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How to deal with envious friends?
June 19, 2011 12:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I gracefully deal with envious female friends?

There's no way to say this without sounding egotistical, so here it is: I'm very attractive by typical standards (tall, thin, blonde, pretty). But I'm really a nerd, I don't care about fashion, looks aren't very important to me, and I don't work out a lot or diet; this is just how I am (I know, that makes it even more annoying). Some of my close female friends who are not as attractive in a normative, model way (but I think they're pretty), express envy in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. For example, they'll say things like "Sometimes I feel bad going places with you, because you're so pretty and I don't look like you, and it makes me feel bad." Or they'll fixate on my body, and compare it with theirs. I don't know how to respond to this. I try making light of it, and try to downplay my looks, and say things like, "You're pretty too! And looks aren't a big deal." But that just sounds lame. I want my friends to feel good about themselves, and I compliment them any time I think of something nice about them, and it really bothers me that might be a source of insecurity for them. It's hard to pretend like I don't notice all the attention I get when I go out with my friends, and they see it too, and it's frustrating because I want them to meet guys when we're out (I'm not looking to meet people right now) and it seems hard to do when I'm around. Is there a better way I can deal with this so that I don't feel so uncomfortable and they don't feel so envious?
posted by Dilemma to Human Relations (52 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know what to tell you, other than that this:

"You're pretty too! And looks aren't a big deal."

is probably not the best thing to say.

If we flesh that out a bit, you're basically saying, "I know I'm pretty, you're also pretty! But no one cares about being pretty." It's like you gave a (half-assed) compliment and then immediately took it away.

When you're out with your friends and one of them tells you how pretty you are, say thank you. Don't just sit there like you know how hot you are and expect to get told you're pretty all the time. Just say, "thanks!" or "that's very flattering!" or "that's so nice for you to say!" And then if they continue to bring up how pretty you are, just ignore it and change the subject. If they put themselves down around you, show that that kind of talk makes you feel bad, and say, "I don't know how you could possibly think that."

And give compliments spontaneously. (Complimenting right after they've put themselves down is really disingenuous.) When I compliment I don't like to focus on "natural beauty" because that's out of people's control and there can be self esteem issues and hurt feelings. Compliments I like to give are in the vein of "wow, those glasses really suit you!" and "those pants look great on you!" because that way you're complimenting their choice and execution rather than their genes.
posted by phunniemee at 1:20 AM on June 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


Gracefully find some actual friends, instead of toxic relationships. Hint: actual friends do not try to make you feel like shit, whether it's about good luck, good relationships, success at work, or whatever.
posted by rodgerd at 1:41 AM on June 19, 2011 [33 favorites]


First tip on dealing with people gracefully: anonymize this message. Your stated purpose is how do I deal with jealousy from people I am better than multiple ways?

Start looking for the special in everyone. Give people the opportunity to shine. Do things out of your comfort zone and in theirs. Fail gracefully and learn to ask for help. And, if you don't fail, find out what you and the other person are good at and enjoy together, and spend your time doing that. If you want to be positive an avoid feeling resented build people up.

Do that, humbly, and not only will you be pretty, smart, and humble, but you will also be a natural leader as well.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:53 AM on June 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


In my opinion, if they're friends worth having, they're worth your honesty. Why don't you just tell them the things you said in your question?
posted by dubold at 1:54 AM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


For example, they'll say things like "Sometimes I feel bad going places with you, because you're so pretty and I don't look like you, and it makes me feel bad."

Well, I see this as bigotry. "I can't help what I look like, are you saying I have to make myself look different in order for us to be friends?"
posted by rhizome at 2:17 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Add some friends who are better looking and more intelligent than you are to your social circle.
posted by joannemullen at 2:24 AM on June 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Solution: Don't go out to places where men are especially likely to hit on women. You're not looking, and it actually hurts your friend's chances. (I've seen this phenomenon first hand, it's very real, and a legitimate complaint)

Do girlier things, or mixed gender things that are unlikely to be conductive to picking up dates.
posted by Nixy at 2:26 AM on June 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can't speak for your friends, but if I'd been doing that to you in the mistaken belief that you would finally truly understand how amazing you are (and a little bit how I intimidated or inadequate I feel) I would totally respond to you to telling me "I get a little hurt that you keep bringing this up. I thought our friendship went deeper than this. I can't help that I look good, it's mostly genetic. I think you look good and are awesome as well. What can we do, to put this behind us for once and for all?"
posted by b33j at 2:51 AM on June 19, 2011 [22 favorites]


Seriously, you have to tell them (nicely) to knock it off. (I like what b33j suggests.) They're being rude. They're not trying to be hurtful toward you but they HAVE to knock it off. For their own sake and sanity as much or more than your own.

