Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being smart and hot are not mututally exclusive.

The idea that being beautiful and intelligent are mutually exclusive has been coming up again and again for me lately. Last week, while shopping with my parents, I picked out a hot pink purse. I'm super picky about purses. I am picky about the colors, the style, the number of pockets, where the zippers are, how long the shoulder straps are, the texture of the material... basically, out of the millions of purses out there, I only like a very small percentage. Unfortunately, the ones I like are way out of my price range more often than not. This is why I was very excited about my $35 find at Charming Charlie's. Showing my dad, expecting the obligatory endorsement of my choice, he said, "Are you sure? It's pink. When I see that I think Legally Blonde. I expect you to have a tiny dog poke out and bark at me." I reminded him that Elle Woods graduated first in her class from Harvard Law. He said, "It just doesn't make me want to take you seriously, to see you carrying around a pink purse." When I showed him a copper tote I was considering because it was a much prettier alternative to a Jansport, he pointed to a drab, multi-functional, poo-brown bag next to it and said, "This would be better. This is more serious." He's made similar comments when I pick out flashy shoes or overly frilly/sparkly/feminine clothes for work/interviews/school/conferences.

While I'm aware of the fact that appearances make a big difference in initial judgments (I'm as judgy of appearances as the next person, believe me), and I'm more than sure that some of the people men who stopped to look at my poster at the last conference I presented at did so at least partially for the "pretty girl presenter" factor (I say this because even though there seemed to be a similar number of men and women at the conference, more men than women stopped at my poster, and more men than women who stopped did not have related research interests). I also know that there are plenty of attractive, stylish people who are also incredibly intelligent, successful people. And I don't think you have to sacrifice looking nice to further yourself intellectually, and I don't think you have to dumb yourself down to be pretty. In fact, I feel LESS intelligent when I feel unattractive because my insecurity about my appearance saps my confidence and distracts me from the task at hand. Studies show that there may be a link between attractiveness and performance, and that there is a definite link between attractiveness and perceived ability.

And then I read this article on "How to Talk to Little Girls" that said, basically, you shouldn't tell little girls they're pretty, because it gives them a complex and makes them less likely to want to win the Nobel Peace Prize than America's Next Top Model. Instead, you should ask them what their favorite book is. Now, don't get me wrong--as a little girl, I loved to read and be read to. I really did. I still do. And I would gladly talk your ear off about the books I was reading then (and now). But that doesn't mean I don't still want you to think I'm pretty. And just because you think I'm pretty doesn't mean you can't ask me what my favorite book is. I think denying that appearance is a large part of a person's (especially a little girl's) self-identity and instead focusing on only part of who she is (namely, intelligence) can be just as damaging. Little girls ask you to watch them twirl in their pretty dresses because they want to show you that they're beautiful. They want to hear that they are stunning, because they are. And they also want to hear how smart they are. That's why they tell you things that they've learned and read to you. Telling her she's pretty doesn't mean you don't care what her favorite book is. And asking her favorite book doesn't mean you can't tell her she's pretty.

The thing is, I think it would be awesome to win the Nobel Prize. I love doing science, and I really hope that one day my research will make an impact on how we view moral behavior and character and the world in general. But I also think it would be really cool to win ANTM. Bestie and I even auditioned once, on a lark. I also love wearing pretty clothes and having my hair and makeup look nice. I just really don't like the idea that I have to choose--ugly purses to seem smarter, or pretty purses that make me seem flaky and flighty. Pretty or smart? I'm both. And I want to have both aspects of myself acknowledged equally. And I don't think my intelligence makes me less attractive, or that my looks and sense of style make me any less intelligent.

The whole thing is great, but the relevant part starts at 3:25.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shopping Rant

So, readers, I went to the mall last night. There were sales. I was out of powder (and ended up getting the wrong color. Drat.). I didn't feel like sitting at home vegging out all night. I needed to get my contacts at Sam's Club by the mall. It made sense. Plus, my cousin is getting married in October, and while I have some dresses, I don't particularly want to wear any of them to the wedding, because they are either pastel (not for a fall wedding!) or the same black, a-line, tea-length dress that I've worn approximately 800 times already (seriously, the best $17 I have ever spent). So I shopped. And what I found was disappointing, readers.

First of all, why is there NOTHING between full-length dresses and dresses that barely CYA? I kid you not, there was stuff that I held up to myself that barely fell in that little crease where butt meets thigh. The mannequins wearing these dresses inevitably had them paired with 6-inch hooker heels. Here's the thing about me and high heels. I'm about 3 inches taller than the average woman and only about 2 1/2 inches shorter than the average man, so if I'm wearing heels, especially 6-inch hooker heels, I tower. Occasionally, being a giant has its benefits. Being imposing can lend me credibility when I'm trying to look older or like I have my crap together more than I actually do (caveat: this is usually undermined if you see me WALK in heels). Plus, I feel like hooker heels and barely-there dresses just scream, well, hooker. Back to full-length dresses: not appropriate for an afternoon, semi-formal wedding. Especially not strappy, backless, canary yellow dresses with cheap rhinestone and zebra accents. Yeah. They actually make those. I saw it at like 3 stores. Don't get me wrong, I like rhinestone accents done well, but done poorly and you just look cheap.

This brings me to the prices. The fabric is snagging. The beading is coming undone. Seams are loose. Things are discolored. And they still expect people to pay upwards of $100 for this crap. No thank you.

The hunt continues. I really want this dress:
but, alas, the blog I found it on said they found it in some vintage shop somewhere.

The search continues.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life's tough. Get a helmet.

So the job I have now is not the most glamorous occupation. And, really, most idiots could do it successfully. BUT, I have learned a lot working here. Every year, camp re-iterates something for me: a lot of people raise their kids to be large children, rather than self-sufficient adults. They seem to think that giving little Johnny everything he wants will make him a successful, likable human being. They are mistaken.

Sometimes in life, your kid will not get what s/he wants. Rather than calling someone and complaining, it would be better to teach them this lesson. It would be better to let them learn to deal with disappointment. To be grateful for the things that turn out the way they wanted. To be caught up in the wonder that happens when things turn out the opposite of how you wanted and it's better than you could have imagined.

Sometimes your kid will be separated from his/her friends and might even have to work with people they don't like. Rather than trying to ensure that they are only ever surrounded by like-minded individuals, teach them that people who we thought we would hate can be our best friends (yes, Bestie, I'm referring to you). Teach them that working with people who are different from us can give us better ideas. Teach them to embrace differences. Teach them to love everyone, not just their friends.

Sometimes things will happen that are scary. Rather than protecting your nearly-adult child from scary things, teach them how to deal with their fears. Teach them that once you stand up to your fears, they aren't as scary. Teach them that someone will always be there to reassure them when things are scary, but make sure that you teach them how to cultivate a support system so they can cope when you're gone.

Sometimes things do not go according to plan. Rather than trying to force things to change back to the plan, teach your kid to roll with the punches, to pick the ball up and run in the opposite direction, to bounce back and make a new plan. Teach them to be resourceful and make the best of the situation. Teach them that if they have to be there anyway, they might as well find SOMETHING good about it. They might as well learn something.

People, teach your kids that life is more than THIS SECOND. Give them some perspective that things that seem like monumental crises now are just tiny blips in the bigger picture of life. Please. PLEASE.