I wore my hair natural, in loose waves, put on a plain black shirt, flip-flops, and grey shorts, and I left the house without a speck of make-up on my face.
My first stop of the day was Baker Center for coffee. A woman cut me in line, probably because I was dressed very inconspicuously. One of my classmates even walked past me without saying hello. I rarely wear my glasses, so I wondered if he did not recognize me.
The girl at the coffee counter was friendly in comparison to a group of sorority girls outside. I asked them about their fundraising
event, and one seemed annoyed and irritated with me for asking.
It was a very hot day out, and sweat caused my glasses to keep slipping down my nose. Personally, I felt dorky and self-conscious, so I opted to switch my glasses for sunglasses when I took my dog for a walk.
The dog brought me a little bit more attention, especially since she is a tiny maltese puppy. Two girls stopped to pet her, and a couple guys
asked about her breed.
Later on that night when I took the dog out, there was a tall, attractive man outside with a maltese too. When I asked about his dog, he immediately mentioned it belonged to his girlfriend’s family. Since he rapidly informed me he was attached, I had to wonder, did he not want an ugly duckling flirting with him?
DAY TWO- THE SWAN
It took about an hour longer to get ready today. Styling my hair and make-up took a lot of time and products. It’s expensive to be “pretty.”
I went back to Baker Center for coffee, meeting my boyfriend along the way. He immediately complimented me on my appearance, as I rarely wear dresses and heels to walk around campus.
The girl at the coffee counter politely took my order, and another guy complimented my dress, made my drink, and made small talk while I waited. Being overtly friendly, he told me to have a great day. With the extra attention and confidence boost, I couldn’t help but think today would be better than yesterday.
Drinking my frappucino on a couch on the first floor, I caught the guy across from me staring. To be honest, I definitely felt pretty. I never usually dress up unless it is a special occasion, so it was sort of empowering feeling attractive.
Men held the door open for me as I walked around town. Women complimented me on my dress and shoes. I noticed tables of men checking me out when I walked past. People definitely stared at me more.
When I got back to my apartment I took the dog out, and a group of men were loading an SUV in the parking lot next to the patch of grass where she goes. They all watched me, and as the car was pulling away, the guy in the passenger seat stuck his head out of the window and yelled, “You’re looking very hot!”
At this point, the attention got borderline obnoxious, so I stayed inside the rest of the night.
LOOKING BACK on my experience, there are positives and negatives for both days.
Obviously, an attention-hungry woman should wear high heels, a dress, and glamorous make-up. On the other hand, I cannot say you will be taken very seriously.
If a person wants to blend in with the crowd, it takes little effort. Being average takes little time or thought.
However, I lacked confidence. I noticed the way I carried myself was different. Since no one seemed to notice me, I was not my usual friendly self.
My ugly duckling day was simple and ordinary, and a little bit boring. In order to live an eventful life, isn’t it nice to get noticed on occasion?
I received plenty of looks on my swan day, but it took a lot of time and effort in preparation. Plus, it is extremely expensive to keep up on your appearance, considering the costs of massive amounts of make-up, hair products, clothing, jewelry, purses, shoes, etc.
Still, there was a sense of empowerment which came along with looking good. I felt strong and confident. It was certainly an ego-booster. But did I feel more like a person or an object?
WHO HAS MORE POWER?
Definitely the swan.
Let’s face it- we live in a looks-based culture where appearance matters. Parents teach their children good grooming habits. Men and women perform daily beauty rituals to look healthy and attractive. People spend billions on beauty products and cosmetic surgeries every year.
From a young age, children judge their peers based upon looks. The kid with wild, frizzy hair and glasses sits alone at recess because other kids think he looks “weird.” However, beauty queens and homecoming kings are often the most attractive and popular students in school.
People habitually choose their friends, dates, and significant other often with a heavy emphasis on appearance.
People who are deemed PRETTY and ATTRACTIVE by society will have more POWER.
IT'S THE POLITICS OF PRETTY.
Any social interaction where looks, attractiveness, and beauty play a role in decision making are examples of the politics of pretty.
People who are deemed pretty and attractive by society will have more power. This power will help them accumulate more resources over their lifetime. Based upon political science theory, pretty is a tool used to gain wealth, privelege, and higher social status.
Although it is a metaphor, the world is full of swans and ugly ducklings who interact with each other throughout their lives. These social interactions create a power structure which governs the way people treat one another. Oftentimes, the swans receive better treatment.
It might not be fair, but there are certainly benefits to being “pretty.” While people who emphasize appearance are often scorned and called superficial, there is no denying the power of pretty.