Unfortunately you might have to accept that your looks will cause--may already have caused--a permanent Thing for some of these women. This kind of toxicity can really crazy a person up good. I certainly hope it won't come to that but if it does it's not your fault.
posted by Neofelis at 3:13 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This just feels like something is odd, possibly on both sides. Your friends that say such things sound like they have self esteem issues. You sound like you may be a bit weirded out with the attention which makes it a bit more obvious to them. How many/what percent of friends has this happened with? I can see one or two people, but everyone? You may unwittingly be contributing or seeking out people like this.
posted by kellyblah at 3:21 AM on June 19, 2011


I can understand this as I used to have this happen to me as well in my twenties, it slowed down a lot once I hit my thirties and now it's pretty much stopped. There's a lot to look forward to in getting a bit older and to some extent losing your looks so that you no longer stop traffic. I find it much easier to make and keep female friends now which is worth a lot more to me than being pretty.

Being pretty good-looking is great but being very good-looking is actually kind of a drag. Beyond a certain level of attractiveness there's nothing worth having that you can get via your looks except maybe a modeling contract and it's extremely questionable whether that's worth having either.

So basically take comfort in the fact that this problem will go away with time. In the meantime you could make the decision to not wear make-up and to dress conservatively but that's not really fair to you.
posted by hazyjane at 3:24 AM on June 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


For example, they'll say things like "Sometimes I feel bad going places with you, because you're so pretty and I don't look like you, and it makes me feel bad."

Honestly, if one of my friends kept saying things like that I'd furrow my brow, look concerned, then ask them if they've tried therapy because living with such low self esteem must be exhausting. Which probably makes me a bad friend. But this envy isn't because of you, it's a huge manifestation of their own problems and it's not really fair to expect you to deal with it constantly. I'm betting a good part of why you get hit on is because you're comfortable without yourself rather than because of your looks. Constantly putting yourself down like your friends do is pretty unattractive and that lack of self esteem shows in all kinds of other ways.

b33j's version is probably more productive and less likely to drive your friends away so go with that. But definitely stop letting them dump on you like this, how you look has nothing to do with how they look or their self worth.
posted by shelleycat at 3:32 AM on June 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Being pretty gives you some significant advantages: more offers and opportunities of all sorts, more forgiveness for mistakes or bad behavior, more attention (not always a great thing, but often helpful), more assistance with anything from having a door opened when your hands are full to navigating academic/bureaucratic/employment difficulties, and even more respect, oddly... and yes, of course, more romantic options.

You know what else gives you those things? Being born rich. Neither have anything to do with anything other than luck, but there you go. The worst behaved beautiful or rich person will still usually be treated better than an unattractive or poor person of deep and stellar character.

You need to thoroughly parse all that, because it goes away. One day you wake up and the hand holding the door open isn't there, and you make a comment in a group conversation, and nobody even seems to notice. Being rich is a free ticket for life if you aren't stupid enough to lose it all, but being beautiful is a loaner, no matter how gracefully you age.

This helps to keep things in perspective. When you realize that it's only a matter of when not if you will find yourself in these friends' situation, it may make it easier to understand their envy, and possibly handle it more gracefully.

For example, if you are multimillionaire and your friend struggles to pay the rent, you wouldn't say, oh, you have money too! In your situation, maybe you could say, yeah, it's pure luck, but 10 years or 20 pounds from now, it'll be a non-issue, so I hope I will have more dependable things going for me. You may or may not add something heartfelt, like I wish I had your talent in X, or your humor, or your personality that just makes everyone you know feel happier... but don't stretch for this, because it will be obvious.

I was very attractive, and while I'm certainly not ugly now, I don't have all those automatic benefits that youth+beauty provide; I would have to struggle now for opportunities that my intelligence/skill/talent should drop in my lap – especially as a woman, because looks are still more important for us (imagine an unattractive/aged Sarah Palin with her same level of intelligence/experience/skill in the position of political influence she occupies. Not gonna happen.)

I don't want to sound terribly negative, because I'm really, really happy that I'm lucky enough have a long-term partner who loves me for the total sum of my personality and person, and I never wasted much time being a pretty girl (though I definitely got opportunities that I wouldn't necessarily have been afforded otherwise), so I have a satisfying and fun life beyond that, but it's not the much easier life of the prettier me.

