#30DayWritingChallenge (Day 2): Share something you struggle with

Being called “pretty”.

Sounds weird but it’s true.

I remember exactly the first time that I remember someone saying that about me.

The family was on a cruise, I was 16 and the remark came from our dining room waiter. I had never heard anyone say that I was pretty before (at least not that I can remember) and I simply figured that he was trying to butter up my folks to get a bigger end-of-cruise tip. And if he wasn’t, I was convinced that he needed to get his eyes examined.

There was just no way that the term could apply to me.

Growing up in a world where beauty was only linked to blonde or straight hair, blue or green eyes, white and lighter skin tones, being called “pretty” had never been part of my wheelhouse.

“Pretty” was reserved for those Other Girls on the cover of books, magazines and actresses in movies and television.

In “real life”, Other Girls with that same phenotype were always the center of attention, part of the popular crowd and the object of crushes by the boys in school. When those Other Girls became Other Women out in the world, the cycle simply continued. I observed many of them navigate their environment with an air of entitlement and full of themselves.

Maybe it was partly sour grapes but I distinctly remember making a decision at the age of 9 that if I couldn’t be pretty like those Other Girls, I would just have be as smart and kind as I could. And since my brain and kindness have served me very well since that time, that’s the way I see myself.

So to this day, when someone uses the term on me, I say thank you because it’s the polite thing to do. I always take it with a grain of salt because, as the saying goes, “pretty is as pretty does”, looks fade and I’ll choose brains over looks any day.

But with all that said, the little girl in me will always struggle a little with that compliment because it’s in her DNA.

What are some of the things that you struggle with? Share with me in the comment box.

See you tomorrow.

Bisous,

M xoxo

28 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights about “pretty.”

    Here are mine, from my standpoint as a white woman.

    Pretty is a term that never struck me.

    I was a little blonde girl. Golden-haired was the term that was used, although my hair became as brown as a muddy river by the time I turned 13 years old. I have brown eyes, a square jaw, and pale skin. I suppose all these traits are what members of adult society call “pretty.”

    And I must have been attractive.

    How do I know?

    Men grabbed me, asked me to touch them, whistled at me, and generally poked and prodded me in ways they should not have. They liked my hair, my soft skin (“as pretty as a peach”), and my young white girls’ body. Scabby, rough, hard hands. Young flesh.

    Being pretty in men’s eyes was a curse.

    By high school, my hair became unkempt (greasy even), and my face was fairly ruined by blemishes and pockmarks. The scene taking place from my neck up was an insult to my father, who would occasionally grab me by the chin, forcing me to look up and him while saying, “You’ve got to stop eating junk food. Look at your face!” I skulked around school wearing jeans and shirts too large for my frame. I stopped being called pretty.

    “Not pretty” also failed to do much for me.

    The white girls at school teased me, making me the brunt of cruel jokes and gossip. As a white girl in a school that had rigid racial divisions, I was outside of Black girls’, Asian girls’, and Latina’s field of reference.

    The fact that the popular white kids would sometimes talk to me, probably made it look like I was included in the white girls’ social strata. I was probably lumped in with the land of white, middle class girls—the land of expertly applied make-up, Madonna inspired fashion statements, big ear-rings, rides around town in expensive cars, boyfriends, and sneaking alcohol and marijuana onto campus.

    Being marked as an associate of the white clique, likely made me seem like “Other Girls,” who were (for good reasons) irrelevant and unhelpful to girls of color.

    If anyone really took notice, they would have seen that I ate lunch by myself in the hallway, spent my free time in the library studying, and left school as quickly as possible when the day was done. I occupied no man’s land, or should I say, “no girls’ land.”

    In addition to being unconcerned about my looks, I didn’t drink, have sex, or say mean things about other people. These traits sealed the deal. I was a social pariah. I was also un-datable. Why would anyone (girl or boy) want to spend time with a “buzz kill” who refused to “go all the way.” There were plenty of other pretty girls ready to partake of pleasures. They were not ashamed to get “high” and “get down.” It was the ‘80s, and some girls celebrated their sexuality. The women’s liberation movement—which had come and gone—helped many young women embrace their bodies and resist being “slut-shamed.” “Good for them,” I thought, “but, not for me.” Not pretty. No fun. Uncool.

