The Pretty, Pretty Princess and Her Plain, but Smart Sidekick

Belledame222 is hosting the next Carnival of Feminists and she wants us all to write about women/woman relationships.

I want to write about the pretty, pretty princess and her plain, but smart sidekick.  I don’t know if I have enough for a whole post about it, but I want to start mulling it over.

This is a dynamic between women that, I think, starts very young.  Some girls get a sense that they’re special and that, in order for them to get what they deserve, it’s going to take an army of folks to promote them.  Other girls get more into book-learning and smarts-having and never get the sense that they’re anything special.

Then, both kinds of girls run headfirst into the Patriarchy (or, for those of you who hate that term–sexism in our society).  And they quickly discern that most women are helpers–they run around making things go as smoothly as possible for others.  And some women are cute enough to make men swoon and to get what they want because our sexist culture rewards beautiful women.

Still, it’s hard work to be a beautiful woman, especially because, even though they’re more rare than the plain girls, they’re not really that uncommon.  And so, it becomes even more of a necessity to have a plain, smart sidekick to help.

I cannot tell you how often I see this dynamic play out, but damn.  Just about all the time.

The pretty, pretty princess expects to be the one having all the adventures and she just kind of expects the obvious plain, but smart sidekick to enable those adventures.  There’s a hierarchy and if you don’t stick to it, you are a bitch who must be taken down.

It’s hard to talk about this kind of stuff–the roles that women expect each other to play.  We can talk about the Madonna/Whore problem, but that’s outside society prescribing roles for us.  Talking about the ways we organize our own social world, actually putting a name to the weird damaging things we do in our friendships?

That’s hard.

I feel like I’m floundering.

And yet, I was at a wedding recently where the pretty, pretty princesses we knew in college seemed pissed off that one of the “plain, but smart” girls had found a guy, planned a wedding, and gotten married all without taking their needs into account.

Still.  We’ve been out of college over a decade and they all sat there acting like we were supposed to go over and swoon about how awesome it was that they’d dared deign to bless us with their presence.

Or how about when you and the pretty, pretty princess both enjoy spending time with the same guy?  Will the pretty, pretty princess pitch a fit about how she deserves that man’s attention more than you do?  Yes, she will.

And here’s the part that pisses me off, just from an internal perspective, I find myself backing off.  ‘Well, she is the pretty, pretty princess and I’m just the sidekick.  It probably was ridiculous for me to think he’d like me better than her in the first place.  Best to back off now rather than wait and be hurt.’

I mean, fuck me, y’all.  From the time I was little, my favorite Disney movie was Robin Hoodand I always related to Lady Kluck.  Yep, somehow I always got that my job would be to help the heroine get her man and hope that I’d end up married off to the hero’s sidekick.

Hmm.  I don’t know.  There’s probably more to be said about all that, but I wonder what other kinds of roles we women try to force each other and ourselves into.

Any thoughts?

Advertisements

109 thoughts on “The Pretty, Pretty Princess and Her Plain, but Smart Sidekick

  1. Heh.

    I am the plain but smart sidekick. I always have been. But there were two specific incidents my senior year at high school and my freshman year at college (both the year I turned 18) which convinced me that the prettiness of the princesses was often mostly external and I had enough prettiness on the inside that when combined with my natural smarts and so-so looks could be enough to put me over the top in my own right.

    It’s kind of fun to see people labour under the assumption that I will play one role quietly while all the time I am coming out of my own life happy with my position and subverting their princess role.

    In fact, I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. I think another role that some women play is that of the subversive.

    I find myself doing this and in some ways it’s good and some ways it’s bad. I don’t even realise I’m doing it most of the time.

    For instance when I had a job working as a secretary for a pretty princess it was clear that she expected to earn the six-figure salary while using me–her plain smart sidekick–to do all the hard work required of the six-figure position. Well, I did the work but gradually let it be known around the office that I was the one who was doing the work. I’m sure in the long run this bit me in the ass because it made me look like a traitor to the princess. But I think it was mostly a knee-jerk reaction. I did get promoted into the princess’ job eventually–but at a third of her salary.

    Not sure what lessons to take from all of this. I guess mostly I’m thinking out loud. But I do think that any princesses are not safe around me.

  2. Ah, weddings. The last “college” wedding I went to, one of the princesses — now a little too boozy, blowzy, and dramatic to command the attention of the married men who had one by one migrated from her bed into the arms of those plain smart stable girls — jumped up and danced on a table to try to regain her former spot as “life of the party.” It was kind of Anna Nicole Smith sad.

    The problem with pretty is that it leaves too soon — as I think I said here before, there’s no such thing as an old Hooters Girl. I have a cousin who was the Belle of the family and everyone made much over her cheerleading medals and serial fiancees and her tooth veneers and her bulimia to maintain a size 0 for her wedding day. Well, now it’s twenty years later and all that time in the tanning bed has caught up with her. But along the way, life has also happened. She’s struggled under a load of deep debt, had a marriage spin out, raised two sons (one a pothead, one gay, both in trouble with the law more often than not) by herself, and had both parents die. She’s fundamentally a different person than she was when she was the pretty, pretty princess — tougher, wiser, and altogether a nicer person. However, when a man comes into the room, all bets are off. She still reflexively relates to men by wielding the prerogatives of the Crown. She learned early the source of her clout and continues to try to get over in the world in a way that undersells the value of what she is right now and what she’s becoming.

    And finally, maybe the guy you mention in one of the final paragraphs likes to be the object in contention. Some men dig watching women fight and do their part to stir things up.

  3. “the prettiness of the princesses was often mostly external”

    Ha. This is a good point. Between that and the post, I’m wondering if pretty, pretty princesses don’t behave that way sometimes also because they figure if they keep everyone else focused on being their worker bees or being impressed with them, they won’t notice that the inside is not very pretty.

    One of the biggest, if not the biggest, pretty, pretty princesses I ever knew turned out to be, basically, a pathological liar who was using that to try to keep her position. MOA and TPB/Juan Valdez (the TCP readers you met at my wedding) totally would have insights on that person’s nuttiness too.

    I see people voluntarily put themselves in this role sometimes, and yeah, everybody can’t ride in the front seat all the time and it is nice to support your friends, but when the same person is always riding in the trunk because there just wasn’t room and you don’t mind, do you? Well. That’s kind of a problem.

    I’m glad you wrote this, B. This is an interesting point that is good to bring out.

  4. which convinced me that the prettiness of the princesses was often mostly external and I had enough prettiness on the inside that when combined with my natural smarts and so-so looks could be enough to put me over the top in my own right.

    Bingo.

    And finally, maybe the guy you mention in one of the final paragraphs likes to be the object in contention. Some men dig watching women fight and do their part to stir things up.

    Maybe, but I bet if you asked people, most would say this is a more common behavior with women.

    Guys don’t do this. (look for a less-than sidekick) In fact, I think we tend to “trade-up”, that is, look to hang out with guys that we ourselves admire for various reasons. Appeal to the opposite sex frankly never factors in. What strikes me about this post, is that B, Bridgett, and Kat all relate to this from experiences had at a friend’s wedding. I don’t know what this says, exactly. I guess women look for all the underlying agendas and wonder how they fit into them. That scares me a little.

  5. Hm. Interesting. Not a dynamic that resonates as much for me personally, for whatever reason–my “specialness” was always about the brains and book larnin’, for better and for worse; I don’t remember either hanging around a “pretty princess” or being considered one, or wanting to be for that matter; “normal” was as much as I aspired to. i wanted to BE a princess when I was a wee bairn, but i don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.

  6. …i suppose it might have to do with the fact that the only part of the wedding i was ever interested in was the dresses, and possibly the other pretty pretty princesses wearing them…

  7. B, Bridgett, and Kat all relate to this from experiences had at a friend’s wedding.

    Not I, said the little red hen….

    I guess women look for all the underlying agendas and wonder how they fit into them. That scares me a little.

    Heh. It should. It’s part instinct, part training. Especially when we prepare to go into a work-world crafted largely by and mostly for men. I don’t usually rant about the Patriarchy because I don’t believe in it as much as the others seem to. But I do believe that a male-centric world has created an environment where we women feel that we have to “fill the cracks” as it were. Thus we are constantly looking for which niches need filling and how we can tailor our behaviour to suit those expectations.

    Without the natural advantage we perceive you men to have, we’ve got to look to the subtleties when forming our play.

