Many women and girls have the ability to look fantastic. To really lay it on, dress to the nines. They turn heads at the Italian restaurant, they get flirted with at the wedding reception. Even I could do it every now and then.
But that’s not the same as being “professional grade” pretty. Like models and actresses. So pretty that people basically PAY you for the privilege of looking at you. People like that are rare in real life, unless you live in a city were they congregate to cash in their genetic lottery win, like LA or New York.
I grew up with one. Lately I can’t stop thinking about her life.
This is Sunny, at about 11. We grew up together, in our tiny mountain community. She was a cute kid, huh? Sunny was the only daughter in the middle of three brothers. Her parents were true, tie-dyed in the all-natural-wool flower-children. Well, her mother at least. Her home was chaotic but kind. Her mom Pammy was forgetful and flighty but pretty too, open and sweet. She drank wheat grass juice, went braless, peed with the door open no matter how many friends her kids had over, and once told me I had a beautiful soul. The version of “how to cope with puberty” book she gave Sunny taught nothing about body hair or tampons, but a lot about animal spirit guides, Gaia, and moss to catch the blessing of menstrual blood. I remember Sunny pleading with me not to make fun of it because it was serious to her. She was a sweet kid, quiet, gentle. Not funny, not a brain. But nice. Not a touch of aggression or bitchiness.
The neck of a swan, the face of an anime princess, and the requisite ridiculous ratio of leg to torso (you can’t see but the legs go on for another yard or so…)
Professional model, New York, Paris, and Milan.
She’s more regular now that she’s in her early 30’s. Still unusually beautiful, tho. Lives in her hometown with some kids, a boyfriend. I think she’s a make-up artist at a trendy day spa. We’re on Facebook together, me and 800 of her other closest friends.
It’s not the glamour of modeling that I can’t stop thinking about. The life of fashion and nightclubs (I almost wrote ‘discothèques’ there and I’m not sure I meant it ironically…that’s how far removed I am from that world) and coke and money. No…it’s something else.
I crave to understand: what is it like to be too pretty to be normal? To not be able to turn invisible with a sweater and jeans if you want to run into the store and get cold medicine? To have your appearance trigger a response in everyone who sees you?
For most of my childhood and young adulthood, I was on the other side of the coin. I desperately wanted to be invisible so no one would make fun of me for looking weird or ugly or fat. I skulked around as if anyone who noticed me would throw rocks.
So I want to know. What is it like to have people automatically want to be near you? Or automatically hate you because of how bad they want to be you? (Though I think it would have been hard to keep that hate fueled toward Sunny for even the most jealous of women…living in the woods with three brothers and hippie parents makes a certain kind of girl, and that girl is likable.) To have 20-year-old jocks (the worst creatures of western civilization) immediately try to make you happy and impressed, instead of muttering “fat bitch” when they bump into you and spill their beer.
Is it like a superpower? Does it screw with your head? How can you be unhappy if the whole world is genetically programmed to love you? So many questions. I doubt she could answer them. She probably doesn’t analyze stuff like that, and besides, it’s all she’s ever known.
But one night I asked anyway. I wrote a Facebook note, skipping all the pleasant “how’s the family?” such and such and went straight for the meat. “Do people treat you funny because you’re pretty? How do you know if a guy is being nice to you cuz he’s nice or cuz he’s horny?”
She never responded, but I don’t blame her. The question probably embarrassed her. Besides, I’m not sure any answer she could give would satisfy me.