So, for reasons you can probably guess, I’ve been seeing a lot of a certain plastic surgeon this past week (since I’m making a vague attempt at anonymity and want to avoid affecting his google search results, I’ll leave out his name, though if you really want to know about it, you can email me—you FTM types in particular might want to). And just about as soon as I walked into his office for my partner’s pre-surgery consult, right after he found out who I was, he goes, “Wow, you have a pretty partner!” And continued to talk about my looks for a little bit. He commented on my skin, the balance of my face, and so on. But not my eyes, which is a little odd (though understandable given his profession), since that’s what people usually comment on. I very rarely get comments on my skin or face shape. And… I think there has yet to be a single time when I’ve seen him that he doesn’t make some kind of comment about my appearance, at least once. Well, other than yesterday, when he came in wearing an expensive suit and was like, “Hey, how ya doin? Looking good! Okay, bye!” We’re staying right near his office and he comes to check in every day, so that’s saying a lot. He took me to the grocery store the other day and couldn’t resist commenting to a friend he was on the phone with, “You wouldn’t believe the pretty girl I have here pushing my cart right now. One of my patient’s friends.”
It’s a little annoying, as a side note, that he keeps referring to me as my partner’s “friend” in public, though I guess he’s trying to be careful not to out us as a lesbian couple if we don’t want to be out. Not that it matters around here, anyway. It’s a big city, nobody knows us, and we barely received a second glance (if we did at that, I’m not sure) from anyone while we were walking down the street holding hands. It’s a nice change; too bad we won’t get too many chances to do it for this trip.
Anyway, that aside, I’m a bit annoyed by all the compliments. I mean, I understand that it’s his business to notice a lot about people’s appearance—he can tell with just a glance when there’s a very slight asymmetry that most people never notice, it’s pretty impressive—but it’s just kind of like… Okay, I’m pretty, can we move on now? Maybe? No?
Well, I guess the doctor is making the assumption that the people who come here like to be complimented on their looks. To be fair, it’s probably pretty accurate. But I’m not here for me. And maybe it’s just paranoia, but I tend to feel like putting so much focus on me might be detrimental to the self-image of any other patient who might overhear.
I don’t really know how to act when people compliment me on my looks, never even mind when they do it this often. Smile awkwardly, mutter a “thank you,” I guess. Culturally, I suppose it’s expected that girls and women should say something disparaging about some part of their bodies, and then praise another woman’s looks instead, though that’s a little bit of a different situation than this. “Oh, but I hate my thighs, and you have such nice ones,” that sort of thing. I won’t do that, because I think it plays into bad body image for one thing, and why can’t women be allowed to just accept compliments, like men can? I don’t like that kind of culturally enforced modesty and derision towards oneself. It’s annoying to go around boasting and being smug, and that goes for both men (especially men) and women, but do we really need to go to such extremes to avoid seeming arrogant or competitive? It’s considered unfeminine to have some self-confidence, I guess.
Honestly, I’d like to just say, “I know”—meaning, “Yeah, I know you think I’m attractive, let’s move on”—but people read that as narcissistic or otherwise rude. I’m not staring at myself in the mirror a lot or anything, I’m just sick of hearing about it. I just want to brush those compliments aside, because they bug me. It’s not like I’m trying to look pretty. It isn’t an accomplishment, it’s nothing I’ve worked at. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t pluck my eyebrows, I hardly do anything to enhance my appearance beyond basic hygiene. I don’t even wear my contacts anymore, and I have very thick glasses that will always distort the line of my cheekbones, no matter what style frames I wear. When people compliment me on my writing, or something else I’ve done, I feel good about it. But when people compliment me on my appearance it makes me feel awkward and bad, because there’s so much focus on women’s appearance in general, and because it makes me the object of a lot of other people’s envy. Also, because I’m naturally thin and petite, I used to regularly get a lot of snide comments about how I “must” have anorexia, and lots of people pushing me to eat more than was comfortable. It was a repeated exchange that went kind of like this: “Ugh, you’re so thin, you must be anorexic. You should eat.” “But I’m no—” “EAT!” I rarely had any outright harassment about how “disgusting” I am, except from my sister (who is mean to everybody), but there was still a sense that I shouldn’t look the way I do, because it’s other people’s ideal. I realize I’m privileged because my body happens to match the current social ideal. I wish it didn’t have such a drastic effect in the way people treat me.