    The PPPrincess knows that men are most easily motivated through sexuality (cf. Amanda Congdon). Those of us who have either had our sexuality demeaned or disregarded have come to understand over time that we must find other ways of inserting ourselves into a male-dominated culture.

  8. Mack, well, I think weddings are the last place you see it so dang blatant. I’m convinced that it can still be a problem in women’s friendships as we get older, but I think it’s not so obvious and that we grow out of it (but might revert to it in times of stress) for the most part.

    Belledame222, I wonder about that, if this dynamic is more prevalent among straight women. I’ve seen young lesbians get caught up in it, being the good sidekick in hopes that the pretty, pretty princess will come to realize that she really deserves someone who will heap all this attention on her–perhaps the very person who is heaping all the attention on her. But I think y’all grow out of that pretty quickly.

  9. …maybe the guy you mention in one of the final paragraphs likes to be the object in contention. Some men dig watching women fight and do their part to stir things up.

    Good point, bridgett… I’m not a man-hater by any stretch of the imagination, but don’t excuse the men for feeding into that “pretty, pretty princess” behavior…they do it all the time. They’ve got the wifey at home who takes care of the home and the family, and they save their flirtation and loin stimulation for the pretty, pretty princesses.

    I’m sure the wifeys (sidekicks) would appreciate some of that kind of attention sometimes.

    This also reminds me of my high school reunion. Back then, I was always the “fat girl” who never quite got respected the way the pretty, pretty princesses did. They were the homecoming queens, the President of the Senior Class, etc. I wasn’t a geek, I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t a scholar. Since I didn’t fit in any of those categories, I was always overlooked when those groups planned anything together.

    Never quite good enough.

    My how things change. Age and wisdom became the great equalizer at my reunion. Suddenly, I wasn’t the “fat girl” who stuck out because the homecoming queen had birthed a few babies and her hips became visible.

    Funny how it’s all about looks, isn’t it?

    Anyway, because of that baggage from high school I guess that’s why I get so riled up when I don’t feel respected for the gifts and I have to offer.

    Where it relates to female relationships, I think it goes back to what Kat and I were talking about with the workplace. I have yet to have a female boss who isn’t in competition for the credit, and will do whatever it takes to steamroll over other women to get it. Women do themselves such a discredit by treating each other like that.

    Sorry for the long rant…I took so much from your post, B. As usual. :)

  10. I like to think that there are also plain-but-smart princesses who have pretty sidekicks. The pretty sidekicks attract the guys (and other desired sources of attention), who then find the smart princesses utterly compelling. And the pretty girl gets credit for being smarter than she is (or the smart girl wouldn’t be friends with her, right?), so she’s happy. I’m not saying that this has been my own personal experience, exactly. But I’ve seen it play out among people I’ve known.

  11. Coble, I don’t know about academia but nm’s theory certainly happens in the world of actors where everyone is constantly competing for attention, both on and off the stage.

    This whole discussion is so much like ingenues and character actresses it just makes me sigh. My job as the comedienne on stage is set up the ingenue… make her look good… further her storyline. And I do it with pleasure, because secretly, I know I’m the one getting the laughs. And secretly? That irks her just a little.

    The weird thing is that although I am the sidekick, I never feel that way when I’m alone or not with my pretty princess friends. It’s only when I’m around them that I automatically put myself back into the role.

  12. Kat–stop writing what I’m thinking. I second you 100% on all of it. I have seen and experienced all the things that you describe.

    I did strategically make friends with a PPPrincess a few times for social reasons(they certainly went to the best parties) but in the end I was subversive to them. Twice I was told that they “trusted” me to watch over their boyfriends since I was not percieved as a threat to them and twice I took their boyfriends. I think the relationship with the
    PPPrincess was more symbiotic than true friendship-we each used each other to get what we wanted. Not very flattering but true.

  13. I saw it more as an undergraduate, I think. I think it exists farthr along, too, but less often. At least, by the time I got to grad school I both had too much work to worry about stuff like that and was too old to be amused by that kind of game-playing, so there may have been more of it that I just ignored, you know? I do think that you see it a lot in academic administrators,* but less so among strictly faculty types.

    *A lot of administrators who come in from the academic side feel sort of over their heads with the more corporate aspects of the work, and a lot of the administrators who come in from the business side feel intellectually inferior to the academics (although most of them react by deciding that academics are stupid and intellectual stuff doesn’t matter). So you get partnerships: I’ll fill your gaps if you’ll fill mine.

  14. This was an interesting read. In my case, I’ve long said that I find men easier to relate to in general. My close friendships with men far outnumber those with women. Reflecting on it a bit, I think the topic of this post may well be why.

    In any case, I feel like most of my friendships with women have been absent of any of this dynamic, but I have, at times, found myself in both roles. I was a fairly awkward kid, so I never really thought of myself as pretty, but I didn’t want for attention from boys, so the message that I was desirable was clear enough anyway, and many of my female friends in school were equally awkward or more awkward than I was. It made for a dynamic that typically cast me as the prettiest ugly duckling, if you will. But there wasn’t a sense of competition, either — I remember the dynamic as being most supportive of each other’s efforts to improve our statuses, either by doing each other’s makeup or hair, or helping each other get or keep boyfriends, etc.

    Fast forward a few years to college, though, and I had grown into my looks enough to end up on either side of the pair, depending on who you put me next to. I had little experience with the kind of competition I started to experience. I still hung out with guys more often, but now that seemed to be perceived as greedy, and women I thought were my friends started going out of their way to fall into bed with my male friends in an apparent attempt to get there before I did. (Truth be told, I fell into bed with a lot of ’em, too, but it was in a spirit of sexual adventurousness and liberation, not a competition to get there first, last, or whatever.)

    To be completely honest, I think even my sister may have been more comfortable with me when I was an awkward teen than when I grew into my looks more, and her position as the most beautiful one (she was a model and a Miss Teen Illinois contender) was somehow threatened. We have a boatload of issues between us so it’s hard to separate any of them, but I have a sense that that’s one of them.

    And every once in a while, I find myself noticing that a woman I’ve just met seems to be perceiving me as “beneath” her or “above” her, based at least in part on our relative physical beauty. I guess it’s a testament to the power of that dynamic that it can shape relationships between women in subtle and insidious ways.

    But to Mack’s point, that men don’t do this, I call bullshit on that. I’ve seen it play out with men. Maybe not as frequently, and maybe sometimes on different criteria, but there’s often a sense that one guy is the big shot — the alpha or whatever — and his buddies are supposed to defer to him. And I’ve definitely seen where great-looking guys are clearly hanging out with less attractive guys to make themselves look even better.

    I also wanted to acknowledge that in my romantic/sexual relationships with women, this dynamic has very much been present. I don’t know if the majority of lesbian and bi women experience this, but I have felt that there was almost expected to be a dynamic where one of us was prettier than the other, and the one who was least pretty was supposed to be in a constant state of admiration for the other, prettier one.

    In part, though, I think this is an outgrowth of the imbalance in male-female relationships, where it’s almost expected that men are supposed to pursue women, to admire women’s beauty, to spend the rest of their lives admiring the beauty of the women in their lives, etc. Anything less seems to be perceived as unromantic, and the other direction — women being taken by men’s good looks — seems socially less important.

    Sorry to write a novel about it, B. This is a great topic.

  15. B, you’ve described my relationship with my best friend here. Although, thankfully, she and I are close enough that we actually talk about it fairly regularly and try to keep each other from falling into the stereotypical thinking.

    But I do always assume that any guy she meets first, she deserves a shot at, and besides, after he’s met her, why would he want me? It’s an ongoing struggle, but one that she and I are both fighting. (For what it’s worth, she fights her own enjoyment of being the pretty one – she likes being pretty, but usually ends up frustrated that the guys she’s reeling in only want her for her pretty.) She encourages me to see my own pretty, and I encourage her to be confident about her intelligence and personality as much as her looks. Someday, maybe, we’ll get it all together.

    By the way, almost every day I read this thing and think, “I just love Aunt B.”

  16. Yeah, bullshit on “guys don’t do this.” I see strong men finding weaker guys to bully and humiliate. I see nerdy types trying to hang with cooler men. I see many variations on themes of hierarchy and dominance. Google the term “wingman” and see what you get. I think, perhaps, that men are less willing to admit that this is happening because they want to preserve a fictive masculine equality. It’s important to their own psychic well-being that they don’t admit that these patriarchal systems ensnare them too.

