I just don’t think people get it… what women go through due to being judged by their outward appearance, and how it affects them for their entire lives. I’ve lived it from both angles- being fat and ugly, and then being perceived as attractive and feeling objectified.
I was a chubby kid in elementary school, who got teased and ridiculed and always felt ‘lesser than’ everyone else. I got it from boys and girls. Jokes like “Why aren’t you trying out for cheerleader” from the bitchy pretty girls, and being asked by a guy “Will you go with me?” only so he could break up with me over the phone on 3-way calling so that he and his friends could laugh about hurting me. I was such a chubby ugly duckling and was so teased and tortured, that my parents thought sending me to Christian school 5th-7th grade would be a good idea. But alas, just because the school is Christian, did not mean the kids were any nicer. They were spoiled and filthy rich, and they acted exactly the same as the public school kids did, except with mansions, maids, designer everything and fancy cars, so they basically made me feel even more ‘lesser than’ than I did before. Even though I was always friendly and the girls liked my personality and would come to my birthday parties, they didn’t invite me to theirs. It’s really common courtesy—if you come to my birthday party, I should be invited to yours, but over and over I was excluded, and I honestly knew it was because they also perceived me as ‘lesser than’. Not only was I ugly, but compared to everyone else, we were seen as poor. I believe if I hadn’t been an ugly duckling, my experience would have been different.
I’m not writing and sharing that because I feel sorry for myself, or want anyone to feel sorry for me. I am just sharing that to explain what my young life was like. It was character building, and I’m grateful for it, but I would never want to have a child and have them have to live through the sad and hard stuff I did when I was young. Not everyone is as strong as I am. I knew multiple teenage friends who committed suicide, including my best friend in 9th grade, who committed suicide at the beginning of 10th grade. I believe it was because she never felt like she fit in. I think if she could have been tougher and hung in there longer, it would’ve gotten better with time, like it did for me. I cringe as I write this, realizing she hung herself and I just wrote that I wished she would have ‘hung’ in there. Oh god, it’s so sad.
Anyway, I was determined to take control of my life the best I could in 9th grade before high school, so I stopped eating. I was anorexic and a bit of bulimic. (Basically I barely ate, and if I did, I often threw up.) I was able to lose all the weight, and I got skinny. I was also coming into my own as far as going from an awkward new wave wanna-be look, to a more death rock, punk rock confident look. Everyone bought it. I changed my outside and I felt a lot better and more comfortable, so my outside was starting to match my inside, outgoing personality. What everyone didn’t know, is that the feelings of being ‘lesser than’ didn’t really go away. I don’t think they ever do.
Females always think, “If I just lost weight, everything will be better,” and in some ways, it will. You’ll probably feel a little more comfortable in your own skin and more outwardly confident. But the reality is, you’ll end up discovering that you now have it harder in a lot of ways. I’m probably one of the few people I know who actually credits an eating disorder with getting me where I wanted to be. I only did it for maybe a year, and then was able to maintain a normal size for the rest of my life. I have always been vain and cared about my outward appearance—my makeup, hair and clothes, probably because society dictates it, but maybe also because I never felt like anyone’s equal back when I was growing up (from age 8 to 15). It affected me for life, and that’s okay. But what came next, I was unprepared for.
Tenth grade was good, I still had a bit of the eating disorder, but it wasn’t in the way of my starting a new high school, making new friends and a whole new life for myself. I settled into my new thin life well, and had the coolest friends. The next thing that happened was that boys wanted to hang out with me. That was okay too, throughout high school, but I started dating older guys… at 16 my boyfriend was out of school and 19, at 17, my boyfriend was 23. (He broke my heart and was pretty cruel. I was too young and inexperienced. I wish I’d stuck with guys my own age.)
Then at 19, a male friend date raped me. I was beginning to understand that men saw me as an object and it was hard to comprehend, that these guys I thought were my friends were actually capable of turning on me the minute I let my guard down. I still have trouble understanding this today. I get it that I’m seen as attractive, and I want to be perceived that way, but that doesn’t mean I want to be seen as a sex object and not taken seriously as a person, as a friend, or as an employee.
Now, as an adult, I still keep coming across these issues again and again. I’ve had 4 different situations with various male employers. I don’t want to go into all of the personal details of being at the end of a sexual harassment situation, but I can tell you the way I would describe the feeling is being mind-raped, and being made to feel so low and ‘less than’ as a human being, that you only feel hopeless. The first time it happened, I felt suicidal, but I felt trapped into staying at the job to pay the bills.
I deserve to be seen as a hard working employee, but these male bosses made me realize they saw me in a way I don’t want to be seen, objectified. (This makes me want to work for myself even more than ever, and is probably the reason I have run a few of my own businesses.) It was made clear to me that in at least 2 of the 4 instances, I may have been hired because they thought I was ‘hot’. On the other hand, I know I was discriminated against and didn’t get a job for that very reason. While on a bartending interview where the man knew my past employers and was even friendly with 2 of them, he asked my age (which is against the law) and he said I wasn’t getting the job because he “wouldn’t want me to break a nail”… wow. Just because I look attractive does not mean I don’t work hard, do a great job, and am not willing to get my hands dirty and pull my own weight. So looking pretty works against you too.
These issues with men not being able to get past my appearance are not the only issues with being perceived as attractive. Women often have a problem with it too. I have lost so many of my male friends when they get a new girlfriend. I have lost several long friendships because of wives or girlfriends, despite the fact that I am not a person who would ever cross a line, flirt with someone else’s man, or invite any inappropriate attention. I treat others the way I want to be treated: complete honesty and integrity, respecting other’s relationships, time and boundaries and their feelings and opinions. It is so hurtful that first of all, women treat other women this way, but also that guys I’ve known for 10 and 20 years wouldn’t stick up for our friendship. What a waste of time it’s been for me to forge long friendships with men, only to be tossed aside and treated like a useless, unappreciated human being because some other female doesn’t take the time to get to know who I am, but judges me solely on how I look. It honestly makes me so sad, it makes me feel stepped on and hurt.
To top off the helpless feeling I sometimes feel about all this stuff, this week, I received some crass sexual jokes from the guy I’ve been dating, via Facebook and texts. I think because he is from another country and there are language and cultural differences, and he is not fully Americanized, as well as being much younger and male, he just has no idea how these jokes (however silly and harmless they may seem to him) make me feel. It just takes me back to this completely helpless feeling that although I want to be perceived as attractive, I really want people to see me as a FULL HUMAN BEING, not just a “pretty face.” I don’t want to feel like anyone’s sex object or a stupid joke. I want to be seen as smart and motivated and talented and hard working and thoughtful and fun, NOT JUST HOT.
Why would a guy I’m seeing send me stuff like this??? When I tried to communicate with him about it, he didn’t want to talk to me, so we basically just broke up on Facebook. What an idiot. All I wanted to do was explain why it bothered me. I found it rude and insensitive.
So people, I’m not complaining about the fact that I am lucky enough to have made myself to be perceived as attractive (trust me, I worked to get here), but sometimes it’s just not all it’s cracked up to be. I walk around feeling hurt and misunderstood and looked down on a lot. I wish I was SUPERWOMAN and could use it to my advantage, but that’s not how it is. Sometimes I wish everyone could see our auras. No matter someone’s looks, all that really matters is what kind of person you truly are. What you can take from this is that I am more sensitive than I look. To quote an overused, trite saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.