Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, I guess...

People on a couple of message boards I frequent have been debating whether this article is real or trolling. Assuming this lady exists -- and this is the Daily Mail we're talking about here; the main thing that separates them from US tabloids is that they buy their incriminating celebrity photos pre-'shopped rather than doing it themselves -- then I think she's kind of delusional, but about something that has a grain of truth.

The thing about attractiveness is that it's very subjective. There are certain things that are pretty universally attractive: Healthy hair, relatively clear skin, having all your teeth, etc. There are other things that are widely considered attractive in a particular culture, which vary depending on what time and place you're looking at. Women on the Indian subcontinent have internalized the "beauty" of pale skin to the point where some of them buy bleaching creams of dubious safety and efficacy, whereas if you watch Jersey Shore you'll notice they all tan themselves into beef jerky. Beyond that, whether another human being is a perfect ten or maybe a six-ish is very highly dependent on who's looking, where, when, and why.

That aside, it is not inaccurate to observe that being beautiful makes your life mostly easier, but occasionally very difficult. Like any other positive social quality, some people are oblivious to it; some people notice but it doesn't really change their behavior; some people trip all over themselves to fête you; and some people see themselves as personal instruments of karma and dedicate their life to "balancing out" all the people who are nice to you. Being smart or being rich or being of the dominant ethnic group or whatever it is works pretty much the same way.

She relates an incident where the captain of a flight she was on apparently sent back a bottle of champagne unprompted; stuff like that does occur from time to time, and often enough that, while I've never gotten on an airplane expecting free booze, if it happened I would be gracious and pleased, but not surprised in the least. Depending on how I'm dressed, I've seen guys in my wake stare so hard they walk straight into store shelves and doors and the like. A lot of guys try to start conversations with me on the street or on public transit, and I'm inclined to conclude that, consciously or unconsciously, it's at least partly due to attraction, particularly as the incident thereof goes way down if I'm out with one of my male friends, who might plausibly be my boyfriend.

It makes me a bit nervous, to be honest. Not that I'm afraid of random ordinary guys, but I feel bad having to turn people down. It's less awkward when it's a matter of business, like when photographers or bartenders do it. (Bartenders in clubs and bars tend to comp drinks to girls, especially attractive girls, because they draw a lot of hard-drinking young men in. Waiters at restaurants don't do it, but at bars I often drink remarkably cheaply.) I've looked like this since I was about 14, and it happens constantly enough that I had to learn to not feel obligated to the people giving me gifts or compliments beyond saying 'thank you', or I'd be constantly stuck in a cycle of unwanted, and maybe misleading, reciprocity.

When someone is constantly nasty to me for no apparent reason, they are almost always female. I only conclude it's down to looks when they do it from the very first moment we've met, before I even opened my mouth, and that's really the only thing it could be. I've had a couple of coworkers in the past who were consistently cruel to every young attractive female in the place, and only to them. They were both middle-aged women; one was married and vocally unhappy with that fact, and had probably been a looker when she was younger, and one was single, looked like a frog that had been stood up on its back legs, and had an unpleasant personality to boot. I can't always tell when it comes from younger women, just because if they're in my age bracket there are a lot more ways in which they might view me as unfair competition, whether I am or not. So far as I know, I've never had a guy be a complete douchebag at me strictly because of how I look -- my problem is more often how to get them to stop following me home.

Other than that, mostly what I've gotten is surprise. A lot of people who ran into some of my formal academic work first apparently didn't expect me to look like this when they finally met me in person. I don't know if that's down to my actual physical appearance or just to the stereotype of female academics as devoting time to their work at the expense of traditionally girly things like makeup and clothes. Conversely, when I work as a model, a lot of photogs are thrown to find out that I'm not modeling because I couldn't make it on brains alone.

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