(Also, it's really great to have friends that are friends because of common interests beyond mostly social stuff; if you are involved in pursuits where skill and talent are critical, the person with more skill and talent will be admired more within that group, and the inevitable measuring of oneself against friends will have a very different skew.)
posted by taz at 3:38 AM on June 19, 2011 [65 favorites]


Dude... you need a new crowd. It doesn't sound like they like you all that much, and you're not doing them any favors exacerbating their self-loathing. A good friendship can't be wildly off balance, and you're projecting a pecking order they understandably resent. Maybe it's not healthy to compare oneself to another, but realistically, one should at least be able to think -- in a pinch -- I have/can do something they don't/can't. Until they're a bit more centered, they're going to have trouble being anybody's friends. If you're as you said you are, chances are you never had any massive assaults on your self-image, internal or external, during vulnerable years. If so, you can't sympathize. It's not your responsibility to, but if they're looking for answers, they're barking up the wrong tree.

But I'm just a guy on the internet. And I don't know what your deal is, really.
posted by evil holiday magic at 4:11 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rather than telling your friend to stop mentioning something that is clearly on her mind and bothering her -- which seems to me to be a tough strategy -- you could always use the judo technique of deciding to interpret her words in the most positive way and responding within the positive framework.

The most positive way to interpret this situation is, IMHO, that your friend is telling you that spending time with you is painful for her for X reason that you cannot control. The only way to respond without engaging in an issue you can't fix is to say, in effect, I'm sorry you feel that way, you are important to me, and I hope you can overcome this.

Anything beyond that becomes you changing yourself for her, and that's just wrong.

So -- an example exchange:

Friend: "Sometimes I feel bad going places with you, because you're so pretty and I don't look like you, and it makes me feel bad."

You: "You're one of my best friends. I feel like I can be my true self with you and it's one of the reasons I love spending time with you. It makes me sad that you feel bad when we're out together, and I really wish there was something I could do to change that. But I just want you to know how much you mean to me, and that I really love you and enjoy being out with you."

The positive message is that you love your friend and that you want to spend time with her. She will make her decision to overcome her insecurity if and when she's ready; all you can do is assert what she means to you. Asking her not to talk/think about it is unrealistic; giving her a chance to decide whether the friendship is worth it to her is a better strategy.

And if it ain't worth it to her, it ain't worth it to you, either.
posted by woot at 4:14 AM on June 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


You need to learn how to not let what your friends say affect you. The fact that you get worked up over it makes me feel like you pity them, which is gross. Just shrug it off, say thank you, or my favorite especally when people are being self-depricating and annoying, is to simply ignore what they said. Let them listen to their own words hang in silence and don't react to them. When they realize they don't get a reaction, they will stop.
posted by katypickle at 5:08 AM on June 19, 2011


When people bring this up, just say, "Well, that sucks, because I really like hanging out with you."

Beyond that, the only other thing I can think of that you might try is make sure, when you make plans, you're the one suggesting stuff that's more activity-oriented. I'm not saying you should go out of your way to do things you don't actually find fun. But if you're just hanging out at a bar or a club, that's a situation where meeting datable prospects is pretty much the point for a lot of people. It's not quite the same if you're going out to dinner, to a movie, to a museum, farmer's market, whatever --- that's more about spending time with your friends.

You can't do anything about your face or other people's insecurities about their looks. What you can do is let your friends know you value them and a loss of their companionship would be painful for you.
posted by Diablevert at 5:52 AM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think some folks are being a little harsh to your friends, I mean in my experience, they at least have the ability to express their feelings to you in an open and honest way, they're not trying to sabotage you or bring you down with snide biting comments and ganging up on you the way a lot of mean insecure girls will do in this situation.

I don't know what your age group is, but I agree with the others that this is something that will pass with time, as you and your peers get older and more secure- but then again some people never become more secure. . .

I think this is something very real to acknowledge, but that she must also see that it hurts your feelings as well, and really what can you do about it?

I think this situation is hard also because, in addition to all the positive assumptions beauty can bring there are a whole nother suite of negative ones. I find people will just as soon think a pretty female is stupid, shallow, easy to manipulate, etc. Plus being pretty is like being a weirdo and asshole magnet.
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:38 AM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think evil magic holiday has a point. Usually friendships are balanced...I have friends who are more attractive than me, richer than me, have better jobs than me...but obviously there is something about me that they like! Someone can be the funny one, the skinnier one, the prettier one, the nicest one, the one best at picking activities, the one who is best at organizing things, the one who 'knows food' and so on and so on. It`s not all "who`s prettiest and who has the nicest hair". Everyone has something to offer, otherwise why are you friends? Are you friends??
posted by bquarters at 6:55 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


My partner has been told things like this. The weird part is that the people saying these things are often, to the outside eye, just as attractive -- their comments seem to be expressing more about their self-confidence and self-perception than anything real. And they are often negative and harsh in other ways, too; there is a pattern of being down on other people as a way to make themselves feel better. The answer, as others have suggested, is a mix of perhaps finding other people to hang out with and changing the tone of the interactions when you do hang out.