    Looking back, I can say that I was miserable during high school. I did my time–which felt a little like serving a prison sentence–until college. According to common prisoner’s parlance, I was serving a little under a nickel (five years), but not certainly not a dime (ten years). My Dad was an ex-felon and that’s how we talked at home.

    College, to me, was the promised land; it was a place where being cool, pretty, and popular did not matter. Books and ideas, and being smart and kind to others would (finally) count. Doing time, enduring the everyday indignities of high school, paid off.

    While in college, I bloomed. Not because I was suddenly considered pretty. It was because what I had to say, what I wrote in my papers, and the kindness and consideration I tried to show others finally gave me what I craved. I found authentic connection and mutual respect with peers.

    Pertinent to this story is that I enrolled in Smith College, a women’s school that celebrates the strength, character, and power of women. Being pretty, I learned early in life, doesn’t amount to much. Being a leader and having deep-rooted connections with others and a powerful voice does.

    Here’s to all the smart, savvy, and powerful women who are not afraid to speak their minds and tell their stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing as well Katy. Our pre-college experiences sound quite similar. I was also “apart” from the others – my color and having to follow the old school rules of immigrant parents made that divide even more obvious. But those kinds of challenges made us stronger, right? You have a very interesting story yourself. I’ll add you to my blog roll if I haven’t done so already – I’ve been having trouble with writing, reading and following blogs these days…And I fully agree with here’s to all the smart, savvy, and powerful women who are not afraid to speak their minds and tell their stories! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Marquessa, you are beautiful and we’re cute, more than pretty as a child. I used to tell myself that everyone is beautiful in their own ways, had some quality about them that makes them attractive, even when I passed what society would call ugly people, as a child. Many so-called ugly people become handsome or lovely, or they embrace their looks with a great personality, humour, and self-care.

    And it’s true, some people might have beautiful eyes and be excellent conversationalists. Some are gorgeous, but still struggle with self-esteem or a horrid family. Nobody gets off easy in life, even if sometimes it seems they’ve no problems are — the whole package. Look at Princess Diana for example, or my gorgeous friend K who has always been vivacious and successful, but is fighting breast cancer, diagnosed for 5-years — they gave her just over a year. She had it 6.5 years and no one believed her, until after her son was born and her hormone fed cancer spread. But, she hangs on for her family. In the end, we all go through tough stuff, and I do believe God never gives us more than we can handle, and if He does, He takes us home to Heaven when it’s our time.

    Personally, I’d say, yes I’ve blond hair, blue eyes, white skin, and curves — for some the epitome a woman depending on the guy (some prefer skinner a lot more though). I was always told I was cute or pretty, sometimes more, but I’ve always struggled with self-esteem like you. Not to mention weight issues as I’m older now, and keeping weight down despite chronic fatigue and many medications due to episodes of psychotic depression isn’t easy, nor is keeping a healthy diet for a woman who adores food.

    I never dreamt of psychosis growing up, what that meant. Also, my skin broke out a lot in high school and early adulthood, and did not start improving until I was on meds and in my late twenties. I still struggle with it at times, with self-esteem, anxiety in regards to my skin, my weight, and despite having my depression/CF improve for several years, this summer spiralling backwards — no longer able to live on my own for awhile, and not able to work part time or casual as I was. So, I’m saying your not alone, no matter your skin color, Childhood experiences, etc. We all struggle.

    I’m not bragging, or saying my life is worse than others, but saying we all go through our tough times, some really tough. Sometimes they occur right away as babies, sometimes in our current lives, Sometimes in childhood, or when we’re elderly — often in several stages. Very few people go through life without troubles, and in the end, what is life worth if you do not believe in Jesus, and live your life for him, seeking heaven (my opinion). But, we all require perspective, so I hope you know whatever your dealing with others have low-self-esteem, and many struggles too
    And you are beautiful. I hope you yourself can believe that inside, not just by what others say.

