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it may be petty
but it's nice to be pretty
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)
4.18.12
pop culture

What person on earth doesn't enjoy being considered attractive to those around them? It's why the makeup industry continues to sell $XX billions of dollars worth of products every year. It's why there's a men's line from nearly every major skin care brand currently available. It's why clothes are made in various sizes and colors and why high heels even exist. Cosmetic surgery is available in just about any form you can possibly imagine, and then some you haven't even thought of – heard of a Knee Lift? Supposedly Demi Moore has had one, and US Magazine knows their readers voraciously scan these articles, looking for grains of truth as to why they can't look like their favorite stars. It's also the start of the rabbit hole that poor Cat Lady jumped down.

On the opposite side of that same coin is being so attractive that it becomes your job to be attractive. This week has been a rough one for Ashley Judd, who is largely known for her girl-next-door beauty. She recently came under fire for "looking puffy," a state that caused many celebrity news sites to speculate on whether or not she's had surgical procedures done. She recently fired off a response, which is incredibly well written, calling the article about her appearance a "pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic conversation about femininity in our culture."

In our society, regardless of what we would like to pretend everyone believes, a large part of a woman's value is placed on how attractive she is. As a woman, our evolutionary processes demand that we spend the better part of our youth trying to attract the ideal mate in order to procreate. It's in our base nature to try to compete with other women to find the best mate, the one who will conceive children with us, who will provide for us and our children and be the "Alpha Male" in our "pack."

I don't deny that I've spent the greater part of my teenage and adult years falling into this same mentality – it's in my genes, and I'm no better than anyone else. What I do spend a vast amount of time thinking about, though, is: "What value do I have to this speculative 'Best Mate' once I'm done having children?"

It's no secret that I've been on the fence about having children for years. First I never wanted them, then I got married. Children is a natural "next step." In 2007, I spent time worrying about whether or not I'd even be ABLE to have children and what I'd do in that case. These days, I'm 30. I'm still on the fence but leaning toward no. But that doesn't stop the Analysis Paralysis from happening. And what I worry about (other than dropping them on their heads repeatedly; I'm terribly clumsy) is what happens to ME, after? Where does my value lie, then?

What about the process of childbirth? What about all of those organs that have been squashed out of the way to make room for what is, essentially, a parasite – an entirely separate being living off the of the nutrients of the host? What about stretch marks? What about waddling when you walk and being unable to hold your pee? What about being too tired to wash your hair and being too pregnant for your yoga pants? What about the stress and worry of maybe your significant other finding some other woman charming and attractive and wanting to be with her instead?

What about after the birth? What is a woman's value based off of when she's done having children? If our "best" years are spent seeking a mate and bearing him children, what happens afterward? There are many women who stay healthy and happy through pregnancy and bounce back from childbirth with vitality and beauty, but there are far more women who end up getting chewed up by the process and spit out to deal with the aftermath. There's breastfeeding and late nights and early mornings and potty training and convincing them to eat something other than goldfish crackers and hot dogs. There's going back to work or not going back to work, preparing them for school and making sure they aren't the smelly kid in class. There's homework and afterschool care and SAT prep and saving for college. There's making sure they don't turn out to be, in general, a shitty human being.

When you've been conditioned by your own biological nature and the constant insistence by all media sources that you must stay (or appear) fit, attractive, and sexually viable in order to keep your mate, it's difficult to reconcile that need with the reality of how life continues after children are introduced to the relationship or ... you know, you get to a certain age. That age is different for everyone, but it's still a fact of life: you will age. You can't stay young forever, no matter how hard you try.

It may be petty and tremendously selfish, but I like being pretty. I like that I'm in charge of my body and that it's still flexible and strong. I like my life and the freedom I enjoy. I like that my money is my own and my retirement account is slowly but surely growing. I like that I still get carded when I order a drink in a bar (rare, but it happens on occasion), I (kinda) like that some random 18 year old asked if he could "hit me up." (Side note, does that mean he wants to call me? Because that's what I think he meant, but kids these days, man).

I also know that these thoughts are incredibly self-centered, and the path I'm on doesn't allow me to take such a small view of the world. I realize that if my reality changes (kids, future, jobs, spouses, etc.), then my perception changes with it. It's harder to stay so self-centric when there are other people in your life to worry about. I'm not ready at this literal moment to invite people into my tiny sphere of reality, but I'm trying to open my mind and figure out if I'm going to be an awesome grownup or a sucky one.

I'm slowly but surely creeping toward the years where my ass will start to widen, my belly is going to be harder to keep (kinda) flat. I'm not going to be the young flight attendant in the tight skirt and high heels forever. (Heels aside, I *hope* I'm not a flight attendant forever!) Regardless of whether or not I ever decide to torture myself with the burden (I know, I know, there's joy, too) of kids, what I've realized in this whole process is that *I* still need to understand myself a lot better. I need to give myself credit for being amazingly patient at times when no one else seems to be, pushy when the situation demands it, forgiving and compassionate as well as strong and direct. I am not form, I am substance.

Why should the media get to establish my value as a person based on my looks?

I am the only one who is able to determine my self worth and I should know what that is, before I start demanding that someone else find me a valuable person to be with. We all have a running list (even if it's just in our heads) of what we're looking for in a "mate." What about having a list of things YOU bring to the table, as well?

Following through and putting down on paper exactly how awesome you are and having a reminder of what weaknesses you can work on – there's nothing petty about that. And pretty has nothing to do with it.


ABOUT MAIGEN THOMAS

Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

more about maigen thomas

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