“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend, spouse, partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘ female’.” ~~Diana Vreeland
Do you feel Pretty? Well, if you do it’s a bonus. Not feeling pretty? That’s ok, too.
It’s a sad thing that the opposite belief — that prettiness is absolutely mandatory — basically supports the world economy. The value of the global cosmetics market alone is approaching $265 billion. Throw in some portion of the massively-larger apparel market, most of the weight-loss industry and just about all of the income from cosmetic surgery, and you have a world that runs on the assumption that to look good is better than to feel good.
So despite her best intentions, I don’t know if Diana Vreeland really got it with this quote.
There is a deep human need to be admired and desired. Through our behavior as a species, we show that we’re willing to paint our faces with expensive mixtures, starve ourselves, and even go under the knife just to feel that we might be desired by others. Women (and a lot of men) have voted with their checkbooks, and have for ages. Saying it isn’t obligatory evades the fact that most people in the world seem to think it’s worth doing.
Yet still, beyond the power of makeup and flashy clothes and fancy hair, there’s a power in basic charisma that trumps all of them. There’s some emergent power that reaches out from someone who is really alive and has found some peace in the world. That power burns holes through makeup and attractive clothing when it’s present. It is the inspiration of true desire, even for the conventionally unpretty.
When it isn’t present, there’s no amount of window-dressing that can take its place.