  17. Pingback: Mid-day Randomness... « GingerSnaps

  18. Okay, I’m in.
    I have played the role as the clever and spunky best friend. I also learned that I put myself in that role when I was younger because I thought I had to. As I grew older, I learned some things (and Mack, I’m with Kate O’ on this one. Many men do judge immediately on looks, not all of them, I’m sure because no one deserves to be put in a box and I’m not doing that to you, but I’ve seen this happen time and time again. Sadly, I’ve also seen some women do this as well.)
    My sister was the cutie. I was the clever one who was everyone’s buddy growing up. We both have scars from these behaviors and it got us by when we were younger. As I grew older, I realized I had as much “IT” (that’s my word I use) as anyone else. And it came from a very painful episode with a young man I had the lust thing going on with. He told me in a drunken stupor one night that he wished that the pretty princess who was my friend had my personality and then SHE would be perfect. But that she had the look, he was going to pursue that instead of going with me. He told me this and in essence it was “I like you as a person better, but that’s what I want to hit and on my arm at parties. But we can talk about it all the time.”
    Needless to say, I was crushed. Later on, when she didn’t want him, I was to be the consolation prize. I did not allow that and needless to say, I saw him for what he was.
    But I realized that if I detached from that sort of mindset, then I would be okay. It wasn’t my friend’s fault and she and I are still pals. It was behavior I couldn’t control from someone I was hot in the loins for. And I started a new mantra about that time that has, in many cases, worked for me.
    And that is “It’s none of my business what you think about me.”
    So when I started finding my sea-legs in my journey, I think, if I say so myself, I developed my own “IT.”
    And it sort of caught me by surprise. I will never be a Christie Brinkley type. But I have other things and I had to really practice this for years and I still get tied up in it some, but I started living it and it worked.
    And I find that, and God knows I love the game and sexual innuendo and the rest of it more than I should, but I’m attracting the kind of people that I want around me. And I do find that it works (yeah, I’m in a relationship but I’m not dead. I’m committed but it’s fun and it’s accepted by my partner so don’t think I’m a total louse.)
    Now does this fit in to this conversation, I’m not sure.
    You know, if you look at me, I’m overweight, I have weird nappy hair, I’m over 40, blind as a bat and I’m a much different person than I was 20 years ago, I’ve accepted that those things are me, but there is so much more.
    On one last note, I’m a female boss. I don’t think I do too badly with my staff. I co-operate the business with the marketing person.
    I find that the staff responds to me a little better than her because it’s worth the five or ten extra minutes a day to treat everyone with the value they deserve. She doesn’t do that and is more of a rigid follow the rules person. I’m not.
    And with my loyalty to them, they have proven loyalty to me, I think.
    I have male bosses who throw me that entitlement bullshit at me everyday.
    Just saying.

  19. (feeling the heat) Let me clarify something. We men have our own chain of command that we usually agree to subconsciously. I thought the point of the post was that PPprincesses look for a sidekick to be somewhat subservient to them. I got the idea that women were split into these two camps. You are either one, or the other. Most guys don’t usually fulfill the same role in every relationship, and seldom permenently adopt a place in the “pack.” Sure, nerds hang out with smoother guys when they are trying to meet women. But, for the most part, they seek friends that share similar likes. Men do establish a pecking order in groups. But, for one on one friendships, there is no clear role established. Sure, there are guys out there that try to bully or intimidate everyone, friends included, and on the flip side, there are those guys that will always allow them to do so. It’s just not as prevalent, at least not in my experience. Most importantly, from reading B’s post and some of the comments, I get the idea that these traditional roles remain constant for much of women’s lives, and I just don’t think men do that. It isn’t some idea I hold that we are somehow better for it, it’s merely my observations.

    I could be wrong.

  20. I was to be the consolation prize.

    OMG, that has been a running thread throughout my entire life. I am in therapy now because of it. So, yeah, I’m still working on developing my own “IT”.

    I’m 40 and overweight, but I try not to beat myself up over it. I wish looks weren’t so important. I’m afriad that’s a pipe dream.

  21. Pingback: For the Write Reason » Don’t you hate it when…

  22. Ladies, I say this from the bottom of my heart.

    Never

    Never

    Never

    feel like you have to be the consolation prise. Don’t rob yourself of joy by settling for being the person another person is settling for. If they don’t value you above rubies, they aren’t worth your time or emotional energy.

    I say this as a homely fat girl. There ARE people out there who see true value and know it. Don’t waste your precious time and emotional energy on those who don’t.

    I beg you.

  23. Interesting. I’ve seen this play out with males and females over the years. But like Kate, most of my close friendships have been with males, so I’ve never been the princess or the sidekick. But I have been the “wingwoman” plenty.

  24. Katherine, That’s my point exactly. Sadly, I had to learn it the hard way many years ago but I must say that it was the best lesson I’ve ever learned.
    And I like to think I’m a pretty fabulous BBW (big beautiful woman) if I say so myself.
    There are people who see the true value, and if they don’t, fuck ’em.

  25. Hmmm. I never quite fit into either role, and most of my friends didn’t either. I was “mom” or the therapist, or the teacher/administrator (in high school, often in the most literal sense; I wound up working for/with the counselors and administrators just to keep the school running). It’s kind of like being everyone’s plain but smart sidekick, without any of the belonging.

    I mean, I was the girl all the boys told about their crushes, and the girl all the girls told about their crushes. I facilitated meetings, coordinated parties (that I wasn’t allowed to go to, because my parents were quite the overprotective lot), checked dresses, fixed makeup, and dispensed advice. I don’t know why it never struck anyone as weird that everyone wound up asking the girl who’d never had a date or kissed a boy (or girl, for that matter, at the time) what they should be doing with their significant others… what flowers to give, where to go, what to write on their card, whether the song they wrote on their guitar was good enough to serenade with.

    Heh. There was a time when I’d just call people and be. Listen to the guy do his homework (and occasionally answer questions) or compose music.. or call the friends at a party (because again, I wasn’t there) and get passed around the room while everyone told me what was going on. Not having much of a conversation, but talking to everyone, even the people I’d never met, just to be. Not interaction, but presence.

    It’s still something I do with my life now, though in a more concrete way. I’ve got a 40something friend (for lack of a better word… he used to be a teacher, though not my teacher, at my high school) who needs my help, so I just… go sit with him and make things work. He’ll call me and need to clean up, or straighten his files, or go shopping… and I’ll go and maybe give him advice, or sit next to him while he’s doing his work and maybe check it over. It’s in no way romantic… he just needs help. (And he pays me for it, which is nice. Kind of weird, but nice.)

    (Heh, technically that’s my job. I’m an executive assistant. We don’t have that kind of rapport, though, so it’s awkward and doesn’t work well at all. It’s annoying, because it’s the first and only time I haven’t been able to at least get into the other person’s head a little bit. I’ve been training for this since… forever, it seems. Doing it formally, for pay, since eighth grade. And even when the person was someone I sincerely disliked, I’ve never been unable to do my job and do it well. I don’t know what’s wrong.)

    Anyway, that strayed a bit. Women, right. I don’t get along too well with women, in general. That’s one of the reasons I find the community here so interesting. Y’all seem really cool, and I’d totally like to get to know you in person. But in my life, and on the computer up until I wandered in here, pretty much all of my friends have been guys. (Recently, anyway. At least since starting college…. though yes, there’s Lovelesscynic and Little Light… but I think I’ve talked to them more since I graduated than I did while we were at the same school, even though Lovelesscynic was my neighbor and Peer Mentor for a while.)

    I’ve seen the Pretty Pretty Princess dynamic, and the Smart-Plain-Princess dynamic both, though. In Junior High, that was one of my… not aspirations, exactly, but secret wants. I was actually low enough ranked on the social totem pole that most people didn’t know my name, and even the bullies wouldn’t mess with me because it was like I was invisible. My friends, who were slightly more popular (but still wayyyyy low-ranked), were teased mercilessly when they came to the attention of the girls at the top. And somewhere, buried not-so-deep, I wanted to be… a project. You know, Tai, from Clueless. It’s a step below sidekick, but there’s plenty of attention involved for a while.

