I was a junior in high school. My best friend and I sat on the tops of desks, talking to a guy in a Spanish class.
This wasn’t a guy we were into. He was funny, he was decent looking, but we truly were just passing the time. We talked about everything with this guy. He had become our free pass into the world of a man.
My best friend was petite and beautiful, part Korean with just enough ethnicity to make her look dark and mysterious. She had more confidence than anyone I’d ever met.
I was awkward to say the least. I was clutching onto this best friend’s coat tails trying my hardest to be accepted by the cool crowd. My hair never seemed to lay right, and I had no idea how to properly apply eyeliner.
We sat, talking to this guy like any other day. One of us mentioned a girl we didn’t like; the other replied with an obligatory sigh of disgust.
“She’s so hot though,” our guy friend asserted.
We looked at him with raised brows. [Her actual attractiveness is not in question here, and I regret any girl on girl crimes I committed because I didn’t like the way this girl treated me.]
The conversation continued, our guy friend running through a line of girls, all within the same group, who were in his opinion “smoking hot.”
I felt my self confidence plummeting with every word.
The conversation progressed. My best friend began naming off girls in our school, to which this guy would then rank them 1-10 on a scale of hotness. Sometimes I laughed at his reactions or comments, sometimes I felt sick and guilty and hideous.
My best friend, as confident as ever, demanded that he rate us.
I knew he would rate her higher, and he did. He gave her a 7 or an 8. I remember her bringing it up later, incredulous that he’d given our aforementioned adversary a 9.
He ranked me a 6. I remember feeling awkward, certain that was generous, a mere pity ranking in order to spare my feelings. I remember feeling relief that he hadn’t ranked me any lower. I remember wishing the conversation would go away, and I remember how it didn’t.
Even now, the sixteen year old girl in me feels dreadfully inferior; even the twenty two year old doesn’t enjoy thinking about it.
I read an article today about Selena Gomez being asked to rate herself during a radio interview. The article, from Refinery 29, obviously found the whole ordeal disgusting, and so do I.
It made me relive that eleventh grade, Spanish class experience, and it made me realize a million tiny feelings I chose to ignore back then.
First off, I was never totally comfortable with the subject nature of the conversation. Why? Because even then, I knew I didn’t think it was okay to tear others down at your own expense.
Secondly, I felt uncomfortable with the way my best friend kept bringing the conversation up. Why? It served as a reminder to both of us of our places within that friendship; in the walls of a high school, a 7 or an 8 would always rule over a 6. She wanted that to stick with me because not everyone who is your friend is good for you. Some relationships are parasitic.
Most importantly, though, I realize how wrong I was then. I let what one guy thought of me shake me. I got nervous waiting for his response because it would then define me. I wanted him to think more highly of me than I thought of him because that would in turn validate me.
There have been countless times since that I have watched my friends, or I have stepped outside myself, and realized just how much we as young women are actively seeking our validation from men.
Even when you think you’re doing great, it sneaks up on you and trips you up. One minute, you’re totally fine wearing your signature red lipstick, you hop in your car and before you can play something on your phone, the radio announces to you that 57% of guys polled hate the bright red lipstick trend. You blot your lips, wiping away the glossy, red sheen. You tell yourself that you don’t really care, but slowly, you’ll wear that lipstick less and less because deep down, you want the guys to like you, even if you don’t like them back because that makes you feel more valid, superior to others.
I don’t want that to be okay. I don’t want that to happen.
I don’t want any one of you to skip out on the pastel hair trend because your crush says he likes brunettes and natural beauties.
I don’t want any one of you to lose a race because it might hurt his ego.
I don’t want any one of you to sit in Spanish class, nervous and uncomfortable, as you willingly allow a guy to tell you exactly what you are worth.
None of that is okay, and no one can stop it from happening except for you.
But you should stop it from happening because you are beautiful and worthy and valid without the approval or appraisal of any man.