Don't go out to places where men are especially likely to hit on women. You're not looking, and it actually hurts your friend's chances. (I've seen this phenomenon first hand, it's very real, and a legitimate complaint)

Is this really true? I'm not on the market myself, but I have some single, straight friends who are always hoping to talk with and meet cute women when we go out, so I'm involved in a lot of these interactions. My experience has been that my friends go for the person that they want to go for, whether or not that is the most conventionally attractive woman at the table. I just tag along as the semi-helpful "wingman" (a term I genuinely detest) and often end up talking to someone I think is much cuter than the woman my friend is chatting with. But maybe I have weird friends, and this is actually a real problem, I don't know.
posted by Forktine at 7:02 AM on June 19, 2011


Is this really true? My experience has been that my friends go for the person that they want to go for, whether or not that is the most conventionally attractive woman at the table.

It's absolutely true. I had a gorgeous friend once, and when we'd go out to order ice cream, the guy behind the counter would flub my order, because he just. couldn't. hear me! He'd ask me to repeat myself, never taking eyes off my friend. Same with waiters at restaraunts. It's not so much that they consciously decide to be bigoted, they just literally do not notice the other less gorgeous women-they fade into the background. And if they do notice them, their mind automatically does a little calculation based on the gorgeous woman next to them and the more average women can't help but look worse by comparison. It sort of artificially inflates the market. None of this is because of cruel intentions on anyone's part, it's just the way it is.

In your example, it sounds more likely that one girl may be the best looking (very common in groups of friends) but they're still essentially of the same "overall class" of attractiveness. I'm talking about normal + unusually gorgeous.

It's real.
posted by Nixy at 7:21 AM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't want to sound too snarky and dismissive, but I don't actually believe you have this problem as you state it. It's possible that I've lived for 65+ years in a Feminist Nirvana, but I have never, ever seen two actual, real women friends act like this. I've seen plenty of movies written by men where women act like this. I've seen all sorts of weird dynamics between two or more women that sound like this: "oh, you're so pretty, you're so cute, you're so smart and I just look awful by comparison" but these women would never be described as friends. And I have known some astonishingly physically gorgeous women.

It really sounds like you don't actually have any women friends. You seem to have female acquaintances who are either acting out their insecurities on you or are feeding some need you have. Or you're still in high school?

And I also take exception to Nixy's comments. Just physically gorgeous is not what attracts the ice cream guy's attention. Your friend is, intentionally or not, giving out all the "Hey, cutie, look at me" signals. Simple physical beauty won't get that kind of reaction; for one thing, we see so much of it in our culture. And take it from a very ordinary looking woman -- if you look, stand, talk, breath in an approachable manner, you'll get the attention. My experience is that most women are too self-conscious to do this, but it's true.
posted by kestralwing at 7:45 AM on June 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I also take exception to Nixy's comments. Just physically gorgeous is not what attracts the ice cream guy's attention. Your friend is, intentionally or not, giving out all the "Hey, cutie, look at me" signals. Simple physical beauty won't get that kind of reaction; for one thing, we see so much of it in our culture.

I should mention she was a sort of bubbly personality too, yes. She was not a huge flirt but she reacted in a fairly normal, friendly way and that combined with her looks was enough for the guy to get encouraged enough to start asking her questions to prolong interaction with her. If she had reacted in monotone, never made eye contact, and never laughed or smiled, the attention would have been there at the start but probably quickly faded. Maybe.

I promise I'm not making up this anecdote. It's not exactly fun to admit that you're the "less good-looking woman" in the story. This actually happened verbatim as described, regularly, with this one friend.
posted by Nixy at 7:52 AM on June 19, 2011


Tell them what you told us.
posted by John Cohen at 8:02 AM on June 19, 2011


I wrestle with this too, albeit in a totally different context. Since our culture values "beautiful" people above everyone else (mostly to sell shit on TV), it's impossible not to be at least tangentially involved with what you're talking about. So one day, when I was feeling particularly hurt, I came up with this adage "Your self worth has nothing to do with what you look like." It's short, sweet and egalitarian. And it makes me feel a whole fuck ton better about myself. Maybe it could help your friends reframe what beautiful is?
posted by pwally at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Sometimes I feel bad going places with you, because you're so pretty and I don't look like you, and it makes me feel bad."