    Thankfully, I never really got that wish granted. Knowing the girls at that school, it would have torn me apart. As it was, that was a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad place for me, and I was lucky to escape after two years.

    I think the mommy/therapist role was as much an escape as anything else. I wasn’t available enough to be the smart-but-plain one. A wingman/backup girl is of no use to you if she can’t be around at your parties. And my best friend (and sometime girlfriend, oy) was … well, she was neither smart nor beautiful enough to be the lead when it came to popularity, but she was far more social than I, and the creative one, and I wandered along in her wake, trying to keep her in some semblance of order. She provided a tremendous amount of focus for me… mental problems, messed up family life, messed up school life, and a gigantic, consuming need for attention. She made me feel important, talking her down, helping her with work, making sure she didn’t kill herself, taking her in when her stepmother kicked her out, being there.

    And the rest of my friends were kind of the same, to a lesser extent. The friend that was closest to the Pretty Pretty Princess mold – smart, cute, sweet… the girl every single boy had a crush on at some point or another – was also intensely fragile. Paralyzingly phobic of dark places, with a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest provocation, and incredibly sporty (a soccer player) with weak knees and an amazing affinity for injury. She was sweet, and a wonderful friend… never commanding the stage or expecting anything from any of us, and gushingly grateful for the love and support lavished upon her. I got to watch her, to make sure to keep light-up pens or glowsticks around in case we had to sit through a movie in class, and hug her and threaten her boyfriends and make sure she ate and make sure she went to the doctor when she hurt her knee. Then she met the guy who is currently her fiancé, and he did all that. So we drifted a bit, but she was steadier. They’re a wonderful pair now.

    Heh, wow, I’m rambling. No surprise there, but vaguely annoying nonetheless. Half tempted to make this a post on its own, at my place…but I think I’ll leave it here, for now.

    To drift to the men, I think they do do this, but are likely to seek out women for it. The girl that’s ‘one of the guys’ is often also the confidante and supporter, hanging out with the group and doing the emotional support deal.

    Heh, another thing I wanted to point out, Mack, was that for the most part these are group dynamics. You do get PPPs with sidekicks or SMPPs with sidekicks in dyadic relationships, but those are generally within the context of larger friend-groups. So you have the group of five friends that hang out, and within that there are two or three or four dyadic relationships, half of which are hierarchical. And there’s always the directional bit, which fades with age but doesn’t seem to go away entirely. “Oh, X is my best friend, and Y is her best friend, who’s best friends with Z and Q. I don’t hang out with Z or Q, but will deal with Y because she’s known X forever.”

  26. I don’t guess any PPPrincess will weigh in on this one, as they would then be admitting that they were one, thus proving themselves to be exactly what you say they are: i.e., stuck-up girls with a sense of entitlement and no brains or sense of self-worth other than that based on their looks.

    I know plenty of pretty girls who are not like this in the least. It’s not impossible to be pretty, nice, and smart with the book-learnin’ all at the same time.

    So does a ‘PPP’ not ever get a chance to prove that she is not what you think she is, if you don’t get to know her? How is this not part of the dynamic? Do they have to work harder to prove they’re regular people, if they’ve been pre-judged in this way? I think your last line about what roles ‘we women try to force each other and ourselves into’ says it all.

    (And no, I don’t consider myself one. I’m an OK-OK-Definitely NOT a Princess.)

  27. I don’t guess any PPPrincess will weigh in on this one,

    Are they reading this blog? Or shopping? ::ducks from the weight of the stereotype::

    And you know, just maybe there are actually people commenting here that ARE the PPPrincesses to someone else, but see themselves as the plain girl. Cause that’s the irony of it. My sister sees me as the PPPrincess, for instance. I don’t see myself that way at all, obviously. So maybe it’s a shifting dynamic dependent on relative looks and self-esteem of the parties involved.

    I was “mom” or the therapist, or the teacher/administrator (in high school, often in the most literal sense; I wound up working for/with the counselors and administrators just to keep the school running). It’s kind of like being everyone’s plain but smart sidekick, without any of the belonging.

    Mag, that sounds actually just like me. Although I suppose I put too much emphasis on the ‘being everyone’s plain but smart sidekick’ to consider other opportunities until college.

    The girl that’s ‘one of the guys’ is often also the confidante and supporter, hanging out with the group and doing the emotional support deal.

    Again, just like me. Which, is of course, playing with fire. Because you fall in love with 90% of the guys and wonder why they don’t love you back. But if you do find the one who loves you back, well then—Result!!!

  28. Well you are all princesses to me.

    (now, picture me as the droopy eared, watery eyed pup thats just begging to be let back inside. I won’t hike my leg anymore inside, I promise!)

  29. I should point out, too, that I don’t think the Pretty, Pretty Princess/Plain sidekick dynamic has to be always negative, if the friends are good about keeping the balance right. If this is my night to shine, but next week we’re going to spend Saturday doing crap you like to do and talking about the boys you’re mulling over, then I don’t really see that as a problem. One of the things that I love about the Super Genius is that she’s one of the first people I ever met who really got what I meant by Pretty, Pretty Princess and she’s very good about making sure, when we’re together, that both of us feel like we could kick ass and take names.

    So, I think that, if women are aware of the tendency for close female friendships to have that dynamic, you can toy with it in ways that are fun and not inherently damaging.

    Mack, you crack me up.

  30. *laughs* Aye, Kat. It’s a dangerous and slightly annoying path. Especially since you run the risk of falling into the Nice Guy/Girl trap… I’m their friend and I love them, so why don’t they love meeeeee?

    Heh, I do think that it would be hard to admit oneself as a PPP in this thread. (Barbie? Anyone? Are you still reading?) But I think it’s partially because of the specificity of the definition. The PPPs aren’t just women who are pretty and smart and popular, who happen to have friends who are less pretty/smart/popular. They’re women who are pretty and smart and popular, and who need to have “lower ranking” friends around to do the emotional and physical work for them. Just being pretty and popular isn’t enough to qualify, at least for me (though we do run into issues of perception there)… it’s more of the “Alpha female” syndrome that does it.

    I think the perception thing is kind of problematic… it’s hard to tell from the outside of a dynamic whether it’s a PPP thing or a thing that just is. But when you’re in one of those relationships, it’s pretty clear.

    Pegg, I think you’re right about the force thing as well. Otherwise nice people wind up acting in ways they might not ordinarily consider when social circumstances weigh in. You can be in a group that’s relatively ahierarchical, but then approach another group and watch as people insist on treating the less-attractive members of the group as wingpeople. And even if the entire time is spent correcting the assumption, it can stick in weird ways. If the people in power (people you want to impress, teachers, people trying to sell you things, whatever) only speak to the percieved dominant, s/he winds up being the voice for the group, even if s/he isn’t actually ‘in charge’ within the dynamic. It’s a privilege/power/force issue, as well as an ‘awful things we do to ourselves’ issue.

  31. Mack, in all honesty, you are the only guy I know who is over here even listening to this dialogue.
    Good for you as you are giving some cool perspective.
    You can dish it out and take it. I dig that.
    Yeah, I play the therapist role too but it happens with everyone and Steph HATES it. I need to get a cup with five cents on it like Lucy has in Peanuts and sit it next to my beer when I’m in a bar or out. I don’t know why it happens but I’m okay with it. But, you know, it happens with everyone, so I haven’t really assigned it to the PPP thing or a guy thing.
    It’s just part of my thing, if you will.
    Like I said, it drives Squirrelly nuts. She was going to post about it recently but she couldn’t photo shop a squirrel with her idea so she abandoned the project all together.

  32. Oh well. Never was the PPP, but guess I could admit that I’m a PPP wannabe. Always sadly in the background wishing I had the pretty hair, or the pretty eyes, or the pretty figure….wishing I could be attractive, captivating, beguiling…never quite measuring up. Sucks. Kudos to those of you who have found your way past it.

  33. I don’t think that “pretty, pretty, princess” compared to “smart girl” is fair, as I’ve seen this dynamic play out between women that were equally intelligent, or as the case may be, equally stupid.

  34. Veronica, I didn’t mean to insinuate that the side kick is factually smarter than the princess, just that the roles are such that one is the pretty one and one is the smart one and that the smart one uses her brains to help advance the cause of the pretty one. The women playing the roles could be equally intelligent, or the princess may even be smarter. It’s Daphne/Velma, if we ever saw them alone and talking about Fred.

