This video made the rounds again recently; it’s one I’d seen before but because I’ve been trying to wrestle with my feelings on feminism lately, it is now more relevant, more in-my-face, more thought-provoking than it had been the first time I watched it.
As I think back over my own history, there have been very few instances in which straight men in my age bracket have noticed me on my own and when I say that, I really mean “due to my looks.” The handful of times people have approached me in that capacity, I was usually wearing a bikini or something equally tight and body-showing. Most of the time, though, I’ve had to use something else to get a normal straight guy to talk to me. I differentiate between straight and gay men here because I have never had a problem with a gay man coming right over and chatting me up; they often give me a chance from the get-go and I appreciate that.
This weirdness dates back to high school. While I could get attention from all the old pervs without even batting my eye, my male peers just did not see me. However, they did see my best friend; she was (and still is) beautiful. She’s tall with the heart-shaped face and lovely blue eyes, blonde hair, straight white teeth. She’s the picture of health and vitality and back then, she had iffy self-confidence so was pretty much a magnet to men and boys everywhere. In fact, her parents got a great offer (camels, I think?) for both her and her sister when they were abroad once.
We had our schtick – she’d lure the guys in with her fabulous looks and I would keep them there with my witty ways. I was pretty funny back in the day and I could do guy humor because I was something of a tomboy. I got the “You’re really funny!” all the time but I never got a phone number. T always got digits but she wasn’t allowed to date so it was sort of a pointless exercise. I guess we were practicing for real life.
This doesn’t work anymore. T has developed a ton of confidence, she can flirt like a champ, oh, and she’s married. Well, so am I, actually. But if we DID have to try this routine, it wouldn’t work. I’d have to wear a skin-tight top, a corset, and booty-hugging pants to even compete. I hate that if I had to get male attention, I’d have to show off my physical attributes because my face is not pretty.
That’s the crux of it. My face is not pretty. I’m not saying I look like Meg Mucklebones but…ok, my first husband told me, “If we were in a restaurant and I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t look twice at you.” No, that’s not why he’s my ex-husband, though the fact that his comment came during a discussion about how pretty Noelle is didn’t help his cause. The thought was echoed by a boy I later dated who said, “You’re the prettiest plain girl I’ve ever met.” Harsh. But also, from the perspective of our society’s expectations of feminine beauty, true. Let’s not get into a discussion on how I gathered emotionally harmful males to my bed but, instead, let’s talk about why Dustin Hoffman is right and why that sucks.
What Hoffman said in his video clip about wanting to be a beautiful woman, it’s what most of us want because we’re supposed to want it. We know that a woman’s currency, whether we buck the system or not, is most easily found in her attractiveness. Worse, when he said he now regrets not knowing interesting women because they weren’t physically attractive, that is something that has been told to me (see above paragraph) and, I would assume, to many not-conventionally-beautiful women. Our savior has become the internet which is both sad and wonderful. It’s great to be able to go personality-first into the world, to be seen as a peer, rather than as a potential mate, as a person because of what we type. At the same time, why can’t that happen in real life? Why is it our shining personalities don’t make us attractive until someone has been around us long enough to get past the plain face and start being charmed by our wit, talent, and general amazing ways?
I know, I sound all “eeehnn, I’m not pretty and it’s not fair” and typically, that’s the last thing on my mind. But when actors start crying about how they didn’t get to meet wonderful people based on those people’s appearances, I have to get a bit angry. I mean, how many people have I not met because I’m not beautiful? While it’s idealistically true that I wouldn’t want to talk to such shallow people anyhow, it still makes me feel a bit “SEE? We’ve been telling you all along!” It makes me want to punch society in the face, honestly.
So to the beautiful people who get more than enough attention: I’m sorry. I do it, too. You’re all just so eye-catching, it’s hard not to want to be around you. Hopefully, I’ve been able to make you laugh a bit when I’m bothering you so that it’s not a total wash.
And to the rest of us, the women who aren’t noticed, even though we’re delightful, because someone else didn’t think we were beautiful enough: Eh, screw ’em. Let’s go hang out and enjoy our own company. Once we start laughing, everyone else will want to share our fun and by then, we’ll all be way too caught up in our fabulousness to even notice them. And there’s always the internet.