Not to mention, there’s the sexual element of it, which I’m rather uncomfortable with. I’m not about to say everyone should stop being sexually attracted to me, of course not. Everyone is entitled to their own sexual feelings. But when they’re directed at me, I just don’t know what to do with them. I’m not even talking about when people are being creepy, just when they’re politely telling me I’m attractive, in a reasonable way. So again, I just kind of shrug it off and thank them awkwardly. Sometimes I will tell them I’m asexual, if it’s a situation where that’s appropriate. The doctor certainly doesn’t need to know, nor do I usually decide to say anything about it to people I’ve only recently met, unless I’ve spent a lot of time with them since then. But if I do mention that I’m asexual, usually that commits me to a long discussion about it in which I am asked obnoxious questions. That can be just as uncomfortable as having a lot of comments about how sexually attractive I am directed at me, sometimes more.
The irony, of course, is that one burgeoning stereotype (born from the misconception that we “just can’t get any” most likely) about asexuals seems to be that we’re all ugly and unattractive anyway. For evidence, this year my blog has received hits from the following search terms:
why are asexuals ugly
can you find asexualness attractive?
And there were several other variants more than a month old that I’m not going to bother to go hunting for. To answer those questions, I’ve also received hits from these terms:
i find asexual people sexy
how does one attract an asexual
how to get an asexual to want you
how to convert an asexual person
what kind of sex are asexuals into?
So apparently there are people who are attracted to and really want to attract asexuals out there. Imagine that. That last one is particularly funny to me. I’ll have to make a post to answer those later.
You know the funny thing? My partner isn’t even sexually attracted to me, or at least is only barely, most of the time. She’s sexual, but doesn’t really get sexual attraction to people very much. At least not for their looks. Mostly she seems to like certain body parts and situations, or people taking a dominant attitude towards her. Only rarely does she say my appearance itself turns her on. (I wish I could get her to do a guest post on this. Maybe someday.) I think in part this is why I’m much more comfortable with her, although sometimes it also worries me, since I’m not on edge from her being super attracted to me all the time. I would probably be very used to it by now if she was very sexually attracted to me. Overall, I can sort of deal with regular sexual attraction; I’ve gotten better at it. It tends to creep me out when people find me attractive specifically because I’m asexual, especially because the last person who told me that kept calling me a “sexless creature” (like I’m not even human!) and was very coercive. I guess that’s similar to the descriptions I’ve read from racial minorities who are creeped out when people are attracted to them primarily because of their race.
Am I bothered by being sexually attractive? I guess not really, I don’t really have major issues with my body. I don’t even know what my weight is most of the time, or at least I didn’t until I started having to go see doctors regularly. I don’t particularly care to know, so all I’ve got is an idea of a general range in the low 100’s. I’m not actively trying to look unattractive or anything, not like one survivor who tearfully confessed to me that the reason she has an eating disorder is not because she wants to match an unrealistic beauty ideal, but because she wants to look as ugly as possible so nobody would ever want to touch her again. The most I’ll usually do is wear a baggy t-shirt with a sports bra to cover up or at least minimize my breasts, so that I’ll get at least less attention from my appearance. I’m bothered more by the way that people handle their sexual attraction to me than by the fact that I’m attractive to a lot of people.
It’s just… kinda weird to regularly hear/know/contemplate all this stuff about unrealistic beauty standards, and then be told that you basically are the standard, or at least the more realistic version of it. I mean, I’d still be photoshopped if I appeared in a magazine or something, I’m sure. But something similar to my face is what this plastic surgeon aims to create. To me, that’s just… weird.
This post has been brought to you by Compliments, Introspective Tendencies, and Too Much Time On My Hands.
3 thoughts on “Beauty Conscious”
Oh goodness, I identify with this so much. I also happen to have a body type that is considered attractive, and it makes me really uncomfortable when people comment on it a lot. For both of the reasons you mentioned: the sexualization element, and the fact that it feels weird to be the object of other people’s envy.
That doctor’s comments on your appearance sound excessive even given his profession. Would it be at all possible for you to mention to him that his comments are making you uncomfortable? I don’t think you even need to tell him why. It’s not his business.
Well, it seems kind of inappropriate to say anything really, since lately he was mostly using it to compare features of my face that he added to my partner’s face. So it was kind of relevant to the conversation at the time, except for the initial comments and the ones he made in public. She got the stuff off her face now, so it’s not likely that the conversation will come up too often again. Now the main focus is somewhere else.
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