You would be so pretty if….

I'm reading "You would be so pretty if…" by Dana Chadwick in preparation for a BlogHer session I may be leading.

The title made me think back to when I have heard these words from someone, so it made me curious as to what hurtful comments all of you have buried over the years.

"You'd be so pretty if you just wore a little more makeup."

This one was basically saying I was a "plain Jane" and I should jazz it up a bit. I basically let it roll off, but it did kind of bug me anyway because it was just such an necessary thing to say.

"You'd be so pretty with a little more color."

Ok, I know I am a major whitey – but that is by choice. This is perhaps the one good thing I learned from the modeling days – stay out of the sun. This was to of course protect my skin from wrinkles but also because any sort of tan line was a no-no.

So, it's your turn. Tell me when you heard someone utter these words and how you felt.


This entry was posted in Beauty Myth and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to You would be so pretty if….

  1. Lottie says:

    mine wasn’t a case of “you’d be so pretty if” my friend just said to me “I wish i could look like you and be happy” during a conversation about weight (me being a lot heavier than she was at the time). I would say that this comment started me off again…. good friend huh?

  2. jenny says:

    “You would be so pretty if you straightened your hair”
    “You would be so pretty if you lost weight”
    “You would be so pretty if you switched to contacts [lenses]”
    “You would be so pretty if you sat in the sun more.”
    “You would be so pretty if you just tried a little harder.”
    Most of these are from my mommy:(

  3. Libertine says:

    I was told by a “friend” as a kid that I would be so much prettier if I was skinny. Gee thanks! lol
    I also had me and my friends sizes compared by 2 adult neighbors, who said she was like a toothpick and I was more like a tree. I still remember how sad I felt that I came off as so much bigger than her.
    Noone has the right to comment on others sizes, especially when it’s an adult saying things like that to a child, it can be very hurtful and stick with you.
    My grandma used to feed me chocolate & other junk then comment to my mom infront of me how chubby I was getting and taught me how to suck in my stomache when I was around 11.
    People really need to be careful what they say, especially when you don’t know the circumstances of someones life and what they could be going through.
    I keep my comments or opinions in my head unless it’s to my husband, I would never purposely say anything rude to someones face. I know that sounds bad too that I even criticize others, and it is mean but atleast I keep it to myself!

  4. "Julia" says:

    “You’d be so pretty if you were a redhead”
    Alright, so apparently being pale with freckles is only acceptable if your hair is ginger.
    “You’d be so pretty if you’d just get a tan”
    Er… I’m genetically prevented from doing that, both by a lot of Anglo-Saxon ancestors and by a family history of skin cancer.
    “You’d be so pretty if you just lost a few pounds”
    Probably my favourite. Who knew I had an eating disorder? Oh, right, I’m too fat to have one.
    “You’d be so pretty if you’d make a little more effort”
    Sorry to disappoint, but maybe I’m wearing baggy tees because I’m trying to hide the “few pounds” you told me I needed to lose to be pretty and my hair is in a careless ponytail because it’s at an awkward length.
    “You’d be so pretty if you’d curl your hair”
    I try. Sometimes. But it takes about an hour of my time that I could be using to say, sleep.
    “You’d be so pretty if you didn’t have glasses”
    Haven’t heard that in a while. Probably because my new glasses are in the mode right now. Also, I can’t wear contacts because they break blood vessels in my eyes. Eek.

  5. FreeEternally says:

    “You’d be so pretty if you just put on a little make-up whenever you go out of the house” (I was twelve)
    “You’d be so pretty if you excersized a little” (I was 13)
    “You’d be so pretty if you watched your intake a little more” (Age 12 I was already 20 under weight from where I was supposed to be on the growth charts.
    “You’d be so pretty if y ou wore shorter skirts”
    “You’d be so pretty if you weren’t so sarcastic”
    “You’d be so pretty if you would were clothes that fit you”
    “You’d be so pretty if you would
    TRY to move more gracefully” (Age 12…who is graceful at age 12)
    Mostly from my mom or other female relatives. Thankfully around the time they were giving me beauty advise they also taught me how to count calories and how many miles I would have to run if I wanted to burn all the calories from my favorite meal (pancakes with peanut butter…4 miles). The rest is history. And then they called me a brat when I would refuse to eat to the point of passing out when I was 12-14. I wonder if there is a connection? Apparently I was seeking attention.

