Self/Reflection is a week of stories on the Cut about how we feel, versus how we look. Here, a woman in her late 50s tells Alexa Tsoulis-Reay how her looks affected her life.
Around eighth grade people started to tell me I was pretty. I was tall and willowy. I had a great figure and I never weighed more than 120 pounds throughout my 20s. I started modeling in high school and had waist length dark brown hair and brown eyes. When I do the whole makeup, eyelashes, high heels, gown look I am very intimidating.
My looks definitely opened doors for me. I worked in PR and as a news producer, writer, reporter, and talk-show host. I did acting in daytime soaps, TV commercials, and theater. I never interviewed for a job I didn’t get. I had a good degree from a good college, sure, but I think all things being equal I’d get the job above other candidates because of the way I look.
One of the worst things about being beautiful is that other women absolutely despise you. Women have made me cry my whole life. When I try to make friends with a woman, I feel like I’m a guy trying to woo her. Women don’t trust me. They don’t want me around their husbands. I’m often excluded from parties, with no explanation. I imagine their thought process goes something like this: “What does it matter if I hurt her feelings. She has her looks and that’s more than I have. Life has already played favorites …” It’s kind of like being born rich, people don’t believe that you feel the same pain. It’s a bias that people can’t shake.
Throughout my life, competitive, attractive, wealthy, entitled women really hated me. At my first job after college, my female colleagues conspired against me. They planted bottles of half-drunk booze on my desk so that it looked like I was drinking on the job. Two women were obsessed with me. They told my boss lies to get me fired. I talked to some of my superiors about it and they put it to me straight: Look, it’s pure unmitigated jealousy. They really do hate you because of the way you look.
I was once engaged to a man who ended it after his sister-in-law spread gossip about me to his family. They threatened to cut his inheritance if he stayed with me, so he left. That broke my heart. I think her feeling was: I am the princess of this family, that woman must be eliminated. Later, after I married another man, I went through hell with my sister-in-law. She still doesn’t invite me on family vacations, she’s blocked me on Facebook.
That resistance other woman have towards being my friend is definitely one of the pitfalls of being attractive.When I was younger I was so desperate for friends, I’d take anyone.
Men were more loyal friends, but my boyfriends would always say: That’s because they want to get laid. So I’d think: Women dump on me. Men just want to have sex with me. Who am I? My closest friend was a gay man, he wasn’t jealous and he didn’t want to get laid. That might have been my only pure friendship.
I never had any trouble getting guys, but I got bored easily and moved on. I should have taken the good ones more seriously. I can see now that they would have been good husbands, fathers, and providers but I’d just drift away on to the next and stop returning their calls.
So I look back over my life and think, What did my looks do for me? They got me a few jobs, and a lot of boyfriends … but what else? I didn’t get married until I was 35 because I didn’t want the merry-go-round to end. One day I realized well if you want to have a kid, you better do it now. Of course all those great guys I didn’t take seriously when I was in my 20s were gone.
My husband was the last decent man standing. He had a bit of a drinking issue, which he’s overcome. There was a time when things were bad and I considered leaving him but I had no idea how to even go about finding someone new because I never, ever, had to pursue a man. I knew I couldn’t cope with that kind of rejection.
These days, since I have aged, when I don’t wear makeup and I gain a bit of weight (which happens often) I pass as normal. As far as men, and anyone under 40 is concerned, I am invisible. They do not see me. I could walk across the street naked — it’s that bad.
Here’s the really sad part. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you were in your youth; when you age you become invisible. You could still look fabulous but … who cares? Nobody is looking. Even my young-adult sons ignore me. The irony is that now that I am older I am a much better person. I went through some suffering in my 40s — raised two kids, dealt with an alcoholic husband, watched my parents get sick and pass away — and I really grew. But as far as the world is concerned? I’ve lost all my value.