"Gee, I'm okay with how I look, and when you tell me that, it makes my feel bad, too. How do you think we could resolve this?"

It's not okay to make other people feel bad about their looks. If someone tries to make you feel bad about your looks, call them on it. You can do it nicely.
posted by theora55 at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Going by what you've posted, I think people are being way too hard on your friends. Being aware that they're not the culture's ideal beauty doesn't mean they don't genuinely like you or themselves. It can be very hard to deal with the pressure of looking good, especially when other people have it effortlessly.

The first comment sounds like a friend who just felt like being honest with you. The second, comparing themselves, sounds a lot more common. I don't have a lot of advice, but I would suggest actually discussing your thoughts with your friends the next time this comes up. Tell them what you've told us. You sound like a thoughtful person, and if you can get across to them that you care about them and this issue bothers you, they may actually think about what they say - they probably don't realize it bothers you this much.

The other thing is to take what they say with a shrug. Your body is what it is, and so is theirs. If they make these comments regularly, you can call them out on it, or ignore it completely. It's not your job to fix their insecurities, and it's not fair for them to use you that way, even if they don't realize they're doing it.
posted by ghost dance beat at 8:35 AM on June 19, 2011


"You're pretty too! And looks aren't a big deal." is probably not a good thing to say. It reeks of insincerity.

I think you should either shrug and ignore, tell them to knock it off, or have a legit conversation with them about this. But it sounds like what you've been saying is insincere and coming across as insincere, and that's not going to make anyone feel better.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:40 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's possible that I've lived for 65+ years in a Feminist Nirvana, but I have never, ever seen two actual, real women friends act like this.

You may have just had very self-aware, high self-esteem friends. I can tell you that what the OP describes absolutely happens in some circles, and the OP is lucky that her friends are being overt about it, rather than just undermining (spreading nasty gossip, passive aggressive or demeaning comments when out, etc.). In my own experience, it's best to choose friends who are either more secure or more equal to you in the ability to attract male attention when "going out." It's the asymmetry of male attention in public that is fueling their insecurity and resentment. (I had a group of friends that was great when we were hanging out alone, and positively unpleasant when we were around single men--they were all looking quite intently for partners at the time, and disliked that men they were interested in often gravitated towards me instead....and I'm not model-hot, honest, so it's relative, not absolute. Their behavior towards me was like night and day, and in retrospect I wish I had just found a different social circle of more secure ladies altogether. Also, part of my greater appeal with men was that, like you, I "wasn't looking", relative to their intensive efforts to find husbands. So maybe find ladies who aren't on the prowl to spend a Friday night with.)
posted by availablelight at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It takes a self-image of steel not to feel like an ambulatory potato when you regularly hang out with someone who looks like Taylor Swift. Attractive people do get more attention and more of a break, and women especially are judged on their looks, so your friends' insecurity is not baseless.

Anyway, yeah, tell them what you told us: you want your friends to feel good about themselves, and you hate the idea that you're inadvertently doing the opposite. And then ask them what you can do together that would make them more comfortable.

Also, don't indulge in any negative talk about looks, friends' or enemies' or strangers. I get the sense you don't do this anyway, but if your friends start talking, don't indulge them. Feel free to give honest compliments if they're warranted, as in phunniemee's comment above. But if anyone starts in with "ew that girl's leggings are like see-through" or "ew Khloe is the ugliest Kardashian sister" or "wow you're a size two and ew I'm a fourteen," don't rise to the bait. Shrug and say "I think she/you look fine" and leave it at that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:05 AM on June 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Everytime this has happened to me, it has been the precursor to dramatic decline in friendship due to that friend's insecurities getting worse and worse or their inclination for drama. Don't get me wrong - I have MANY female friends who are confident and who not at all feel disadvantaged by my looks or talents or god given ANYthing, because they are happy with THEIR looks, talent or god given anything. And that's what great friendships do - provide mutual support, mutual admiration and great rapport.

But the odd occasion anyone has started expressing upset about simply going OUT with me, or how great things are in my life? DRAMA. And everytime something good happened to me? MORE drama. And if something bad happened to me? "Well, nothing else bad happens to you so no sympathy." Drama. And if it isn't your looks, it'll be something else next. Seek out friends who have great self esteem, and don't feel bad OR make you feel bad for being you, whether it's looks, talents, or anything else.
posted by shazzam! at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Are you and your friends very young? Early 20s, perhaps? That's the immediate impression I got when I read this. The problem isn't envy so much as it is insecurity and poor self-esteem, which unfortunately are hallmarks of the early 20s for many women (myself included). The only thing that's really going to change this is time and personal growth on their part - there's not much that you can do beyond being a supportive friend and a good listener without pitying them or encouraging these self-deprecating thoughts.