  6. jenny says:

    Julie – argh it makes me so sad that you got told “You’d be so pretty if you’d curl your hair” and I got told I had to straighten it. If we can’t have curly hair and we can’t have straight, what can we have? gosh, you just can’t win. 😐

  7. Libertine says:

    It makes me sad and angry all at once that your own family would say such mean things to you! No child should ever be told those things. I would never say anything like that to my daughter. I tell her everyday how beautiful she is, how much I love her, I can’t even imagine saying anything like that to her.
    You are pretty regardless of any of those things and I wish someone had taught you that from the start like they should have, rather than picking at you. There is more to life than pretty and that is what counts. I hate to see others hurting because of things that are not true.
    I wish I could take my own advice.

  8. FreeEternally says:

    I grew up hearing those things. They were just trying to help. In my family most of the girls are either models or could be models. As in when I was in high school my cousin was on the cover of cover girl.
    I am in college now and am starting to learn that there is more to life than measuring to the impossible standards of beauty set out for women or even children. Now, people tell me I am thin and that I am pretty or cute…but I cannot quite beleive them because my mom is still telling me to lose the weight and that I obviously do not have enough time to exercise in college. I have lost twenty pounds this school year but because I gained four pounds of it back right before I went home my mom said something.
    Sometimes I think that my family teaching me about beauty the way they did was so that I could have a more realistic approach to society. I know I will not get a job if I do not dress correctly, keep my weight down, and wear make-up when I leave my dorm. I know that I am being judged most of the time by people around me and I never know when I need to be making the perfect impression.
    I know to not think too much of how I look because it could always use improvement.

  9. kay says:

    seeing as though i was a child doing beauty pageants and my nanna would make me do all this weird stuff…fake teeth is just the beginning…but even now at the age of 23, my mother told me recently
    “you’d be so pretty if you wore make-up”
    “you’d be so pretty if you dressed your age, you are 23 be young, stop dressing like nancy reagan”..mind you i am an international relations major and my job forces me to dress business like, but i have come to embrace that i choose to dress up..she can’t for the life of her understand that
    one i said to myself because i am of mixed ethnicity..
    “you’d be so pretty if you were not mixed”..i am working on accepting myself.

  10. Lily says:

    At age 12, my mother said: “You’re pretty, but you’re no supermodel.” Soon after, she said I could lose five pounds.
    I don’t blame her for the eating disorder I’ve struggled with for over 15 years, but it was an unhelpful trigger, that turned my disordered eating into an obsession over body image instead of an obsession over cutting down my energy levels.
    “You’d be so pretty if you wore make-up.” I’ve never worn make-up. Okay, maybe about a half dozen times in my life, but I do not like it. I feel greasy and disgusting, and it makes me break out.
    “You’d be so pretty if you got dermabrasion.” I have had horrible acne since I was 12 years old. It’s left pits in my cheeks and forehead. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but do you REALLY need to draw more attention to it?!
    “You’d be so much prettier if you dressed your age; you’re 23, not a 4-year-old” or “You’d be so much prettier if you dressed in fitted clothing- you look like a bag lady like that!” Like Kay (above my comment), I’ve had my style picked apart, despite the fact that I happen to LIKE what I wear.
    “You’d be so much prettier if you gained weight!” This is one of the most common comments I get. Yes, I realise I am underweight. Yes, I have an eating disorder. I do not need you to verify that over and over, or pull back in disgust when you brush my body.
    This was a great thread. Got me thinking a lot, honestly. Thanks.

