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March 6, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

you look just like someone i know…

It happened again today: I met someone for the first time and they said I looked really familiar, had we met before? Or I look just like someone they know, from back home.

I get this a lot, and it’s usually a nice feeling since it’s always said in a pleasant and warm manner, and it seems like the other person enjoys thinking back on this person that they know. I’ve learned though to just say “yeah, I get that a lot”, rather than “I have a very generic face so I’m typically confused with any other white millennial woman with long brunette hair”.

It’s true though. I have a fairly generic face with no real distinguishing features. My cheekbones are of average depth, my forehead isn’t too big or small, and my nose is only identifiable by the small gold ring around my right nostril (and a small bump on the bridge hidden by glasses). When enough make-up is applied, I can be quite pretty. And when I don’t get enough sleep and don’t care to put on make up, I look quite haggard. I can already tell that bags under my eyes will soon be a distinguishing feature so maybe I’ll stop being confused with that person you know.

And I’ve only recently realized how much of a blessing that this mediocrity of aesthetics has been. I was never made fun of for having big ears or a small mouth, for being too fat or having a ton of freckles. I did self-inflict a bad hair style or two until I realized how important it was to bring a picture to the hairstylist. I was also too shy as a pre-teen to tell the hairstylist that I looked like a boy and this was definitely not the cool pixie cut I had in mind can you please fix it? That was a defining year of puberty for me, though mostly out of self-consciousness than taunting.

On the flip side, I’ve also realized how much unwanted attention I’ve avoided because I don’t turn heads as I walk down the street. I’ve only had a few occasions of strange men trying to talk to me at bars despite very clear signals that I’m not interested (like having my laptop open and several research books spread in front of me. Yes, I studied at bars in grad school, it was usually a great place to get some work done). I also don’t remember solely being complimented on my looks or outfit as a kid, though this could have been because my mom let me dress myself, and it was the late 80’s/early 90’s, so there wasn’t much to compliment me on other than how many patterns I was wearing at once and whether I was clean. I’ll take it though over the unintended consequences of having such adorable kid’s clothing now. I really struggle with not only buying my niece super cute clothing all the time, but then also letting that be the focus of our conversations. Just like I was complimented as a kid, I want my niece to hear how polite she has been, how creative or smart she is, or just simply to have an engaging conversation about what she did, felt, saw, thought, reacted, etc, without it revolving around how she looks.

And it wasn’t until I was thinking about how much of a blessing this neutrality has given me that I also realized how sad it was that I could be happy about this. I’m so happy that I’m not too pretty or ugly so that I’ve avoided a good amount of socially antagonistic situations. That’s a pretty sad reflection on our culture.

Every once in a while I get really frustrated when someone posts a group picture with me in it on facebook, and inevitably there comes the typical comments: “such beautiful women!”, “looking gorgeous!”, “so beautiful, inside and out!”. I know they’re well-intended, and what the extended friends and family are saying is kind, but why do we always need to reaffirm the women in our lives that they’re beautiful? Why can’t we just share a photo of a group of people having a great time together, sharing their time and life and energy with one another, and then just reduce it to whether or not I’m aesthetically pleasing at the moment? Let’s be honest, I’m blinking in half of the photos I’m in, so let’s talk about the great weekend we had instead or accomplishments that were made?

You may say that I have it easy because I’m already married, and I know that this is partially true and is definitely a benefit of marrying young – I’ve never been single and of age to go to a bar and try to pick up a date. However I’ve always maintained a level of not caring what others think of me that was much higher than my average peers (hence I don’t mind talk to strangers about my trash, makes more sense now huh?), which I’m now realizing I can attribute to my plain looks: I never expected the compliments so I didn’t try hard to receive them. I’m not saying that it didn’t hurt when I saw others being complimented all the time when I wasn’t as a teen, but I’ve come to embrace my “girl next door” looks, as that overly-friendly guy on a red eye flight once told me (thanks buddy, I woke up just to have breakfast, not to chat from across the aisle).

This feminist is tired that the conversation is still revolving around beauty, granted one that is more inclusive than it used to be, but still about the one thing that I don’t have any control over. Can we please move the conversation past what the gene pool doled out for me? I love the line from Grey’s Anatomy where Dr. Yang proclaims “Oh, screw beautiful. I’m brilliant! If you want to appease me compliment me on my brain.”

In the meantime, I am happy to be confused with your cousin or childhood best friend or that lady from yoga last week. As long as she wasn’t all dolled up and looking for superficial compliments, I’m sure we look just alike 🙂

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