You remind me very much of a friend of mine that I lived with when I was 21 or 22. She was naturally beautiful, but with hair, makeup, and a cute outfit, it elevated to sheer gorgeousness. Every time we went out (and I do mean every time), she would be approached by multiple men. I used to let myself feel horribly about it. Over time, I realized I was sort of glad I'd never be valued solely for my looks. For my part, this realization was several years in coming. I don't think there's anything you can do to effect this sort of change in your friends. They're going to have to address these insecurities on their own.
posted by pecanpies at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2011


Well, nevermind - I just realized this question wasn't anon & took a look at your profile - I see you're 31. Really, it's your friends who sound young & immature - I just assumed you must be, too, since our friends are usually close to our own age. I also see that you live in LA, the epicenter of female body loathing. That may have something to do with it, and likewise, that's something you can't change.
posted by pecanpies at 9:39 AM on June 19, 2011


I dealt with some of this in high school. When I went to college, I ended up making friends with a bunch of women who felt good about themselves and their own looks. Seriously, the change was immense. Try to meet some more self-assured women, ones who realize that while you may get a lot of attention at clubs, that isn't enough to create a happy relationship, and they, too, can get attention and boyfriends based on their own qualities. It may take time and more life experience for you current friends to realize that going clubbing for male attention is just one tiny part of life, and looks don't guarantee happiness.

Other than that, own it and enjoy it. Don't downplay your looks, or you'll be sorry you didn't enjoy them when the first gray hairs and eyes creases start to show up in your 30s.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2011


Oh, wow, you're 31? Then this really is your friends' problem, not yours. Most women should be over the jealousy by now.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2011


Oh, wow, you're 31? Then this really is your friends' problem, not yours. Most women should be over the jealousy by now.

For some women, this actually ramps up in the early 30s as more marriage-minded women start looking for men that much more intently and the stakes feel higher (and the window seems narrower). Again, for SOME women....I've since made some great female friends (single or not) who are secure enough that this dynamic doesn't take place.
posted by availablelight at 10:23 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe you should just try the best you can to ignore the comments assuming they're not made very often? I think it's just a normal thing to notice and we live in a pretty superficial and competitive culture.

I mean, if they're not as attractive as you, that's just the way it is and you can't make them not feel a certain way about it. Don't take it personally I'd say and don't take on responsibility for their feelings. They probably only feel this way every now and then, and if they happen to feel envious or insecure occasionally, that's just part of life and they'll be OK. I'd only really worry about it if it became a dynamic where they're trying to find a way to make you apologize for being attractive to make them feel better about themselves - people who do that aren't friends.
posted by citron at 11:38 AM on June 19, 2011


People in this thread are being really nasty about OP's friends. These women aren't being toxic or sabotaging her; they're being honest about feeling insecure and ugly by comparison. It *is* a big deal to know that you look clunky and chubby and invisible next to your friend. If you don't think so, try it some time.

OP, I'd suggest staying away from "looks aren't everything" type comments - this is code for "yes you are ugly, but someone will be willing to overlook that one of these days if you luck out." And if you value your friends, hang out with them in venues that aren't sexual displays. Instead of going to a club, go for a hike or brunch or something. It sounds like the disparity of attention makes you feel awkward too, not just them, so finding other people to club with should take the edge off all around.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:42 AM on June 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm the fattest one in my group of friends, and sometimes that really bothers me. I can feel uncomfortable going out to events where everyone is dressed up, because I feel like my gorgeous friends look amazing, and I look you know, pretty good for a fat girl.

However, I am also quite smart and funny and so I get invited out because people like having conversations with me, and like my sense of humor. I tell my gorgeous friends how gorgeous they are, they compliment me on my style, laugh at my jokes, and ask me about my interesting job.

I can feel really insecure about the looks thing, and it sometimes paralyzes me to the point where I don't want to go out with friends. I try to realize it's my issue - clearly my friends see good things in me or else they wouldn't be my friends. And clearly my friends have things other than their looks going for them, or I wouldn't be friends with them.

One of my most beautiful friends loves my hair. I do have great hair, and she has to really work hard to make her hair look like mine does out of the shower. Knowing that even my most gorgeous friend admires and even envies something about me is nice. It evens the field a little bit.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2011


People in this thread are being really nasty about OP's friends. These women aren't being toxic or sabotaging her; they're being honest about feeling insecure and ugly by comparison.