  11. Araea says:

    Most of these break my heart, but that is because I have encountered a good bit of them myself. Mine were:
    You would come off more beautiful if you weren’t so intelligent. Your intelligence is ruing your ability to be pretty.
    You’d be so pretty if you hadn’t broke your nose.
    You’d be pretty and more approachable for men if you got breast implants and if you want them I will buy them for you.(15 and from my Mom)
    You’d be prettier if you were blonde.
    My personal favorite was if you lost about 10 lbs you’d be the prettiest of all. Just glowing! From my wonderful ballet instructor, which at the time I was 5’5″ and 83 lbs.
    So those are just a few, which mostly I heard from my mother and ballet instructor. The first time I ever heard I was beautiful was this past Tuesday and I am 22 y.o. After you hear comments like that all your life, you start to believe them, you look at your body and think should I get breast implants, while I’m under maybe get a rinoplasty too? Then that think that makes me ugly(“my intelligence”) prevents me from actually going through with surgery. So instead, I avoid the food as if it is the plague, dance till I pass out, and exercise till I have no more to give and just maybe one day I too will be pretty!

  12. Carrie says:

    “You’ll be prettier if you exercised and lost weight.”
    “You’ll be uglier when you straighten your hair”
    “You’ll be uglier when you perm your hair”
    “You’ll be prettier if you were less tanned.”

  13. .C. says:

    Of course, the most recurring one is from me, and it’s not even a ‘you’ll be pretty’. “You’ll look more acceptable if you’re thinner. Lose weight. Any weight. All weight. Start with ten pounds, then go to thirty, then more! Be THIN. If you’re thin, maybe you won’t be so disgusted with yourself…”
    I remember my grandmother telling me I’d ‘thinned out nicely’ (so I was fat before?)
    I remember the neighbor boy pinching my stomach and calling me fat.
    I remember another boy saying I had ‘a little too much down there, and not very much up there, if you get my meaning’ (Why would a 12 year old say such a thing? And why at that age should I have a huge chest? Not that I do now, or want one…)
    And I remember the things that made me feel good, too…
    Like the nurse who took one look at me as she was about to give me a shot and went and got a butterfly needle because she felt bad pricking my skinny little arm.
    Like my friend laughing at how he could wrap his hand around both my wrists.
    Like being picked up and hearing comments about how skinny I was.
    All of it, all of it burns, and all of it just makes me want to lose weight until I completely fade away. I hate my body. I just want to be thin, as thin as I was and thinner.

  14. Lia says:

    “You’d be so pretty if you’d just stop running around like that all the time.”
    – my grandmother in relation to my habit of playing with my brothers, wearing shorts and a tee and a baseball cap which kept my hair back.
    “You’d be so pretty if you just smiled more instead of commenting on everything.”
    – my Mom on my habit of sarcastically answering stupid comments.
    “You’d be so pretty if you lost some.”
    – my godmother on my entering puberty and starting to lose the stick-thin kid figure I had
    “You’d be so pretty if you’d kept up your dancing instead of that horrible brute sport.”
    – my grandmother on my quitting ballet while keeping up my Tae Kwon Do.
    “You’d be so pretty up there if you won!”
    – my Dad on my dropping out of Steinway.
    “You’d be so pretty if you looked and dressed like that!”
    – my Dad in relation to some cover model on Cosmopolitan
    “You’d be OK if you didn’t look like a witch! You don’t even need a costume for Halloween! You’re a fat witch!”
    – neighborhood kids on my red hair and green eyes.
    “You’d be so pretty if you just didn’t speak and made an effort. You’re fat!”
    – my first boyfriend during my semi-pro fencing years when I was a lot more muscular than now
    “I know you won’t get implants but you’d be so pretty if you wore fake breasts when we go out.”
    – same boyfriend on my lack of chest.
    “You’d really be something if you lost a few pounds, kid.”
    – my grandfather on seeing me in my prom gown, all made up and everything. That one hurt a lot.
    There are probably a hundred more instances of comments like these. I was never good enough, pretty enough or successful enough for anyone. I still am not. I’m just trying my best to come to terms with that.

  15. Sarah says:

    “you’d be so pretty if your lips were a bit smaller.”
    “you’d be so much prettier if you didn’t have braces.”
    my braces are gone, but my lips are still her, and i love them and have embraced them.