    Barbie, you know, I have to say, I honestly think the reason you irritate me is exactly this dynamic. I just assumed, the first time you showed up here, that you expected to be the princess and expected all of the rest of us to immediately recognize your inherent awesomeness and help you celebrate it. And, frankly, that pretty much took me to some shitty places in my own psyche. I’m really sorry about that, and I hope that, now that I see what’s tripping me up, that I can get the fuck over it.

  35. AB, pretty much my name says it all Barbie me, PLEASE. I don’t think I’m beautiful. I know I’m not. I do desperately want to be. I don’t think I’m awesome. Truth be told, I consider myself pretty ugly and deal with a lot of self loathing and depression with regard to my appearance. If my honesty about myself is offensive to you, I’m sorry. I was just trying to be candid.

  36. Nope, Barbie, that’s what I’m trying to say. When you came in here, I misread you as someone with too high an opinion of herself and got all defensive and mean–that’s my own crap and it was unfair to you. I should have extended you compassion and tried to understand you, but couldn’t get past my own nonsense and I’m sorry about that.

    I’ll try to be better.

  37. Ok, I’ll bite.

    In the past year, for some very odd reason, I have had more attention from guys than ever before. I’ve been told I’m “cute”. Yeah, that makes me feel great…especially since I’ve always been told I wasn’t good enough. Second best. The consolation prize. It feels good to, for the first time in my life, feel somewhat attractive. Regardless of that, I could never–and would never want to–see myself as a PPPrincess–and really don’t want to be seen as such. I can’t get past the “fat” label I was given, no matter if I am a size 10 or my current size. (I have never been under a size 10 in my post-puberty life.)

    It’s funny because I have found myself in a certain situation where it feels like I am being valued only for stimulating the loins but not the mind. Let me tell ya…it has hurt much worse than ever being made to feel inadequate in the looks department…because the very core of who I am has been devalued.

    Sometimes I feel like I just can’t win.

  38. Eh. We do it too, just differently.

    Hell, I’m probably closer to the male version of the PPP than anything else. As Mags can attest, I will walk into a situation in which I am comfortable or knowledgeable (Gaming, mostly) and I will be impressive. And everyone will flock over to talk to me, at least for a moment. And they will all like me. The main difference being that I don’t usually have a sidekick (Unless you count Mags, I guess? Never really thought of the dynamic that way). Most male sidekicks in my particular neck of the woods are the utterly creepy, irredeemably misogynist sort that I have a difficult time putting up with when I’m not thoroughly drunk and already having a good time.

    Allow me to elaborate (This might take a bit to get to the point). I am known among my friends for meeting women on the internet, going to see them, and often ending up in their beds. This, apparently, makes me a player of the highest caliber. So many of my friends come to me for advice on how to woo women. They couldn’t be more wrong, but that’s another topic. So this particular friend of mine comes to me with a quandary, which I will use as an example of what I mean by male sidekicks being creepy and all. He’s a good guy. Nice, funny, etc. Total geek. Loves Transformers and can do more yo-yo tricks than I can name, plays Yu-Gi-Oh card games and watches every movie that comes out so he can review it and rate it online. He’s met this girl on the internet. She likes classic cartoons too, and even wants to learn to play Yu-Gi-Oh. He asks me how he can try to keep her interested without actually going after her, because there’s this other girl who happens to be “way hot” and have nothing in common with him that he’s been sending roses and such. When I asked why he wasn’t sending roses to the more interesting girl, his reply was this joke:

    What’s the difference between your mistress, your girlfriend and your wife? When you’re having sex with your mistress, she says, “Oh baby, you’re so good.” When you’re having sex with your girlfriend, she says, “Oh baby, I love you so much.” When you’re having sex with your wife, she says, “Beige. I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige.”

  39. I am known among my friends for meeting women on the internet, going to see them, and often ending up in their beds.

    You mean while they’re at home?!! Ballsy. ;)

  40. Ginger, I think “IT” isn’t what we present on the outside, but what we exhude from the inside and that’s when it comes together like a really good cold Margarita on a hot summer day.
    It just works.
    With that said, it is nice when you get the compliments that have to do with our desirability (sp) from our appearances, especially after feeling we we’ve never had that. But, for me at least, it has to be accepted in my head, ’cause my brain sometimes lies to me and is so willing to go back into a lack of confidence that I had for years.
    It’s a struggle, but I’ve been winning more battles with myself than losing them lately and I’m sort of proud of myself on that.
    But I know what you’re saying. I got a nice friendly come-on from my buddy Patrick (I’ve spoken of him before) last week that made me blush and my knees go a little weak ’cause it was just dadgummed sexy. (Wait, having a flashback) but it had to do with “IT” and not my appearance and I’ll be honest, I felt all groovy that I had an adult, frank, sexual conversation with someone that I had no intention of sleeping with. I even talked to SQ about it.
    I say that to say this, it is a weird transition of finding out what we want and how we want to go about getting it when it comes to feeding our own sensuality and being comfortable with it. I think a lot of it has to do with conditioning of how other’s perceive us but it’s also more than that.
    It’s how we perceive ourselves and being comfortable with it. Journeys suck, don’t they, in trying to get to this places that reside in our souls.
    Barbie, I’ve seen you and you’re adorable, but myself and others can tell you that all day long and it won’t make a bit of difference until you start believing it. And, I mean this respectfully, you have to do the work within yourself, smashing down those walls, to get to that place, moving past that scary stuff that’s standing in your way. I think engaging in this conversation and others participating in the flow of the dialogue is a wonderful step forward.
    B put her hand out to you, by the way. I hope you saw that.
    So, I type along on the hydrojuice here (damn, I’ll miss this stuff)and ramble yet again here at TCP.

  41. “I didn’t mean to insinuate that the side kick is factually smarter than the princess”

    You may not mean to, but really, when it comes to Daphne/Velma, Velma is smarter.

    People talk about feeling like a “consolation prize.” Well, “smart” is that consolation prize in this discussion, right? “Well, at least she’s smart.” It’s like having a “good personality,” right?

    Sheesh.

    I’m not ugly. Never have been. But, I have been “the pretty one” in a female duo, and I’ve been the ugly one. That’s the dynamic. It’s not that one of us was more “quirky” or wittier, or smarter. It’s that one was hotter by a magazine standard, and fuck-all to the girl that’s not, right?

    I just think, if this the conversation at hand, then the language being used is passive aggressive. Pretty vs. Smart is an apples and orange comparison that gets trotted out to avoid saying the word “ugly,” because I suppose, “ugly” is a hurtful term. But, in this context “smart” means “ugly.” Honestly, I think that there’s just soooo much pain associated with women and beauty ideals, that we feel the need to cloak it in all this bullshit false dichotomy. It’s girly-girly playing nicey-nicey in a terribly backhanded way, which is exactly what we’re complaining about, correct?

    It sucks to be the ugly one. It sucks more to feel like you’re always the ugly one. And, all of that sucking is amplified tenfold if you’re hanging out with some woman playing maindgames with the fact that you feel that way.

  42. Mack, in all honesty, you are the only guy I know who is over here even listening to this dialogue.

    Maybe the rest of us are just smart enough to stfu and listen.

  43. Yeah, Veronica, I hear what you’re saying, but in my experience, the point of the sidekick is to facilitate the life (especially the social life) of the princess. The sidekick may come to feel ugly (I think everyone’s acknowledged that it can do a number on your self-esteem), but I don’t think that’s the core dynamic of the phenomenon. I’ll agree that pretty v. ugly can be a terrible secondary dynamic. But it seems to me that pretty v. ugly or even being the consolation prize v. being the awesome prize of womanhood are secondary–they come up once that dynamic moves out into public.

    But when it’s just the two of us? Then it’s not about who is pretty and who is ugly. It’s about who does most of the work and why and who benefits from that work and why. And I still believe that that has to do with which one believes she’s special and which one believes her role is to provide support for the other. And that’s not so easily delineated by looks.

  44. Ya know, Veronica, it does hurt to be ‘the ugly one’. And there have been times, when I was younger, when I was insecure enough that if someone else was praised for looks and I wasn’t, I thought it must be because I was ugly. But ‘smart’ isn’t always, or even mostly, a eumphemism for ‘ugly’. It’s a cool and desirable thing in and of itself. Hell, I was brought up to be special because I was smart, and to treat appearance as a distraction. I remember at about 14 or so thinking that if I so much as went on a date before I got the Nobel Prize my father would be furious. Now, trust me, I’m not recommending my father as a model in any way. I’m just saying that I don’t think that everyone in this discussion is saying that the smart girl has to be ugly or that the pretty girl has to be dumb.