If her friends were complaining that she was fat and unattractive and going out in public with her made them uncomfortable, would you still be defending them as good, honest people?
posted by rodgerd at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I also take exception to Nixy's comments. Just physically gorgeous is not what attracts the ice cream guy's attention. Your friend is, intentionally or not, giving out all the "Hey, cutie, look at me" signals. Simple physical beauty won't get that kind of reaction; for one thing, we see so much of it in our culture. And take it from a very ordinary looking woman -- if you look, stand, talk, breath in an approachable manner, you'll get the attention. My experience is that most women are too self-conscious to do this, but it's true.

I'd step away, personally from that--she has friends who are hurting. And it makes her feel bad. I'm not sure that's helping anyone.

What I'd do is say something like this: 'That there's a big difference between having men look at you and being with a man." Part of the problem they are having is that they are equating men looking at you with having what they want, which, I'm guessing, is probably something nice where people have feelings for each other.

That's a lot different from the first thing. They don't see what you see which is that your probably just a normal person like the rest of us and that you probably hit or miss at the same rate they do. Because there has got to be downsides to being a very attractive woman in the way some men could treat you. For you--just suggest that they put themselves out there more and that they will see that the looks aren't everything.

The one thing you do have to understand, though, is what people react to is the sense of confidence that the attention provides--that is if you do meet a man you like, your knowledge that others will like you takes a big edge off that they don't have to learn to work through.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on June 19, 2011


I have never, ever seen two actual, real women friends act like this

Sure some women sometimes talk like this with one another. It's not really mature or classy, but it's code that means: "I'm feeling insecure. Please give me a compliment or somehow give me a boost." It's not disingenuous, either. In fact, I think it's also part of behaving in line with the social hierarchy, if you wanna get into the pack animal explanation of human behavior. Your friends are saying "Look, you're the alpha female. Yay alpha female, you're awesome! Please allay our insecurities about fitting into the pack and tell us that you accept us too." It's fairly subconscious and relatively innocent in intention. Anyhow, I'm sorry, this does sound uncomfortable. I would hate it and I agree that you should simply tell your friends what you told us here.
posted by kitcat at 2:31 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the answers! Suggestions about how to talk to my friends about this issue have been really helpful.

I'd like to point out, since it's been mentioned a lot in the comments, that a) I do engage in "girly" or "friendly" activities like hikes, coffee, movies, museums, lunch break at work, etc. and almost never do things like going to clubs (i.e. "on the prowl" activities). The type of activity doesn't really have anything to do with this problem. And b) as far as my friends being "toxic" or trying to tear me down: some are, some aren't. The ones who are, I don't hang out with anymore, and the ones who aren't, are just insecure, they're not being mean. And as for the comments claiming that this doesn't actually happen...why would I be asking this question if it didn't?! I don't like being the center of attention all the time just based on how I look; it's creepy and it doesn't make me feel good about myself, and it especially bothers me when my friends are paying so much attention to how I look.
posted by Dilemma at 2:35 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't like being the center of attention all the time just based on how I look; it's creepy and it doesn't make me feel good about myself, and it especially bothers me when my friends are paying so much attention to how I look.

Why not just mention that next time it comes up? That it doesn't matter whether it's friends or strangers, it simply bothers you when anyone is paying so much attention to how you look. Lead by example to follow up.

It sucks how some people have to have a pecking order; sometimes they can get over it, sometimes they can't. It's not a reflection of your looks so much as their inner worldview. Draw your boundary and if they really can't help it, don't let their dust kicking hold you back. Good looks doesn't mean you're indebted to take one for the team's self-esteem.
posted by human ecologist at 5:47 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


New.
Friends.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:17 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I try making light of it, and try to downplay my looks

I haven't read through all the comments, but as a not-gorgeous woman, I want to say... please don't ever, ever, downplay your looks. I've had some truly gorgeous friends in my life. The most annoying was the one who constantly downplayed her looks. I understand why you're not doing this, but if you're a 10, and I'm even an 8, and you say you're not a 10... well, that pushes me lower. Now if you're a 10 and I'm a 4 and you say you're not so great-looking... well, then I am truly horrendous.

If you're my gorgeous friend, and I tell you you are gorgeous, just say, "thank you."

