Answer by Janelle Alicia:
It feels like the world is a very superficial place, to an almost sad extent.
To put things in perspective, this was me in high school on the left and now in college on the right:
I was a dorky band girl who had few friends and who would spent her free time at the library. Let's just say my teenage years were not an attractive time for me.
Now in college, I still spend a lot of time at the library and maybe consider myself even dorkier. The only thing that has changed these past several years is how I look.
In high school, I refused to wear makeup. I believed that high school was a time for me to perpetually focus on school instead of anything superficial and temporary, such as looks. I believed in this so much that I practically shaved my head junior year. Soon after I cut off all my hair, a male friend found me in a band room crying and sat down to talk to me. That was a really tough time for me, and it seemed like my new hairstyle wasn't making me any more approachable.
Through this process, I came to realize that people treat others drastically different depending on how they look. Sometimes, just thinking about the stark contrasts of treatment makes me sad.
I always hoped there was some deeper meaning to attraction and maybe even how friends would approach one another, but I found that to be untrue. Not to say that attraction based on personality doesn't exist or that genuine love and friendship don't exist; I've just realized to how much you have to look attractive just to be given a chance at some things.
For example, in high school I was very shy, but I managed to ask several male friends to attend prom with me, and I was turned down by all of them. One even responded, "I'll go with you if there is no one else left to go with." What disappointed me the most from that statement was that we were friends and chatted every day, but it seemed like he had some sort of embarrassment at the idea of even going with me. He could have just lied or said something simple like, "I don't want to go with a friend. I'm looking for a girlfriend instead," but he didn't.
In high school, I was never asked out. I was never approached by anyone. I realized that men don't even care to talk to you as friend if you are not moderately attractive (at least high-school-aged "men"). Maybe that's a bit of a blanket statement, but it was definitely my experience. I was far from attractive or completely charming, but I would say that I was worth having as a friend.
This didn't change until the end of my freshman year of college. Guys started wanting to talk to me, period. It was the first time I had experienced being approached, and I almost didn't even know how to handle it! I felt flattered that anyone wanted to talk to me, let alone be nice! People seemed happy to take pictures of me; men are constantly approaching me for random, crazy reasons just to talk; and I am sometimes told by new people I meet how "pretty" I am. I feel like I can't go a week without getting harassed by some new guy. I once told a guy that I wanted to get pearl tea with him, only to see him drop all his shopping bags in a line he'd waited a long time in just to get me some. I barely knew him. I often get unsolicited messages from random strangers on Quora, Blogger, and Facebook telling me how pretty I am or questioning whether I'm some sort of spam or real person.
Also, since I have been single, I have had several high school friends try to come in contact me, none of whom I have responded to.
With this being said, it hasn't changed me, and I don't take these people seriously, because I understand that these people really don't really care about me. I know they won't be there to look the 50-year-old me in the eye and tell me how beautiful my spirit, attitude, and courage is to them.
I don't think about "using" looks as much as I think about treating people kindly despite how they may look. I do, however, believe this is an advantage; since I have experienced genuine kindness, I've realized I know how to spot it in my own relationships as well as share it with others.
If you don't believe me, I think Dustin Hoffman sums it up perfectly:
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