    Take care my friend. Stay well.🤗💕

    Like

    1. Hey Mandy. I totally agree. We all have our struggles that, in the end, make us stronger and more resilient. Why is it so easy to be hard on ourselves but see the beauty in others? I’m over all of that now but I still take the whole “pretty” lightly. But I find it amusing when I occasionally bump into those popular and “pretty” childhood schoolmates who are no longer what they used to be and are surprised at realized that I am me. I love your belief in a higher power and I have that belief as well and try my best to live in that way. Take care and stay well my dear! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I would’ve never thought that, but now something I’ve wondered about you makes sense. You NEVER hardly EVER show your face, even on IG,and when I finally saw a photo, I was like look at Marquessa!!! You’re beautiful. So, it’s quite amazing to me that you’ve felt this way.

    Hmmm…I struggle with hearing unsolicited advice, like really. If I haven’t asked for an opinion or advice on a matter and someone just starts giving it, I immediately shut down lol

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Unsolicited advice is the worst. Now, I just say, “Thanks,” pretend I’m listening and carry with my business. 😃 And about my lack of selfies, I’m NOT surprised at how observant you are K 😃. Now you know partly why I’m not into that too much. 🤷🏾‍♀️

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I feel that it’s society fault with what they think are “beauty standards.” I watched young girls grow up feeling sad about themselves because they felt unpretty compared to other girls and the media. It made me think of a younger me. You are so beautiful. When I saw your photo, I was thinking why would she hide this gorgeous face. Then again, I don’t like taking pictures.
    One of the main thing I struggle with is my identity. Sometimes I know who I am and want to be. Other times, I just don’t know. It’s hard to explain why I’m like that but I’m working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely society’s fault but it was only until I was much older and wiser that I realized that it was also being done on purpose. We, as Black women, are blessed with melanin magic and beauty (inside and out) that we were never able to discover because of all those negatives influences. It’s the reason why the stories in my spirit to write will all revolve around “us” as front, center, happy and radiant. 🙂 The struggle with who we want to be and being who others would like us to be will always be real. But we must continue to try, right?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly! I agree wholeheartedly,and we should. I was once told by my grandmother that certain people just jealous of us and that’s why we are being hated.
        I also like that you write your stories the way you do because it can help young girls and women of color to love who they are, what they are, and who are. Great point you made.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I may not have walked a similar path having grown up in an African country where colour divides are mainly in the hospitality sector. But I grew with a mother who could have chocked before complimenting us. It was only when we grew older that we heard her compliment any of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I empathize so much! My parents told me I was ‘pretty’ all the time, but I didn’t have that validated outside my immediate family. I then began to realize that it didn’t matter what other people thought – it didn’t even matter if I was ‘pretty’, because what really matters is what’s inside that counts.

    My issues have primarily been body image – as in ‘too small’ when I was younger and ‘too big’ now that I’m middle aged….but I’m even working past my self-deprecation and into my acceptance, even love, of the woman I am…the woman I’m becoming.

    It’s been a helluva journey though….and I love following yours on IG – I’ve been terrible about not blogging as well!

    So happy to connect on this platform again 🖤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I remember embarrassing myself once with how inadequate I was at accepting a compliment from someone I admired. She was a great ballerina, pianist, and a kind person. She complimented me on how well I was playing the piano and I flustered so much that her brother (who I was attracted to) laughed at me like I was a weirdo. Ugh, it was the worst.
    Not exactly the same context as being called “pretty” but it’s gobsmacking to me just how many of us women are horrible at accepting genuine compliments from others like we just haven’t had enough practice with it, so are always unprepared. What does that say about our world when it’s easier for us to accept our flaws, or more comfortable with just being ignored? Likewise, what does it say if being called “pretty” is statistically the most common compliment girls/women get?
    My biggest struggle is and has always been time management. I’m always late (as you can see how late I am to this post), and I can be quite stingy with my time, too. I’d say I’m working on it, but Covid-19…so, that’s not currently happening, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Marquessa, you are beautiful and we’re cute, more than pretty as a child. I used to tell myself that everyone is beautiful in their own ways, had some quality about them that makes them attractive, even when I passed what society would call ugly people, as a child. Many so-called ugly people become handsome or lovely, or they embrace their looks with a great personality, humour, and self-care.

