Don't Call Me "Pretty"

by Nada Alturki

I sit amongst the clutter of students and clashes of silverware in center stage, and can’t help but overhear conversations. Two girls were having a rant session about how many pretty girls there are at the school. They bring up a name and follow-up with a statement that seems so exhausted to me now: “she’s so pretty!”

I’m at a party, lost amongst the smoke and red solo cups. There are so many lights and everyone masks themselves in happiness and persistent smiles. A girl comes up to me as I squeeze my way through bodies in search of a bathroom. She puts her hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye, and slurs “I just have to say, I think you’re so pretty! You’re so pretty!” and then wobbles away.  

photos by    Ningze Han

photos by Ningze Han

I’m sitting with my friend at in Iwasaki Library, space I practically call home now. Neighboring my seat is a beautiful blond in glasses and absolutely no trace of makeup. She is physically stunning, no doubt. But she is also an editor for one of the school’s publications, has done multiple internships, has a job, and manages all that along with school. We had a minuscule conversation, most of it just the both of us teasing my friend, and then she leaves. The first and only words I utter are--yes, you guessed it: “oh my god, she’s so pretty!”

In that instant, I had a moment of self-disgust and disappointment. Why was that the only thing I had thought to say? My mother had taught me better than to only look at the surface. This individual has so much going for her, all of her own making, and all I thought was worth noting was the way she looked--something we have absolutely no control over.  I have failed to recognize the most important aspect of what makes a person who they are, and so has any guy or girl who calls someone pretty, and ends the statement there.


The thing is, I acknowledge all the things that she is, but they are hidden. They don’t constantly hover in front of me. We like what’s easy, what's right in front of our eyes. Put a flower in front of you and you’ll forget how many beads of sweat and pairs of hands it took to produce it. Maybe I need to work harder, we all do, to remember, that our accomplishments go much farther than the way we choose to wear our hair that day, or how pretty we look with minimal makeup. What about those nights we spent sans “beauty” sleep for a project that means much more to us? What about the endless phone calls you made trying to pull strings to make your vision come true? What about all the effort you put in to being such a presence that lights up the room; one that makes heads turn and whisper “wow, she’s so pretty…”

I would like to think that we would care to be remembered for much more than our faces; I want to be remembered for the words I speak and the softness in my touch. I want to be remembered for the heart that I wear on my sleeve and the heat that I bring to yours. I want to be remembered for my sweat and tears, and anything but simply “pretty.” I am so much more.