Just Because I’m Pretty Doesn’t Mean You Can Stare
I first took notice of the way people looked at me when I was 13 years old—I hadn’t experienced my first kiss yet. That didn’t matter though, because male adult strangers decided I looked mature enough to admire. There was a time my mom tried to protect me from a 50 year old man with a staring problem by slapping him across his wrinkly face. She yelled that I was 13, and he was mortified. That day, I justified the stranger’s behavior by accepting that I didn’t look my age. That wasn’t an excuse. There is no young, pretty girl who should have to experience any kind of unwarranted attention, yet all pretty girls do.
This week, I’m visiting my family in an extremely small town situated in Upstate New York. The population is minuscule and I’m the prettiest person here right now. I went to the grocery store with my mom and everybody stared at me. I went to lunch with my family and our waiter got my order wrong 7 times because I made him nervous. I went for a run and a car almost swerved off of the road driving past me. I walked into a coffee shop and it went silent. I haven’t left my room today.
I’m thin, 5’10” and by society’s standards—pretty. I grew up attractive and nobody let me complain about anything. Let me be clear: I don’t expect anybody to feel bad for me and my good looks. Nobody has for 25 years and nobody will for the rest of my life, I get it. What I would like you to acknowledge is that, like everyone else, I didn’t get to choose my skinny limbs or my high cheekbones–my genetics decided that for me. Do I wish I was ugly? Not at all. Do I want an invisibility cloak? Absolutely.
Multiple personality tests have proven that I am an introvert. I’m shy, I love alone time, and I’m never the life of the party. I’ll admit, I like attention when I want attention. But that’s the thing about being pretty—the attention never ends! I don’t have an invisibility cloak, therefore, I can’t force people to stop staring at me. I must sit there, like a zoo animal in its cage, and pretend like I don’t see a stranger’s intimidating gaze. Most days, I smile and walk away. But I’m not always happy, so that’s not always a feasible reaction to a complete stranger looking at me up and down.
Stares that dishonor me the most belong to the people who think they are complimenting me. I know the majority of stares are harmless, but many are harmful. Every day of my life, at least one person violates me with an uncomfortable stare. I’m not begging for attention, I’m not dressing for attention, and I’m sure as hell not intimidating anyone with stares of my own. I was just born pretty—stop staring at me.
Original Artwork By Elise Nielsen