  45. Oh, and:

    I am known among my friends for meeting women on the internet, going to see them, and often ending up in their beds.

    You mean while they’re at home?!! Ballsy. ;)

    Splutter, splutter, snort.

  46. But, rejection based on what?

    What I’m saying is that the dynamic is based on being devalued for one’s appearance. Being devalued by men in an obvious sense, and being devalued by other women in a more subtle way. One is not being relegated to “supporting character” because one is clever. One is being relegated to “supporting character” because one is living in a system where a woman’s “worth” in the surface of the world, is primarily determined by her physical appearance.

  47. Veronica, I can’t decide if I’m coming around to your way of thinking or not. But here’s what’s standing in my way. I’ve seen plenty of examples where the pretty, pretty princess is NOT better looking than the side kick. Shoot, the Super Genius and her pretty, pretty princess are a prime example of that. Anyone who saw them out together would objectively say that the Super Genius is better looking and yet that’s not the role in the relationship she plays.

    It does have to do with being devalued–moved aside so that the princess can have the spotlight all to herself–but I do think it’s exactly because the sidekick is clever, not because of how she looks.

    The princess can be smart in a book-learning sense and clearly, the princess has already proven that she’s smart in the interpersonal dynamic sense because she’s figured out that the way to have status if you’re a woman is to present yourself in a certain way.

    To me, that’s the dynamic–that one girl has figured out how to have status in a sexist culture and plays that game well and the other one doesn’t (even though she’s book smart). Coming close to the patriarchal ideal is not the same as being beautiful and not getting how to present yourself in a way that matches up with the patriarchal ideal is not the same as ugly, even though it can certainly feel like it.

  48. I can only echo and support what ‘coma and several others have said and defined as “It”. Each person’s source of confidence is different but everybody’s got one. Feeling comfortable in your body (no matter what the shape or size), a notorious boob-freckle, platinum crew-cut, a rapier wit, a talented singing voice, a mind like a steel trap, the list could go on and on but the point is that each person has to define their own “It”.

    Here is the gist of an actual conversation I had once that re-inforced my “It”:
    The Ex–“R’s wife is just the total package, tall, blond, she looks good in tennis clothes and knows when to just be quiet and look good at social events. You’re more like the kind of girl that can sew her own clothes, help her mother can and keep a good house. You’re sturdy and dependable but not as ornamental as she is.”

    I learned that my “It” was to value myself much higher than he did. Learn to appreciate your assets and discover your “It”.

  49. Pingback: Nashville is Talking » Lik-a-Link

  50. Oh, and:

    I am known among my friends for meeting women on the internet, going to see them, and often ending up in their beds.
    You mean while they’re at home?!! Ballsy. ;)”

    Splutter, splutter, snort.

    Hee. He’s serious, y’know. We met online, and he sleeps in my bed every night.

    But even before that he had some impressive tales.

  51. “Barbie, I’ve seen you and you’re adorable, but myself and others can tell you that all day long and it won’t make a bit of difference until you start believing it. And, I mean this respectfully, you have to do the work within yourself, smashing down those walls, to get to that place, moving past that scary stuff that’s standing in your way. I think engaging in this conversation and others participating in the flow of the dialogue is a wonderful step forward.”

    NC, I appreciate your kindness. I wish I knew what’s standing in the way, if I did I’d try to take care of it because my sweet husband suffers with me. And regardless of the impression he’s given he really is sweet. Probably one of the most gentle souls I know. It really hurts him when he tells me a nice compliment and I can’t look at him, or respond, because I don’t believe him. I’d do this more for him than myself if I could. I guess there’s always hope, but I haven’t yet reconciled that no matter how much I hope and pray, I’m never going to wake up tall, blonde, blue eyed and beautiful. I guess I’m in a funk or a personal crisis of sorts.

    “B put her hand out to you, by the way. I hope you saw that.”

    Yes, I saw that and kind of taken aback, not quite sure how to respond. But AB, I do acknowledge and appreciate the gesture.

  52. I’m fascinated that so many of the comments to this post simply flip the hierarchy. In a PPP/PSSk relationship, both women are often devalued by men because of their looks. The way it seems to be figured by many commenters is that somehow PPP is getting the better end of the deal. Aren’t we basically just talking about femmes and butches here? I hate to put it so crudely, but that seems to be the dichotomy. Now, I’ve never really been anything but the Estella–beautiful, brilliant, and cold–and that’s no crystal staircase either. Any misstep and you become the Parvenu, the Giaconda, or the Femme Fatale.

    It strikes me that, as Ms B mentioned, the best use of role language is to point out when it’s happening so that each woman can stop being a stereotype and start being a person.

  53. It strikes me that, as Ms B mentioned, the best use of role language is to point out when it’s happening so that each woman can stop being a stereotype and start being a person.

    WORD. Now we’re talkin’.

  54. Veronica, I can’t decide if I’m coming around to your way of thinking or not. But here’s what’s standing in my way. I’ve seen plenty of examples where the pretty, pretty princess is NOT better looking than the side kick. Shoot, the Super Genius and her pretty, pretty princess are a prime example of that. Anyone who saw them out together would objectively say that the Super Genius is better looking and yet that’s not the role in the relationship she plays.

    It does have to do with being devalued–moved aside so that the princess can have the spotlight all to herself–but I do think it’s exactly because the sidekick is clever, not because of how she looks.

    Yes, that’s pretty much how I’ve been thinking of it all along. We use “pretty pretty princess” to point to it, partially because those are the kind of words that get used (where the dominant friend will be the “pretty one” despite whatever physical characteristics may be relevant to that determination), and partially because that phrase is cute and demeaning. It’s the kind of language that both affirms and accurately points to the dynamic, and takes those benefitting it down a peg. A more academic discussion might strive for a fairer term (“dominant friend” “more social friend” “friend who gets the most attention” etc.), but I think this is one of those incidents where it’s like the term “patriarchy;” we use it here because we know what it means and can skip the intervening steps of clarifying and stripping it of its bitterness and baggage. Not always a good thing, if one wants to reach out, but a common and sometimes useful characteristic of in-group discussions.

    That said, I think it does point to an interesting aspect of the conversation, that language issue. It gets at the way femininity is constructed and valued in these types of situations, and the power dynamics that go along with it. Princesses have a lot of people working for them, meeting their needs; but they’re still not the truly powerful ones.

    Oof. My mind has totally trailed off, at this point. I was composing this at the same time as my other recent post, and between going back and forth between the two and actually pausing to do work, I’ve lost the thread of my thought. Oh well.

  55. I’m fascinated that so many of the comments to this post simply flip the hierarchy. In a PPP/PSSk relationship, both women are often devalued by men because of their looks. The way it seems to be figured by many commenters is that somehow PPP is getting the better end of the deal. Aren’t we basically just talking about femmes and butches here? I hate to put it so crudely, but that seems to be the dichotomy. Now, I’ve never really been anything but the Estella–beautiful, brilliant, and cold–and that’s no crystal staircase either. Any misstep and you become the Parvenu, the Giaconda, or the Femme Fatale

    (Emphasis mine)

    That’s not what I was getting out of it at all. The relationship we’re talking about is a hierarchical one, not a classification by type. (Yes, the classification by type facilitates and constrains that hierarchy, but the hierarchy and its power dynamics are what is in question) The dominant one is getting the better of the deal, in a dyadic relationship. The dominant one gets the praise, the attention, the credit, and the unnoticed labor of the non-dominant one. That the dominant person is still subject to sexism (or any other sort of oppression) is … not irrelevant, but certainly tangential. I’d draw a diagram, if I could.

    It’s like… if my sister is the pretty one (which, they both are, but let’s say the middle one ’cause she’s older), and I’m the helper, then within the dynamic of me and my sister she’s the dominant one. She relies on my helping and being willing to stand in the background for her. The fact that the things I’m helping her with are primping and doing things so that she can fulfill her social role doesn’t erase the fact that I am being used by her. This can be a harmful dynamic, as many have pointed out, or it can be a mutually satisfying, non-coercive one, but the one that’s generally being pointed to by the specific, bitter nomenclature is the harmful one.