  16. gabi says:

    IF you just lost some weight youd be so much prettier
    your not fat your just round
    you look so pale put some make up on
    it would only take 10 minutes for you to do your make and youd be stunning
    well you dont need dinner anyway
    if you toned up youd have an amazing body
    now your skinny cos of your anorexia and bulimia if you did some exercsie youd get som muscle youd look unreal
    your an idiot for dying your hair brown your so much prettier as your natural blonde
    your ugly

  17. Tiger says:

    You’d be so pretty if…
    you got a tan (Yeah, not gonna happen. I’m a pasty girl, with European roots. Irish/English/Scottish/German girls with dark hair, anyone? Yeah, a tan? Nope!)
    you lost weight (Not listening. Sticks fingers in ears *la la la can’t hear you la la la*)
    you grew your hair out/cut your hair. (I’m going to do whatever I damn well please with my hair, thank you very much)
    you wore contacts instead of glasses/wore glasses instead of contacts (Again, I’ll do what I want; glasses are easier, contacts are summer/evening/must have change of pace wear)
    you changed absolutely everything about you (Oh, eff off)
    Yep. I’m having a self-righteous, bitchy day.

  18. .C. says:

    Go Tiger!

  19. Libertine says:

    I was always told I would be tall when I was older so it’d all just “even itself out” which never happened. Everyone said wow you’re gonna be tall and thin…my dad is 6’2 and mom is 5’10, I am only maybe 5’5! I never evened out. I am short, overweight, wished I was taller and thinner.

  20. weliveunderrocks says:

    “You know, I love you the way you are, but that doesn’t mean other people will – you’d have to make an effort to look presentable, not be so outspoken. The way you are, no one will really like you, they’re just saying that ’cause they feel they have to.”
    (My mom; me aged 14)
    “My gosh, now look at you! You’re so pretty now that you’ve lost a bit of weight…”
    (My mom; me aged 23, having stopped eating and feeling terribly insecure)
    “Oh God, you’re thinner than I am, I really need to watch my figure these days.”
    (My mom; same day as above)
    “Well, you don’t need to lose anymore. I am telling, girl, you’ve got issues. – Just don’t get fat again.”
    (My mom; about three months later, me frustrated about not having lost another pound in the meantime)
    Since then, my mom has started talk therapy, and refrains from any comments, positive or negative, regarding my appearance and focuses on what I do for the first time in my life. A little late, really, but it feels good all the same.
    To all my co-commenters above:
    Don’t let this stuff get to you too much; there are plenty of people out there who will appreciate having you around for who you are, whether you’re stick thin, in between or fat, ugly or pretty or just plain. Really. Life gets better the older you get, I promise.

  21. Heidi says:

    You’d be so pretty if you….lost some weight. Or how about, “You have such a pretty face!” I hate that! It makes me feel like I am a defect. Someone that is not a good thing. The “if only” cancels out any good thoughts I’ve ever had about myself. Brings me to want to be dead. :( Cause I am and will never be good enough in the eyes of others which makes me blind when I look at myself. :(

  22. Lauren says:

    This is a very sad, but true post. Where do I begin? Unfortunately most of the damage is done by mothers.
    Me, at age 13-14, obsessively counting calories, dancing and running, I lost weight (weight that I didn’t need to lose), my mom says “you look good.” Umm, hello this is not normal or healthy for a 13-14 year old girl. Seriously, you’re encouraing this? At 16 my mom says “Do you feel like your thighs have gotten bigger” (meaning they have). My mom after one of my dance competitions- “You used to be one of the skinny ones in your group and now you’re not, your just one of the average/slightly bigger ones.” After these two comments I didn’t eat for four days, lost almost 10 pounds. Me the next weekend at another dance competition “Does my hair look okay?”- my mom “Well it looks better now that your face is thinner.” I would need a novel to write everything she has said to me, or IMPLIED. And those implied ones are the worst or the ones where its like “Do you think you have gained weight?” Uhh, I was away for university this year and was starting to get better away from her, but I’m going home for 4 months in one day, and I feel like its going to be hell.

