Working at O'Hare, two kinds of straight (usually white) men really stand out. The airport construction worker and the elitist businessman, and they stand out because they're similar in how they hit on me. Because they assume that I have a vagina*, apparently that means I'm there for their advances. I tend to ignore them, especially since they hit on all "women" equally and a flight attendant will probably kick them out - you go, girls!
But then these guys will call me pretty. I don't want to be pretty, I want to be smart. Firstly, I don't see how Michael Cera can be pretty to these skeezy guys. Secondly, my appearance is not an invitation. I know that some of these guys, usually the construction workers, probably think that calling me a "pretty girl" is the utmost compliment and they probably mean well. How are they supposed to know that I would be irritated while their wives/daughters/etc. appreciate it?
Throughout school, especially when I broke my nose at 9, I was The Ugly Girl. Of course, now I know that it was because I was malnourished, abused and generally disconnected from my own body. At the time, it was incredibly painful. Up until 8th grade, I saved up all my money for plastic surgery, I mildly dieted and stuffed my bra. Then I embraced my Ugly self and actively decided to walk my own path as an Ugly person. I honestly thought "if Ringo Starr could be a BEATLE with his giant nose, I can be a normal person with mine."
In high school, though, my acceptance of my Ugliness didn't make rejection any easier. Now I know that a couple people did have crushes on me, but I was still holding out on my Prince Charming who would perceive some personal beauty beyond my malnourished, abused body (as though such personal beauty couldn't exist without that validation). And I wasn't willing to act dumb or to give flattery where it wasn't due, so my refusal to compromise with stupidity made me even more alone romantically. And then some guys bet each other to ask me out.
At college**, though, things finally opened up. Firstly, I WAS IN A HEALTHY, NOT ABUSIVE PLACE!!! Secondly, a mind-centric group was available. I was finally able to form myself and to pick my scene. Things turned around!
It's not that I don't want to be perceived as pretty, just not 24/7. Or even 8/5. How about 2/3, two hours a day three days a week? When I CHOOSE to be perceived as pretty. Although I would absolutely never choose to relive those Ugly years the same way, being The Ugly Kid taught me to value smarts over beauty. I'd far rather be called "smart person" than "pretty girl."
* one of the many reasons why I love it so much when people call me "sir" or get confused in public bathrooms
** at an all-women college, a lot of students really enjoyed not being "pretty" (makeup, done-up hair, jewelry, heels, bras, etc.) all the time. However, a lot of women there thought that they MUST do/wear these things when a man, even a gay man, was around. I could never get a reason out of them as to why.