    And it’s true, some people might have beautiful eyes and be excellent conversationalists. Some are gorgeous, but still struggle with self-esteem or a horrid family. Nobody gets off easy in life, even if sometimes it seems they’ve no problems are — the whole package. Look at Princess Diana for example, or my gorgeous friend K who has always been vivacious and successful, but is fighting breast cancer, diagnosed for 5-years — they gave her just over a year. She had it 6.5 years and no one believed her, until after her son was born and her hormone fed cancer spread. But, she hangs on for her family. In the end, we all go through tough stuff, and I do believe God never gives us more than we can handle, and if He does, He takes us home to Heaven when it’s our time.

    Personally, I’d say, yes I’ve blond hair, blue eyes, white skin, and curves — for some the epitome a woman depending on the guy (some prefer skinner a lot more though). I was always told I was cute or pretty, sometimes more, but I’ve always struggled with self-esteem like you. Not to mention weight issues as I’m older now, and keeping weight down despite chronic fatigue and many medications due to episodes of psychotic depression isn’t easy, nor is keeping a healthy diet for a woman who adores food.

    I never dreamt of psychosis growing up, what that meant. Also, my skin broke out a lot in high school and early adulthood, and did not start improving until I was on meds and in my late twenties. I still struggle with it at times, with self-esteem, anxiety in regards to my skin, my weight, and despite having my depression/CF improve for several years, this summer spiralling backwards — no longer able to live on my own for awhile, and not able to work part time or casual as I was. So, I’m saying your not alone, no matter your skin color, Childhood experiences, etc. We all struggle.

    I’m not bragging, or saying my life is worse than others, but saying we all go through our tough times, some really tough. Sometimes they occur right away as babies, sometimes in our current lives, Sometimes in childhood, or when we’re elderly — often in several stages. Very few people go through life without troubles, and in the end, what is life worth if you do not believe in Jesus, and live your life for him, seeking heaven (my opinion). But, we all require perspective, so I hope you know whatever your dealing with others have low-self-esteem, and many struggles too
    And you are beautiful. I hope you yourself can believe that inside, not just by what others say.

    Take care my friend. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I understand what you mean about the inside being more important than the outside. Then again, as someone who was like always told how oh so intelligent she was, I can’t stand that so-called compliment. As such, even though I value the inside over the outside, I don’t value my brains.

    MInd if I join in with this challenge? I will also be subscribing to your blog in my feed reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strange how we aren’t quick to believe the compliments? My challenge isn’t a real one, I was inspired by Pam and switched up a bunch of questions and Cyranny was inspired by me so she’s doing it and pinging back on me. I would love to read yours too so don’t forget to ping back so I can get the notifications. Enjoy!💜

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I struggle with control. Women in my family have always been controlling but I’m learning to relinquish it and it helps reduce stress! Also, there is no need for me to control when others are fully capable; I refuse to be the constant ladder always helping people up.

    And I resonate with what you said about being complimented; manners and grades were what mattered in my house. Plus my older sister got most of the attention so I had to learn how to be self-sufficient early on. Humor, intelligence, minding my business and kindness have gotten me this far 🙂 AND, even though I don’t know what you look like, your energy is lovely and that is what matters. There are too many “pretty” people with ugly energy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Control” is out of this world. I’m realizing that this seems engrained in Black mothers especially – usually being the matriarch of family. No need for me to be at everyone’s beck and call as I was taught. I’m still learning to step back and let the chips fall as they should! And thanks for saying that I have good energy. It made my day.💜 Oh, and I did step out of my comfort zone by posting a few pics on Instagram but I can’t promise how long they will be there. My reflex is to “delete” when I see them there. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with you; a controlling mother/mother figure sometimes creates enablement and entitlement or individuals that don’t how to be adults because they were never NOT parented.

        And I feel you on the social media distancing! It should always be fun and entertaining and not given too much thought.

        Like

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