Am I pretty?
By the way, there is only one correct answer to that if you’re my friend.
I have enough ego strength to “joke” with you that way. But then again I am over thirty. One whole teenager over thirty.
A running theme in my life over the past couple of years has been the idea that if the internet had been around when I was a kid, I would have made such FANTASTIC use of it. I used to write skits and plays and comedy routines. Without a doubt, I would have written and produced my own short films and distributed them on my own websites and blogs. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, everything. I would have ruled it. Whenever I hear of some teenager coming up with some clever thing that went viral, I think–no sour grapes at all–that would have been me.
So in the past few days, I have heard a couple of stories that changed my mind, like an ill wind blowing through a house of cards.
The first one I saw on Channel Five, our local Fox News (a sensational story from a source known for sensationalizing, but still). The story describes a “Disturbing Trend” among women as young as eleven and twelve years old who post their pictures online, under the heading, “Am I Pretty?” They are asking strangers to rate their beauty.
Some of these postings get a huge number of hits, in the millions. The feedback can be cruel, comments like: “You’re pathetic,” or a screenful of “UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY.” A screenful.
This may seem as though it is off the topic of this blog, but….talk about sick. The responses are sick. Sick-making to the girls, in the present, in the long-term. They are sick-making to me, too. I would argue they ought to make most people sick.
The other story is even more galling, if only because it involves someone I know. The fifteen year-old son of a good friend of mine had dinner with a group of us. I asked him a question I’m sure embarrassed him, about how his relationship with his girlfriend of two months was going.
This young man shyly told me about something that had happened the night before during a sleepover with five of his male friends (by the way, I am disguising enough details about this to hide the identities of the people involve). His girlfriend had been jealous he was having a party with his friends and not with her. She also knew he was losing interest in her, so she (his words) “sexted him,” by sending him a text with a picture of her naked breasts.
When I asked him how he felt about it, he said he was embarrassed for her and sad. The minute it happened, he went and showed it to his dad, and they decided he should delete the picture. Then, on his own, he wrote to her and asked her why she would ever do something so disrespectful to herself. She gave him a response that was so sad.
She said that when her last boyfriend tried to break up with her, it worked to do the same thing to bring him back. Even if she was making it up, and it sounded like she was, that was just so sad that she thought she needed to show her body off to win his affections.
She was very lucky that she hadn’t emailed a naked picture to the average guy, who likely would have texted it to fourteen of his closest friends. By Monday morning at school, every guy–and girl–would have had a picture of two of her supposed assets.
I don’t mean to embarrass myself, but I can understand how she became involved in something so completely ridiculous, because I was a young, misinformed teenage girl. I wanted so very desperately to be liked. I did and said all kinds of desperate and awful things because I thought they would make people like me.
Not a single one of them worked. If I was going to understand it, I needed someone to tell me from a megaphone to my ear daily. Unfortunately, they only whispered it once or twice. I didn’t work that hot mess out until I was in my early 30s. I am eternally grateful there was no internet.
I can’t say whether I would have posted a picture and asked complete strangers to rate my beauty. But I can understand the appeal in supposed anonymity. One can so easily suppose the pre-adolescent reasoning: “If I put my image out there on a blog or Wikipedia, no one I know will ever see it.”
It’s like being invisible. I sometimes feel that way with this blog, which is why when someone mentions it to me in person, I pause for millisecond; my brain does an out-of-context blip of a dance: “How can you be talking about that out-in-the-ether-thing, when you are so clearly human, and standing here?”
Last night I slept terribly, fitfully, full of nightmares. In a single dream that went on all night, I was in Deathville; my health was declining rapidly, and the doctors had informed me that the End was near. Every symptom that arose–my leg pain, my pounding heart, my aching belly–was still further evidence that my number was next up on the Deathville number board, and I couldn’t escape. No matter which I alley I turned down, I reached the Deathville number board. No matter which safe haven I reached, I injured myself again.
Tossing and turning in bed, I could find no comfort. Finally, I was able to wrestle my aching joints from that painful sleep, coming to consciousness, strangely, on the memory of those teens and tweens. As I awoke in that cotton-headed twilight, my thoughts came clearer and clearer into focus and I knew with sudden clarity that I would sooner go back to Deathville than to be a tween girl, even if I had a Twitter feed or a YouTube account. Not for a million, billion dollars.
Look at you
I wish to God I had it too ….
Pretty, Pretty? (Divine, Female Trouble)