    Butch/Femme or Smart/Pretty or whatever feeds into it, of course… those distinctions shape the way the interactions play out. But the dominant/submissive theme doesn’t change, because that’s the qualifying criteria. You can have the strong Butch woman with the soft femme helper, or the striking and pretty Femme with the silent butch bodyguard, or the Oh So Pretty one with a gaggle of smart friends to field questions and help with her homework, or the Smart Overachiever with a bunch of pretty but shallow lackeys to boss around. Or you could have two people, matched as can be, but one social and paid attention to and the other not. That’s the issue.

  56. clearly, the princess has already proven that she’s smart in the interpersonal dynamic sense because she’s figured out that the way to have status if you’re a woman is to present yourself in a certain way.

    Yes, but also yes to Veronica’s thinking about the passive-aggressive nature of not calling a spade a spade. And while I’m at it, yes to this:

    The way it seems to be figured by many commenters is that somehow PPP is getting the better end of the deal.

    Because really, no woman is getting the better end of the deal if she’s contorting her identity, or having her identity contorted for her, in the process. And a common thread in a lot of these comments seems to be that enough reinforcement of these roles over time does influence identity.

    I also wanted to add that I keep thinking of the line from Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors”: “God help you if you are an ugly girl / ‘Course too pretty is also your doom / ‘Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred / For the prettiest girl in the room”

    I really related when I first heard that line. I’ll soften the reaction from hatred to annoyance, and I will admit (being brutally honest) that I have felt annoyance at not being the prettiest girl in whatever room, and I have also clearly felt that annoyance directed at me for being the prettiest girl in whatever room.

    And here’s the kicker, for me anyway: when I sucked up my courage and tried to talk about this a few years ago in a women-only, bisexual-and-bi-friendly, feminist-leaning internet forum — a forum in which I’d had many in-person encounters with people, and (I’m being brutally honest here) was consistently the only one remotely close to being pretty in an socially objective sense, AND experienced a whole lot of weird, awkward behavior and suspicion because of it — the response I got from a lot of people was denial that the phenomenon even exists, and as a bonus, basically got told “you’re not that pretty anyway.”

    Like THAT’s helpful. All it is is another variant of the same dynamic yet again. The women at those in-person get-togethers seemed to feel safer preemptively not warming up me rather than risk that I would turn out to be a PPP; then when I called out the dynamic, the reaction was part girly-girl nicey-nice (as Veronica said) sort of “oh, that’s not going on, you’re imagining it — we love you!” and part competitive sniping to put me in my place.

    Ack. I’m sorry to keep posting such long things about this, but it’s been a long day and it’s easier to ramble than be precise about what I’m trying to point out. I hope someone understands where I’m going with this.

  57. Aren’t we basically just talking about femmes and butches here?

    Actually, I guess I kind of was, in my comment #16 toward the end:

    I also wanted to acknowledge that in my romantic/sexual relationships with women, this dynamic has very much been present. I don’t know if the majority of lesbian and bi women experience this, but I have felt that there was almost expected to be a dynamic where one of us was prettier than the other, and the one who was least pretty was supposed to be in a constant state of admiration for the other, prettier one.

    In part, though, I think this is an outgrowth of the imbalance in male-female relationships, where it’s almost expected that men are supposed to pursue women, to admire women’s beauty, to spend the rest of their lives admiring the beauty of the women in their lives, etc. Anything less seems to be perceived as unromantic, and the other direction — women being taken by men’s good looks — seems socially less important.

    I do think it relates, but fuck me if I’m still articulate enough at the end of this long day to be able to do it justice.

  58. Hmm. I think that’s part of it, Kate O’, in that the dynamic seems to play out wherever there are dyadic (or larger) relationships between women, including within romantic relationships. I don’t really think it’s just about the femme/butch dichotomy, though.

    In my only relationship with a woman, I didn’t really feel that dynamic. She was the dominant one, and I was just there. She wasn’t prettier than I at all, but she was still very much in charge. If anything, I was supposed to be in constant admiration for her… her creativity, her daring, her horrible terrible life and how she survived. That generally meant that I spent most of my time caretaking (she being the best friend mentioned in the example I gave way up there), in service to her creativity, daring, whims, and mitigating the effects of her horrible terrible life. Since my life was pretty much together at that point, I tended to feel that I didn’t have anything to ask for… she needed my support and praise and admiration, both to do her social job (as the crazy, quirky one) and to live her life the way she wanted. I
    had to be subordinate and dependent for it to work.

    Part of it, a big part, was the sufficiency thing. I remember in ninth grade, my teacher pulled me out of the class for talking to her. She said: “I know you already know this, and you’re way beyond what I’m teaching right now, but your conversation is distracting the people who really do need that instruction. Including your friend.” I’m not really all that socially dominant at all (ask Brev), and I really did love having her as a friend. She was quite dominant, and the only way that would work with us so mismatched (my life working, my family present, my academic level) was for me to divert all of my energy into her, and keeping her afloat. There wasn’t really a difference in that dynamic between the three years we were friends and the seven or so months we were more than friends.

    Granted, I’m generalizing from an extremely small sample size, and I think the larger societal things you point out (the general valuing of prettiness, and expectation that it is something to be remarked on regardless of context) are pretty important to the way things happen. I don’t want to lose that. But I think the dynamic is a dominance one, colored/shaped/defined by the axis along which that dominance plays out… whether it’s appearance or intelligence or social prowess or whatever.

  59. I was never either the Sidekick or the PPP. I was my own Sidekick. Still am. I don’t trust women. There, I said it.

    (Cue the violins here) I can remember my father and my sister lecturing me when I was about 8 that I should do like Terri Leigh (my childhood, best friend, who was blonde, blue eyed and perfect) and brush my hair more. Then, when we were 13, the gorgeous Terri Leigh snagged my 7th grade man while I was at camp for a week. I know, I know, we were 13, but, at the time, I was devastated (screw you, AS, wherever you are today) but it was hurtful to have my best friend do that.

    Susan, my junior high best friend…when I transferred to the same high school she went to, she wouldn’t have anything to do with me because she said “You need to make your own friends.” I think she was scared shitless cause I was a comedic rival to her. So, with that, me and my alternate personality went on about our business and have been hanging for 20 something years now. I guess that’s what you call an introvert.

    I don’t hold it against any of them, and knowing them, they have no clue how that sorta wigged me out towards women as people I can trust and be close with.

  60. Kate O’ and Veronica, I want so desperately to vehemently disagree with you and claim the Truth and righteousness for my side–that impulse is so strong–that I’ve had to give this some hard thought. I do think part of the problem is that I consider myself to be the sidekick in situations where this dynamic comes into play. And, of course, I hate admitting my own biases and shortcomings. On the other hand, the whole point of this post was to try to better understand and articulate a phenomenon I regularly observe in others and have particpated in myself.

    And so, it pains me to admit this, but yeah, clearly even by calling the two roles “the pretty, pretty princess” and “the sidekick,” I’ve stacked the deck against the pretty, pretty princess. I did mean the term to be disparaging. And so, even when I want to argue that I know it must suck to be the pretty, pretty princess, who would take me seriously, considering how condescending and mean the term sounds?

    Which, Kate O., I think feeds into what you’re saying about how the girls who’ve decided that they’re plain somehow feel justified in their sniping.

    So, yeah, that sucks.

    I don’t know. I guess I’ve been thinking about this with the whole Barbie thing, and, to some extent with Slarti. If we cannot get over our own hangups, it doesn’t just hurt us; it hurts innocent bystanders. And, because we drag others into our shit whether we mean to or not, it means that we have a social obligation to get our shit together. That’s a hard lesson for me to learn.

    So, where are we in the discussion? I think we can say that this dynamic of close friendships/rivalries (which Smiff reminded me we are talking about) is damaging to both parties. And, I think I take back the idea that this isn’t easily mapped onto the Madonna/whore dichotomy. I think it actually is a part of that. Look how the princess is made into the “Bad girl” even in this thread, by folks (okay, by me) who should know better and how much I want to believe that the sidekick is not really as fucked up as the princess, but is actually an under-appreciated good girl.

    So, to that, I say, hmm, and wow. I guess I’ve backed into that same old familiar trope, much stronger than I gave it credit for.

  61. I don’t trust women. There, I said it.

    From what I’ve seen, most women are pretty uncomfortable around other women.

