Don’t Tell Me I’m Pretty
Somebody hurt me last night with something they said. They made me feel worthless and angry. I don’t think it was deliberate. The words were “I bet everyone wants to dance with you, you’re the prettiest girl in the room.”
I’m sure most people reading this, up to and including the lesbian separatists, are thinking “he paid you a compliment, what’s your problem?” Perhaps you even suspect me of boasting about my attractiveness from behind a veil of feminism. The truth is, I was honestly upset. After years of not entirely understanding why feminists can’t take a compliment, I finally got it.
I’ve been going to the same Modern Jive class once a week for months. Every week I’ve danced with this man. I’ve been happy when he’s said that my dancing is improving, and tried to thank him without looking too pleased with myself. I’ve been comfortable with him. I wasn’t about to invite him round for late-night Cointreau and a heart-to-heart, but he was one of the people who made Wednesday evenings good.
Then he said I was pretty. Not only that, but he said that the reason men want to dance with me is because I’m pretty. Not because I can dance. Not even because I can’t dance, but they would like to help me learn. No, the reason men dance with me is because I’m pretty; how good I am isn’t a relevant factor.
I got to wondering why men want to dance with pretty women. Is it just to bask in their presence? Is it to be seen on the dance floor in their company? Or is it, the thought nibbles on the edge of my mind, to cop a feel? Modern jive requires physical contact. Some moves put people in your personal space, others involve quite a bit of physical touching. Usually you get a choice about how close to get (the last time an instructor invited the ladies to press their pelvis against the man’s buttocks and wiggle, I declined), but often you don’t, and it is easy to engineer a bit of touchy-feely with a stumble, or by spinning the lady off balance. From that thought on, I’m flicking through my mental catalogue of dance partners, wondering who touched me for the purpose of the dance, and who had ulterior motives. Is that man sweating due to exertion or arousal? Is this one really unsure where my hips are, or just trying his luck? Paranoia is setting in.
I’m sure the man who said I was pretty thought he was being nice. Most girls like to be told they are beautiful. It would be lovely to think that I really was the prettiest girl in the room last night (I wasn’t, but she’s straight, so never mind). I want to be more than pretty, though. I want to be clever and well-read, to make great meringues and write interesting stories. My looks have no effect on my ability to understand ‘Madame Bovary’ or whip egg whites. Tell me I’m pretty, by all means. There’s a comments box just down there. While you’re at it, if you could tell me why men want to dance with pretty women, and testify that it isn’t about feeling them up, you’d put my mind at ease. And the next time you’re about to compliment someone’s looks, consider mentioning their meringues, or their intelligence, or their dancing, as well.