For all the talk of rapidly rising narcissism among young people, nearly all the young women I know feel vulnerable about their appearance – even those deemed extremely attractive by others. I once read a sort of Post Secret website for a particular college, and the entries had me weeping inside of ten minutes. Page after page of women expressing their shame for not being pretty enough, not attracting the interest of guys, not getting into a sorority, etc. The only comfort I could take from the experience was that they now knew they were far from alone – hundreds of students had posted similar sentiments over the course of a semester.
Jennifer Tress, author of the new book You’re Not Pretty Enough, is a strategy consultant by day and competitive storyteller by night. She wrote the book after her story of the same name went viral. Tress married her college sweetheart at 23, but he became increasingly distant. By 26, she was divorced, reeling from his infidelity.
He had been really distant, so I asked him, “Why are you treating me this way?” And he said, “Jen, sometimes i think you’re not pretty enough for me.” Eventually, I found out he was having an affair with an intern at his office, this blonde, big-breasted California girl. It made me think for the first time, Wait, was I pretty enough?
Ouch. This sentiment is apparently not uncommon in committed relationships. Consider this letter sent to the advice columnist at Ask Men:
I’ve been dating Melissa for a little over three months. I’ve never felt more comfortable with a woman in my life. She’s got almost all of the qualities I look for in a woman: She’s cultured, smart, fun, loving, athletic, and accomplished in her career. We’ve got good chemistry and we’re really affectionate.
But here’s my problem: I can’t stop wishing she was more beautiful. Melissa is definitely attractive, but I’ve dated strictly stunning women up until now. For better or worse, looks are really important to me. I get off on the feeling of walking into a room with a gorgeous woman on my arm.
When I met Melissa, I liked her immediately. We clicked. But frankly, I thought that I’d soon be moving on to prettier pastures. Well, here I am three months later, getting seriously involved with the least attractive woman I have ever dated. Yet in so many other ways, she’s the most attractive.
…But what if I’m settling? What if there’s a woman out there with the whole package, one with Melissa’s qualities but who’s also a 9 or 10?
Am I a superficial jerk to wish her nose was straight, her waist was thinner and her lips were fuller? I’m still young and good-looking enough to attract a super hot woman. Two amazing babes have come on to me since I’ve been dating Melissa, but I didn’t take the bait because I didn’t want to lose what I’ve got.
In order to gain complete clarity on this entire issue, you have to thoroughly examine your fundamental personal values…How much of your desire to have a supermodel on your arm is based on needing the respect and approval of other people to compensate for your own lack of self-esteem? Or, is this just the way you’re built and you need to honor that?
While Tormented is to be commended for not cheating (yet), he owes it to Melissa to make a decision. She deserves to know if he doesn’t find her sufficiently physically attractive enough to sustain monogamy over the long-term. She has the right to decide what level of interest and attraction she is willing to settle for in a relationship. If Tormented can’t get past his own ego, or needs to “honor” the way he is “built,” then he needs to cut her loose immediately. Personally, I cannot imagine remaining in a relationship where the mutual physical chemistry was not strong.
During a conversation at HUS about makeup and dress, one female commenter said:
My husband loves my made-up look. He finds it attractive, pretty, well put-together… I see it as part of putting on a role, the clothes, etc., aiming for a certain “look,” it must be the big city girl in me. But once I get home, the first thing I do is take it all off. Being at home is about the comfortable down to earth look.
One male objected:
I like my fiancee’s personality A LOT. An absolute ton, especially when she is in one of her bubbly, whimsical moods. That said, that part doesn’t get the dick hard.
She won’t go out in public without some make-up. But sometimes when we get home, her first instinct is to go wash it off to get comfortable. If the plan is to get physical/sexual, my *strong* preference is she leave the make-up on and wash it off afterwards.
Someone else pointed out the danger of relying heavily on a doctored appearance of your partner:
I mean, even if all that makeup looks great, she won’t look the same in the morning. My wife may not look like a runway model when we step out for the evening, but I also don’t go to bed with a 10 and wake up with a 2 the next day…
When the first male was asked if he would insist his fiancee get up and apply full makeup before morning sex, he responded:
Hypothetically, the answer would be yes. Simply put, men are visual, and I am probably much more visually stimulated than the average man. I find the made up look visually stimulating. If sufficient visual stimulation is lacking, then it will have to be made up a different way. Either the dick eventually gets hard or it doesn’t.
I say just do her from behind, but the real issue here is that this man is not attracted to his partner in her natural state. Presumably she’s aware of this by now and accepts it. She “honors” the way he is “built.”
But life is long, and there will be many occasions where we will not feel pretty or be pretty. Pregnancy, illness, stress, and just normal aging are going to get us all, in the end.
I’m 56 years old and when my husband tells me I’m beautiful in the morning, sans makeup, I tell him he’s out of his frickin’ mind. I am not objectively beautiful then, and I know that, but he sees me through the lens of love. I’m grateful.
Don’t settle for a man who thinks you’re not pretty enough, even if he’s willing to settle for you.