The Tragic Lives of Pretty People

We’ve turned beauty into a narcotic, and it’s ruining us.

Jessica Wildfire
Oct 11, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by Logan Armstrong on Unsplash

Attention only creates a need for more. That beautiful friend you can’t stand isn’t just vain. She’s a beauty junkie, who might even need some help.

We wonder if they’ll ever be satisfied. If they’ll ever get enough attention. The answer is no. They don’t get enough. And they never will.

We love to judge vanity. It’s easy to make fun of someone who can’t stop praising themselves. And yet underneath vanity lies a deep insecurity that’s not so funny.

She especially enjoyed predicting how many men would harass her on a given weekend. As if she were couching her vanity in a complaint, but secretly looking forward to it. Her ambivalence was the kind that the incel and red pill movements exploit to justify their abuse of women.

If you literally can’t conform to social norms and expectations, you luck out of them. You might deal with them as external obstacles. But you never ingest the poison.

My friend irritated most of us. We’d gone into academia to escape the toxins of mainstream culture. It suited me well. My smile sucks, and my personality comes off as terse, almost cold (at least to strangers). No modeling career for me. But I can lecture on obscure topics for hours.

It was a good thing I wasn’t as pretty as my friend. My flaws had saved me.

Maybe American culture had made my friend this way by providing the absolute wrong incentives. Rewarding her for toxic behaviors, essentially training her to value her looks and nothing else. Hence, her brain treats conferences and dance clubs the same way.

Our culture has turned beauty into a narcotic, and it’s ruining us.

Our brains thrive on instant reward. The kind of easy fix that comes to “pretty people” can lead them astray. They’ll pass up the delayed gratification of research projects and advanced degrees. They’ll acclimate to the kind of attention they get most.

Jessica Wildfire

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