  23. .C. says:

    Try to block out your mom’s comments. I know, impossible, right? But if you’ve got a better one in your head, focus focus FOCUS on that. You deserve to eat, you deserve to eat enough to be comfortable, healthy and happy.

  24. other julie says:

    You’d be so pretty if you just cut/brushed/combed/tied back your hair.
    This is from both parents, who hate my hair. Everybody else loves it-it’s thick, curly, and I only have to comb it occasionally. Easy, and I like it too.

  25. Penelope says:

    Broke up with my boyfriend (or fiancée, it was that close) two weeks ago. He used to say things like “why don’t you buy clothes that fit?” – which could mean skin-tight one day, and something (whatever) else, when I felt uncomfortable in the skin-tight clothes I bought with his advice. He used to comment on me putting on weight when I had been with my parents for a few weeks (where I felt safe and managed not to think about losing weight too much). He refused to realize that it’s not about my looks, when I panicked about eating, and told me to just eat and do sports instead. No matter how often I told him that I’m feeling fat and miserable even if I’m obviously underweight, no matter how often I asked him just at least not to comment on my weight the whole time… it was so much fun to him upsetting me, and he even told me so, he just wouldn’t stop. He loved to go out with me to eat, but got annoyed when I couldn’t get myself to decide where I wanted to go, because I’d actually wanted to eat nothing at all and hide in bed after all that he said. It was so f*cked up. I used to lie awake at night and cry and wish I could just cut away all that meat around my bones, while he slept.
    I went to a psychiatrist after he complained about my depression, who diagnosed me with anorexia, to which he just said: “Well, you don’t exactly *look* anorexic.” Get that. I *wasn’t*, but I certainly had some seriously disordered eating habits, and he knew that. Only months before I had starved myself to a point where he told me to stop losing weight, because it didn’t look “pretty” anymore. He loves the skinny look, but, please, not too much. Because, you know, it’s all about whether *he* likes it or not.
    I tried to explain, time after time, till finally he just told me to stop whining. So I broke up with him. Now he’s wondering why I won’t talk to him.
    God, I could go on and on. He got me so insecure. Glad he’s gone, but those words stay, anyhow… :-/
    This might not wholly fit the topic, but it came up with that question and I really needed to get this off my chest… :( Sorry.

  26. Penelope says:

    Gah! It’s “fiancé”, of course. He’s a boy. Sorry for spamming.
    Still, there’s more that came to my mind:
    “Why don’t you do something with your hair? / You got a pretty face, but you need a proper hairdo!”
    “Why don’t you put on some makeup?”
    I’d never before felt a real need to cheat about the way my face looks, and it made me wonder if he’d been ashamed to be seen with me, being such a wallflower.

  27. redredrobin says:

    I can’t keep track of how many of us have had that “Such a pretty face” treatment. Me too. “If only you’d lose weight”. I ot sent to a dietitian who wanted to give me appetitie suppressants when I was in high school. SPEED, yeah, what every teenager needs! I’ve had major eating disorders, dunno how that happened! Oh, and “Your nose is too big” — we all know real women only have little button noses, right? like real women don’t fart.

  28. Angie says:

    Preface: I am not skinny. I have been skinny, but my body prefers a higher weight. I’m a size 14 dress, size 8 pants. I’m not tiny, skinny, or any of that. So, I may not belong here, because “obviously” I need to lose the weight, because this is for girls who aren’t fat, when I am fat. So, I apologize if my presence is offensive, and I will leave immediately if that is the case.
    “If you lost that little bit of gut in the front, you’d be perfect. I’m not asking you to lose a ton of weight- just one dress size would do.” -my mom
    “I like that dress on you. It hides the fact that you’re a big tub of lard.” – my grandma
    “I’d say you were an 8.5, maybe a 9. I know you can’t do anything about it, but if you didn’t have those weird splotches on your body, you’d be a 10.” – my boyfriend (I have a chronic eczema, it’s not dangerous or uncomfortable, but it manifests as blotchy discolorations on my skin.)
    Then again, sometimes I doubt how much he’s really attracted to me, since he’s a professional artist, and most of the women he draws are very slender women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *