#880: The Question of the Pretty

January 24th, 2018

They’re all pretty there. They’re all pretty in a way I find pretty too.

I have a coffee shop I stop at sometimes on the way to work, either when I’m running so early I have time to truly savor a steaming cuppa and a scone or when I’m running so late that it doesn’t matter so I might as well.

It’s a trim and comfortable corner shop on the wrong side of the street from ‘L’ stop doors. It’s usually on the emptier end because there’s a Starbucks a block over. On weekend mornings it fills with strollers, MacBooks and white women who talk with their hands, but on a weekday before work, it’s a quick stopover for baked goods and coffee from women who happen to all be pretty.

There’s a man or two there, sometimes. There’s a big bearded guy who mans the prep station for the food. And there was a slim Hispanic fashionisto who aided the slim white fashionistas behind the counter for a while. But mostly it’s just women.

It would have bothered me, years ago. I would have snarled and sneered with the righteousness of my 20s about hiring only a certain phenotype of attractive and white. Really, I would have just wanted to stutter out a hello to them, my concern actually more about their femininity than my feminism.

Now with benefit of wisdom, marriage and generally being a less-shitty person than I had been, I just see them as people nice enough to smile when they hand me the thick brown juice I increasingly need to make it through my mornings.

I wonder, though.

I wonder what it means to have people look at you and see a thing to stutter flirts at rather than a person who happens to have nice hips, rocker hair and a couple of charming tattoos. I wonder what it means to have to question the intent of every smile.

I do try to smile at them. They’re nice, as a group. There’s the one with the hat, the one without the hat, the one with the big glasses, the one with the big glasses and the Rosie the Riveter-style kerchief on her head. I smile to be polite, to not look like a serial killer and to treat them how I wanted to be treated when I was the one behind a counter.

But I wanted not to be invisible. The trouble with the pretty is that they’re all too visible. The eye contact, smiles and human hellos I craved so badly in retail days could have different meanings for them. Or not. Or maybe a little. I don’t know and I truly hope their self-worth isn’t predicated on how nice a guy was when being handed a scone.

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that men bungling headlong into middle age with pronounced tums and graying scragglebeards are God’s true hotties, but I do wonder about the pretty. I wonder what it’s like to be so loathed and loved for genetic forms they can’t control. I wonder if makeup feels like armor.

I wonder what it feels like to be so smiling and trim that people write blog posts about you just for existing.

In which I make a woman feel horrible and one feel great

In which a woman coordinates bike and prosthetic leg

In which a woman inquires about dreams

What's this?

You are currently reading #880: The Question of the Pretty by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.