Women

The Consolations of Ugliness

November 22, 2011

Patricia Hitchcock

Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.
—John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Oprah Winfrey likes to recall how excited her neighbors got the first time The Supremes performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“Come quick,” someone supposedly yelled out the window, “colored people on the television!”

I was about eleven years old when I first saw someone on TV who looked like me. I’d never given the matter any thought until I started at the sight of Patricia Hitchcock (Alfred’s daughter) playing the Plain Jane sister in Strangers on a Train:

Hitchcock wasn’t “Hollywood homely,” either—that stock character who removes her spectacles to reveal that—take that, haters!—she looked like Catherine Deneuve all along.

Eleven is the age when all little girls stop being “cute” and only a few get to be “beautiful.” I was not going to be one of them.

“Without men busting my door down, I never got the hang of ditching my annoying habits and unpopular opinions to keep men around.”

So unlike most every woman I’ve ever met who wasn’t a nun, I’ve never had a “Prince Charming retirement plan.” (Ladies: That “investment” is the only one in which “interest” does not “compound” with the passage of time.)

I always assumed I’d have to earn my own money, and not through any of the more decorative female professions, either. Certainly ending up as a “trophy wife” was never a realistic goal. (More like “consolation prize.” Or—in the case of my still somewhat flabbergasting marriage to a man more attractive than I am—“participant.”)

I also never lived in constant dread of being raped or kidnapped, not even when that (now-debunked) “one in four” figure reigned as the queen of scare stats. After all, at least according to CNN, only beautiful blondes got abducted, right? (Unless the abductor was Ted Bundy, who favored brunettes.)

(And yes, I’m aware of the contention, of similar vintage, that “rape is a crime of power, not sex.” In which, er, the guy cums at the end.) If I have ever been “sexually harassed,” I must’ve missed it, although in light of the vaguer accusations against Herman Cain, I gather these apparent outrages can be difficult to describe, let alone detect.

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