Pretty for Approval

Pretty is refinement of beauty. Right click definition: attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome.

As defined to me it’s something someone can become. Beautiful is what people are as is. So it’s a presentation, a refinement of my beauty in a way that appeals to others. ANYONE can be pretty with a few touches and refinements here or there. Instagram proves that. I like being pretty some days other days I am content in my beauty. Others who shall not be named for the sake of my relationships prefer me in pretty. Dolled up, dressed up and pressed down. Dolling, dressing and pressing takes work that most days I don’t want to do. My laziness comes at a cost. They treat me differently when I’m pretty.

I was raised with appearance in mind. To an extent it played into the respectability politics of being black and poor but not looking like it. It’s a Detroit thing. Hair pressed and curled, shoes matching belt and purse, socks matching shirt, pants creased, tights and stockings under each dress, a slip matching the bra and panties, and if it was a holiday hair pieces and gloves to top. I like all of the details of pretty. I love my hair done and my nails and toes and now as a woman I like my lady bits threaded, waxed and shaved. It’s smooth and feels great to me. My lips are perfectly pouty and full for the brightest oranges, purples and pinks, my eyes are defined with the deepest browns and smokiest blacks, my cheeks full of life with reds, golds and peaches and a few drops of color for under eye correction. I love the pretty I wear. I also love the beauty it defines.

Pretty became awkward when I had to do my hair when visiting my father on weekends. Pretty was awkward when there was a wedding, party or family gathering and my Mother would respond as I entered the hall “That’s what you wearin’? You gon’ do something to yo hair? You don’t look good in that, it would look better on me.” Pretty was uncomfortable in so many ways. Pretty was for approval. When I did dress, doll and press I got more attention than I wanted. It was awkward having several people tell me they like how I looked over and over again. People I didn’t really know or whose compliments didn’t matter to me. I changed when I didn’t want the pressure or attention. I dropped the weaves, the nails, the waxing, the jewelry, the makeup, the clothes. People changed. My Mother didn’t want me visiting her at work or to go out with me. My friends weren’t as inviting, my dating life slowed dramatically. Some who were close enough to pry asked me to wear certain clothes, do my hair a certain way, and make this or that adjustment, they tried to pressure me into idealistically pretty as bargains for their attention. I’ll admit there was an awkward transitional phase to defining my natural beauty but nothing so off putting as to warrant social distance. For a short while I was conflicted but I grew into the rebellion so that it became my identity.

My identity is built on me not owing anyone my pretty. The work that goes into styling my hair, painting my nails, lining my eyes, waxing, shaving and threading, highlighting, contouring, dusting, walking in 5 inches, rouging my lips and moisturizing my crusty ass runners feet is for me. If my family, friends and lovers happen to be so blessed as to witness the refinement of my beauty I am glad they may behold my magnificence. Should they not find me valuable or approve of my beauty in its true essence they may find themselves lost and forever longing because they will never see my beauty as long as they are looking for it in the prosthetics of pretty.

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