I'm not sure I can help with the other comments. But sometimes a compliment really is a compliment, and being able to accept one gracefully is an important skill.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:06 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you 100% sure you're not doing anything that draws attention that you could tone down a bit? If you're not just pretty but you dress in ways that other women could not pull off, it's going to look like you want attention. I have no idea what your wardrobe is like but it probably couldn't hurt to wear really simple things when you're out with these friends. Simple does not equal dowdy, just neutral colors, fitted but not body hugging, etc. Think outfit you could wear to brunch with your grandma. I saw a picture on the Sartorialist the other day (that I can't find now) of a girl wearing nothing but a loose grey tee, long black skirt, sandals and a large necklace. She was pretty but her outfit made me think "wow, she's COOL, she looks great in something so minimalist" not "wow, she's PRETTY." I know it's not really fair to not just wear what you want, and maybe your clothes aren't the problem at all, but just a thought. When I see girls who are pretty who are able to think outside the box of short skirt and eyeliner I think "I want to hang out with her." Yes, it's still judgmental but you're going to be looked at and judged all the time no matter what. You might as well do your best at message control.

Other things along these lines; minimal to zero makeup, hair tied back, don't wear heels if you're already tall, no cleavage. There are times and places for these things, deploy them carefully.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:23 AM on June 20, 2011


Are you 100% sure you're not doing anything that draws attention that you could tone down a bit?

Ugh. The OP can be sensitive to her friends' feelings, but she doesn't need to change herself to accommodate their insecurities.

[Warning: generalizations coming up] One of the things I have noticed and admired about my men friends is that they KNOW who in their group is the most attractive- and often use it for the good of the whole group. For instance, if they all want to sit together on the airplane, they'll send up the "cutest" guy to plead with the airline attendant (if the airline attendant is sexual-orientation suitable). I don't run into this teamwork as often with women. Guys seem better at tallying up their skills and assets as a team and utilizing their members appropriately. The majority of women I know seem to want to be all things equally with each other, and are thus less realistic/objective about where each's talents lay, and as a result are less effective and efficient as a team.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


[few comments removed - back it up please and answer the OPs questions. Take side commentary to email.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:04 PM on June 20, 2011


Make new friends who can appreciate you for who you are, looks and all, and who can still stand proudly on their own. Competition can be healthy but this kind of thing is just useless. Your "friends" are going down a hole and taking you with them.
posted by xm at 7:03 PM on June 21, 2011


People in this thread are being really nasty about OP's friends. These women aren't being toxic or sabotaging her; they're being honest about feeling insecure and ugly by comparison. It *is* a big deal to know that you look clunky and chubby and invisible next to your friend. If you don't think so, try it some time.

I have tried this. I'm not an ogre but I look like one in comparison to my younger sister (willowy jerk) and my best friend from high school (also a willowy jerk.) This state of things has caused all sorts of Low Self-Esteem Moments in my life. Especially when I was younger. I've wasted SO GODDAMN MUCH TIME feeling shitty because I just wasn't born as pretty as X, Y, or Z.

I'm not some regressive self-loathing troglodyte, either. Overall I have a pretty healthy self-image and blah blah. But it's SO GODDAMN DIFFICULT to not feel like a lumbering oaf next to the willowy jerks of the world.

You know what wouldn't have helped? If my friend had stopped dressing beautifully and instead wore boring clothes. I can't imagine worse advice than "plain yourself down--be sure not to wear makeup or style your hair!" because zomg, what would be more painful than realizing my lovely friend was dressing unlike herself just to spare my weird, raw little feelings? The punchline would have been that her dressing down wouldn't have deflected any attention anyway since she's just inherently gorgeous and luminous etc. I would have felt worse.

The reason I gave the "tell your friends to knock it off" advice is because, as a frumpy person who's spent most of her life feeling awkward and gross and unfeminine around most of my friends, this would have been the kindest thing to tell me. Coddling my insecurities would have made me feel like a petty tyrant--and still wouldn't have made me as lithe and graceful as I wanted to be.

Obviously I could go on and on and ON on this topic. I just didn't want it to seem like I was dumping too harshly on Dilemma's friends. I FEEL THEIR PAIN. And they still need to knock it off.
posted by Neofelis at 10:07 PM on June 22, 2011


I've experienced this too and its really damaging to friendships. The way I dealt with it is to spend more time by myself. Its a little lonely but it is what it is. I also have a bunch of guy friends. Having female friends is sometimes really unfulfilling and disappointing. The irony is all my friends from college are married and I'm the last one to get hitched so they at least feel superior to me in this realm. I would say enjoy every single day being pretty, don't do anything to minimize your beauty. But don't write your friends off, just spend less time with them (and maybe cultivate a few new friendships).
posted by dmbfan93 at 12:41 AM on July 12, 2011


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