bit of a wistful tizzy... So I'm sharing an uber personal story today, a mini-rant, yes, but with constructive next steps. :)

I had this amazing interview with Kzoo Uncaged posted last month, and the response was incredible.

Friends on facebook that I hadn't heard from in years liked and commented. I felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

What was surprising though, and surprisingly annoying at the time, was the number of people whose only comment was, "You look so beautiful." Or "You look amazing." 
Or anything that was only about my appearance.

I want to be beautiful. 
Years of teasing and fashion magazines and unnecessary comparisons and negative self-talk take their toll. It feels good to look good. It's nice to be affirmed for something culture holds so dear. Even if it's totally off topic or a non sequitur, it's lovely to be told you look pretty.

But the truth is, I spent 20 minutes on my hair and makeup for the event only because I knew they would be taking pictures, and I didn't want anyone to think I looked a hot mess. 
Or to wonder why I wasn't wearing any makeup. Or to think I would look better if I had makeup on.

But I spent hours, at least four, developing responses to the questions I knew they would ask. And practicing answering them, being well-spoken and to the point. While still injecting my personality. And energy. And touching on all the really heavy topics I wanted to 1-2 sucker punch, all to say: I am a kick ass business owner.

Yes, I want to look pretty. 

On some level, we all want to look pretty. Or at least, we don't want to be ugly. It's either a basic human need, or something so deeply ingrained in us by society that it feels like a need.

But this interview was about my being a business owner. The interviewers did not ask any questions about "What beauty product do I not leave home without?" or "What are you wearing?"

So to only hear from friends and loved ones that I look beautiful in an article about how I'm a kick ass business owner was, in the moment, frustrating. And a bummer.

Everyone really meant well, but I still feel wistful about it. 

In this huge moment for me as a business owner, the vast majority of my loved ones spoke only of my appearance. Somehow, by ignoring everything else, it felt like they were telling me that looking pretty was all mattered. That somehow, if the photo had been bad, I wouldn't have had anything to celebrate.

Andy Peninger took a great photo. But while I had no idea how his pictures would turn out and didn't see them until the piece went live, I did know that I'd nailed a lot of their questions. And I was so excited to read what they'd written.

I'm sure my looks have helped me get to where I am. I am privileged to have fair skin and straight hair and a long, lean physique. All things society values. And so what I'm saying right now comes from this place of privilege. 

But my looks don't play a part in my wanting to serve the abhorrently under served and under acknowledged transgender community. Or in choosing to pay a living wage and not making my undies in a sweatshop where human rights are violated.

Working from home, most days my uniform is unbrushed hair, pajama pants and no makeup. I'm glad if the idea of me looking good while running a business attracts more people to the message, but I wish it didn't matter.

A friend and I were talking about this. About how being pretty is somehow the highest compliment you can give a woman.

"You're So Pretty at Being a Business Owner"

So joking with me, he said, "You're so pretty at being a business owner," and "You're so beautiful at self-examination."

And I started racking my brain to come up with the equivalent highest compliment you could give a man. "You're so not-having-any-emotional-needs at owning a business." "You're so strong and silent at staying on task." "You're so rugged at editing." 
For me to compliment him, it wasn't as easy a soundbyte. At the same time we laud ruggedness and emotional strength in men i.e. not showing any vulnerability whatsoever, we wish they would be softer, but then we freak out when they are and don't know what to do with them. My friend happens to live that truth daily. Which is why this was so funny to us. Weeks later, we're still paying each other these bizarro compliments.

I am so grateful for my looks. 

But if we're handing out compliments, shouldn't we be thanking my parents for mixing their genes in this exact way? Do we include an asterisk for the 8 mustache hairs also encoded in those genes? I do know how to put makeup on. Ish. I wear clothes that accentuate the things I like most and that society values most. And I'm still young enough that society values me and my taut skin. 

But none of it is permanent. (Except maybe the mustache hairs...)

Do I lose my business credibility when my neck starts to get saggy? Do I become worse at making undies as my crows' toes turn into full-fledged crows' feet?

I don't want anyone to think that I'm not grateful for the outpouring of love and warm fuzzies that came from that article. It means so much to me to have heard from so many people. And it was nice to hear that I looked good. It just stopped feeling nice when it became a chorus that ignored everything else.

I just want us to remember that beauty isn't the pinnacle.

Next time a friend or loved one does something awesome and looks great doing it, please stay on topic and add the compliment about her looks as icing on the cake. 

Because that's all it is. Icing.

The cake is the hard work, the drive, the sleepless nights, the tears, the strategy sessions, the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of how awesome you really are, and finally, finding the strength to own it and share it with the world. And seizing or making happen the opportunity to do so.

1 Response


May 16, 2016

MJ! Thank you so much for taking a moment to comment. I LOVE Miss Representation, and their email list/Facebook page have fantastic, thought provoking and poignant news and challenges. I’m also excited to see them branching out into how gender stereotypes are equally damaging for men. This post was a hard one to hit “Publish” on, so it means so much to hear that you appreciated and want to continue seeing more conversations around this topic. I love your point of saying “that is a beautiful dress” too… So much food for thought! xoxo

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

May 07, 2014

1 comment

Size Chart