Pretty woman, crappy friend

Do beautiful ladies mistreat their gal pals?

Published September 29, 2009 12:30PM (EDT)

It's no secret that, as Jessica Wakeman writes at The Frisky, "beauty is a privilege." Great-looking women (and men), we casually assume, glide effortlessly through life. They clinch coveted jobs and gain entry into exclusive night spots with no more than a single, sparkling smile. Their love lives are the kind of orgiastic Olympian romps mere mortals can only dream about. As a result of this easy life, Wakeman claims, beautiful women can be shitty friends. 

In a way, her argument is no more revolutionary than the central conceit of countless teen movies, from "Heathers" to "Mean Girls": Pretty ladies think they're God's gift, and when anyone -- especially a female friend -- questions their dominance, there's hell to pay. "It's striking to me," writes Wakeman, "how not being a kiss-up has ruined my friendships with some very pretty women. In fact, my only friendship Titanics have happened when I've stood up to extraordinarily beautiful women and lost out. 'The Pretty Girl' wanted me to play by her rules; I didn't want to do it, so Pretty Girl read me the friendship riot act and ditched me. Forever." Wakeman concludes that "because plenty of women and men want to be around attractive women just so those privileges can rub off of them, some beautiful women aren't used to hearing 'no.'" And this constant supply of potential pals and learned inability to accept criticism conditions them to being surrounded by a pack of yes-women, rather than real friends.

To readers who would accuse her of jealousy, Wakeman offers a milder confession:

Jealous? No. I'm resentful. When it becomes clear to me that a beautiful friend of mine plays the "my way or the highway" card, I resent the fact that I'm being valued so little. Compromise and admitting you are wrong are friendship skills which date back to the sandbox days -- I don't care if you look like Megan Fox.

 Then, she goes on to tell the stories of two beautiful women who made her life miserable.

Now, I was already skeptical about Wakeman's argument when I read that her "only friendship Titanics" have taken place between her and a gorgeous lady. I'm not a particularly acrimonious person, but I've still had friendship meltdowns of all kinds -- and I can't remember a single one that could be explained away by the fact that my friend was some kind of entitled Glamazon. (In fact, sometimes these blowups were even my own, admittedly "normal-looking," fault.) Friendships end for complicated reasons, but if they're worth arguing over at all, chances are that a "who's prettier?" power play isn't chief among them.

When I read Wakeman's tales of Sasha and Elizabeth, the two pretty girls who left a bitter taste in her mouth, I realized that the stories had more in common than just their beautiful villains. For one thing, both were models -- and that's different from being just your standard breathtaking babe: It means you eat, sleep and breathe beauty. Perhaps you even begin to confuse it with your own worthiness as a human being. (And understandably so, if it's the best measure of your job competence.) That doesn't excuse treating regular-looking humans like dirt, but it sure helps to explain it.

I also noticed that Wakeman lived with both women: She and Sasha shared a college dorm, while Elizabeth was a post-grad roommate. As someone who has lived with roommates since high school, I'm acutely aware of the problems these arrangements can pose. There's nothing like living in close quarters with someone you didn't previously know especially well to incubate disputes. While Sasha sounds like your classic, selfish, self-dramatizing bad egg, Wakeman's final showdown with Elizabeth resembles the kind of mild arguments my roommates and I weather weekly: "Eventually, we had a friendship/happy roommates blowup when I told her that her friend who insisted that he knew how to fix our broken Internet connection was actually making it worse."

I understand what Wakeman is trying to say about privilege, but my point is this: Sure, beauty -- like wealth, intelligence or physical prowess -- can come with its own sort of entitlement. But we wouldn't lump all rich or smart or athletic people together as uniquely unsuitable friends. So why direct the abuse at pretty women, or assume that any personality flaws they have must be a result of their good fortune in the genetic lottery? Instead, perhaps we should get to know our friends better as individuals so we won't be tempted to think of them solely as members of a group we've already decided we don't like.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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