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Objects and subjectivity

May 27, 2012

I had promised myself a clothes-shopping spree when I got to a specific weight but then, not yet at that weight but getting fed up with the same clothes mainly from charity shops that I’ve been wearing for eons AND having discovered Evans (I fit into some of their size 14 clothes and some of their size 16 clothes), I bought me some stuff and had a major confidence boost.  Then I went to get my hair done BEFORE the usual time of going because my fringe is so long I can’t see out.  Go me – it’s worked wonders, I look half-decent (although perhaps not just this second when I’ve eaten too many potatoes and have bloating and indigestion).  I have a dress (worn to Rock Club London last night), a pair of jeans and an awesome top which I’d photograph to show you if it wasn’t currently going round in the washing machine hence not massively accessible.

I went to get some groceries today with THE HEALTH firmly in mind.  I can go into Morrisons now because I’ve trained myself not walk down the aisle with the marmite crisps.  Strawberries glistened at me, an avocado winked at me and made me think of its creamy insides, the organic carrots were glowing, I was all sorted for the health.

I got to the till and laid down these food things and a Dance Central 2 DVD (expect review soon!), said hi to the checkout person who was a guy of about my age (I think).  Before he even started swiping my stuff he said “Can I ask you a question?” and then here’s the mistake I made, I said “Yeah, ok”.  His question might have been about my tattoo, loads of people ask about it, or it might have been ‘where did you get that amazing top?’ the answer being Evans but no.

What he leaned in to ask me was “Why are you so beautiful?”

At this point I guess there’s some division among people reading this with some of you thinking “what a nice compliment!” and some of you thinking “That’s so creepy!”.  Then there may be a subsection of you thinking that whether it’s nice or creepy would depend on whether the guy was good looking or not – shame on you.

The next mistake I made was giving it any energy by bothering to answer.  I said that my parents were both gorgeous so that must be why (actually looking at photos of them when they were younger they were both really good looking people; I’m not so sure it got passed on genetically but that’s besides the point).  Had the conversation stopped there then we could have both come out of it relatively unscathed but this guy decided he was going to chat me up and no amount of “no thank you”, “I’m married” or “I don’t start relationships with people I meet in shops/people who use lines like that” would deter him.  I ended up packing the last of my shopping away with my mouth clenched shut and getting sympathetic looks from the people in the queue behind me.

For the record, I think strangers telling me I’m beautiful is creepy.  Those words fall on top of a pile of other words that have been used to describe how I look and they merge into something toxic.  For every positive appraisal there are several negative ones from my past – mainly my school years, where I got told I was ugly so many times I genuinely believed it.  If you know me and you want to tell me I look good on any specific day, that’s fine and thank you.  If you know me and you want to tell me you think I’m ugly, maaaybe keep that thought to yourself if you want to keep knowing me.  If you don’t know me, commenting on my appearance isn’t going to do anything to advance our acquaintance.

I would love to get the message to every person as they approach adulthood that physical attraction is this massively subjective thing and that it isn’t just about how you look but about who you are.  I’d like to get people educated to arm themselves against sleezy come-ons as much as against cruel taunts and to be aware that one can turn into the other the second you reject someone’s advances.  Better still, educate people to be aware of what they say to others and to be aware of how their words may land. But I don’t have a hope of doing any of that.

What I can say is this.  The only person who needs to be happy about how you look is YOU and you also have the absolute right not to care one bit about how you look.  Some people are going to think you are gorgeous, stunning, you’ll get accused of being all kinds of sexy – other people are going to find you deeply unattractive and some of them will even tell you so (some of the people who will tell you that you’re unattractive will also fancy you but are emotionally impaired, weird innit).  Pay no heed.  Getting content in your own skin should not rely on anyone else’s evaluation.

I also have it on authority that people who are regularly told, by a load of people, that they are absolutely gorgeous* would kinda really like people to like them for who they are rather than for what they look like.  Ok, I’m done, go ahead and agree, disagree, stop reading and go back to watching telly etc.  I promise not to rant next time.  🙂

* Not me, I hasten to add

  1. Fwiw, I greatly enjoy receiving compliments on my appearance – and even more so from strangers, although that doesn’t happen often (once every few years, at the very most). I assume this is because I sit in a position of ‘not being judged primarily on how I look’ gender privilege. And probably the rarity value helps too – it’s always a nice surprise.

    • I like it too – but again, mostly because it’s unusual (I like to think that’s because “butch woman” is not to the taste of many people).
      I think complimenting someone on their appearance in a way that’s intrusive or threatening (wolf-whistling; shouting, etc.) or when they can’t get away from it (like the situation Trish describes) is Totally Not On.

  2. Claire permalink

    This is really out of order; you had to remain there and he manipulated that situation. Grrrrrrr.

    Your point about this just adding to a pile of words really resonates with me. In fact, I might just blog about it.

  3. Alas, being male, I hardly ever get any visual compliments. Aside from “oooh you’ve lost weight” when alas, I haven’t. So you’re living my dream 😉

    I’m also kinda guessing the supermarket checkout bloke isn’t from London – because nobody in London talks to each other, full stop, surely?

    • His response to “I’m married” was “I’m better than your husband” – I don’t believe there’s a way I can not find that offensive

      This is not a dream – this is the entitlement he felt to be immediately personal that a large number of male people feel towards a large number of female people. A comment ‘You’re good looking’ can be acknowledged and ignored but often, as in this case, it’s a challenge.

      An impossible challenge for you: be a woman for a day and walk the streets of our (currently) sunny city. People WILL talk to you and what they will tell you is that you’re beautiful, you’re ugly, your tits or even your c*nt are nice (I’ve had the latter said to me by someone unloading stuff from a van); you’ll be asked if you’re interested in having sex with them, you’ll be told that you’re fat, you’ll be called a bitch, you’ll get gestures and cat-calls and wolf-whistles and all of it is part of the same problem.

      I’ll end this by saying I love you lots, dude and I would call anyone on saying that being appraised by guys you don’t know in public is a good thing x

      • “I’m better than your husband”


        Flirting, ur doin it rong.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Judging by appearance « Rewriting The Rules
  2. Filling and Healthy « trishoak

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