    One of the things I value about the blogosphere is that we have a bunch of wordy, honest women who are pretty good at being open about their emotions and reactions. It makes it easier to build something with other women.

    Especially knowing that most other women are as skittish in the arena as we are.

    It’s a war as old as time (Rachel & Leah) and one that true feminism can help resolve.

  62. If we cannot get over our own hangups, it doesn’t just hurt us; it hurts innocent bystanders. And, because we drag others into our shit whether we mean to or not, it means that we have a social obligation to get our shit together. That’s a hard lesson for me to learn.

    Me, too. That’s why I’m working on it…really hard.

    It’s a war as old as time (Rachel & Leah) and one that true feminism can help resolve.

    True words. This group of women is moving forward toward a really, really good place…because we are having dialog. We are learning about each other and different viewpoints — and what kind of baggage leads to those viewpoints.

    It’s very, very groovy…at the end of this day, after participating in this forum, my heart is full. In a good way.

  63. It shocks the shit out of me how many of you don’t like to hang out with women. Personally, my best, closest friendships- by far- have been with women. I’ve had a hell of a lot of guy friends, but unless they were related to me, there was ALWAYS that weird sexual tension-thing there. There’s not (usually) that with my close girl friends.

    Maybe *I* am the weird one.

  64. I’ve had a hell of a lot of guy friends, but unless they were related to me, there was ALWAYS that weird sexual tension-thing there.

    Since I gather most of us are coming from the sexually-sidelined adolescence role (see how many self-identify as “fat girl” or “ugly girl” or “plain girl” or “best friend”), we didn’t necessarily experience sexual TENSION in those relationships because we learned that cultural survival required a subsumation of our sexual nature.

    So our discomfort with women comes partly from feeling their force of sexual dominance (requiring our sexual subsumation) and from the resultant sense of competing with them for sexual attention in an unfairly matched arena.

    And our comfort with men rises in part out of the desexualisation of male-female relationships.
    Any sexualized relationships I had with boys in my teen years were with those who went to other schools and didn’t “know” me in the context of my female friendships and with whom I therefore felt freer to express my sexual nature.

  65. Since I gather most of us are coming from the sexually-sidelined adolescence role (see how many self-identify as “fat girl” or “ugly girl” or “plain girl” or “best friend”), we didn’t necessarily experience sexual TENSION in those relationships because we learned that cultural survival required a subsumation of our sexual nature.

    So our discomfort with women comes partly from feeling their force of sexual dominance (requiring our sexual subsumation) and from the resultant sense of competing with them for sexual attention in an unfairly matched arena.

    :/ I think I am the weird one. I always assumed guys hanging out with girls = sexual tension. Maybe it’s my fault, haha. I need to think about this more.

    At any rate, I’ve had way more close, fulfilling friend-relationships with women than I think I ever could with a guy. It’s hard for me *not* to trust a woman.

  66. Ivy, if you’re weird I’m there with you. Until I got to your comment I was about to do a “wait, am I the only one who …” comment myself.

    My most lasting friendships and deepest feelings of connection (well, excepting with my husband) have always been with women. I like other women. I almost always work well with them, and when I don’t it’s for reasons of personality that really aren’t connected to sex or gender roles. Women have been such powerful forces of love, teaching, and good in my life (and yes, I know I’m lucky in that way) that I feel quite distressed to hear about women who don’t have that experience. Now, men I tend to approach with a tad of mistrust. Go figure.

  67. Ivy! NM! You are not alone. My closest friendships are all with women and I find it easier to befriend and navigate my friendships with them. I do a bad job of negotiating the sexual stuff that comes into play with male/female heterosexual friendships.

  68. I’ve seen young lesbians get caught up in it, being the good sidekick in hopes that the pretty, pretty princess will come to realize that she really deserves someone who will heap all this attention on her–perhaps the very person who is heaping all the attention on her.

    “All Over Me” was a good example of this. me, eh, i was more of a loner. for a while i had another “plain sidekick” pal. she was straight, homophobic, had no idea (probably) what was going on with me, certainly didn’t seem like she’d have been very sympathetic. truth is i don’t think we ever liked each other much, but “it beat being alone all by yourself.”

  69. My closest, longest lasting relationships have been with mainly women. I’m not uncomfortable around women.
    I trust people until they give me reason not to trust them and that includes women and men. That’s just works for me.
    Most of the time, unless I get a real weird gut feeling at the first meeting(which has only happened maybe a dozen times in my adult life), I try to meet people with a clean slate, because that’s what I want from them as well, if that makes any sense.
    Now that doesn’t mean I’m not a little worried or anxious meeting new people, because sometimes I am, but it doesn’t bother me for the most part. I realize we are talking about intimacy and the cultivation of deep friendships. I also think that’s why I react about all the female boss stuff that has been written recently, although I do understand everyone’s point of view and they have the right to that opinion.
    I’m just rambling and swimming around here, sorry.
    Back to women’s relationships with each other.There are women I geniunely like who are in my life, but have given me reasons not to trust them but it doesn’t mean the connection is destroyed, it just means that there are different levels of intimacy.
    I guess my point, if I had one in the first place, is that I don’t meet women and have a wall built up just because they are women and assume the worst. I’m naive sometimes, because I believe if you just don’t expect too much other than human kindness and civility that ultimately that keeps the pressure off.
    You care and try to build from that, and in friendships, hope you are cared for back. If you don’t get those needs met, then you move on to a new plane although you don’t have to dislike that person, it’s just different. It might not be a good emotional fit, that’ all.
    I think I’m delving off into something else here, so I’ll quit.
    We were talking about PPP and sidekicks, weren’t we?

  70. Ivy! NM! You are not alone. My closest friendships are all with women and I find it easier to befriend and navigate my friendships with them.

    Okay, I’m thinking about this a little more. Notice a theme? Many of the girls who were more comfortable with men grew up in strict Christianity.

    You know, where God is the Father and women are marginalised as madonnas or whores…and sexuality for girls is forcibly restrained.

    Yeah, B, I know you grew up in strict Christianity, but you’ve also got the Preacher’s Kid card which tends to flip a lot of the subtext on its ear.

    Just thinking out loud here…

  71. Folks, damn it, put up your right hand and repeat after me: “I [state your name] will no longer worry about drifting a thread into uncharted but interesting waters and I [state your name] will not apologize for having long, incredibly thought-provoking comments.”

    I love the long, drifty comments and I cringe when I see y’all being self-conscious about them.

  72. I raise my hand, B.
    I’ve never been as wordy over here as I have in the last couple of days.
    It feels pretty good. Not necessarily self-conscious, just different for me. :)

  73. Biblical examples of the PPPrincess & Sidekick Female relationship (just off the top of my head):

    Rachel & Leah
    Naomi & Ruth
    Mary & Martha

    Biblical stories where the heroine is of unparalleled beauty and thus gets her way with the stronger, more fearful men:

    Samson & Delilah
    Esther
    Rebekah
    Tamar (nm, help me out here…isn’t she the one who was David’s daughter and whose brother lusted after her so much that he ultimately raped her and then repudiated her? Anyway, that’s who I mean. Her.)

    Biblical Stories where women of beauty are villified for leading men astray:
    Gomer
    Jezebel
    The whore of babylon

    I guess growing up in a traditional Christian education doesn’t really always put a good spin on femininity–we knew that–but it also doesn’t do much for female/female relationships in general. (With the story of Ruth & Naomi as the possible exception to that rule)

    Beyond that, if you grow up with a Father God and a personal relationship with a Father God, I think you tend to imprint more positively on males as someone to be trusted, revered and held in esteem. Females, on the other hand, are foreign, earthy–“other”. I don’t think it’s bad to imprint positively on males as it improves the chances of the species’ propigation but I think too much of church history has been directed to reprobation of the female in order to exalt–or excuse–the male.

  74. In my case, I’m afraid it’s got most to do with having had a father who pretty much thought he was a god, or better than that, and having a mother who protected me from that. So I approach men with a level of mistrust of where they’re coming from, and I approach women with a level of expectation that they’ll have good stuff to share. As Newscoma points out, sometimes the expectations are wrong, and often (happily) the mistrust turns out to have been unnecessary.

    But you may be on to something, KC, in the sense that we certainly didn’t have a highly religious upbringing.

  75. I have always had friends (buddies) of both sexes. I love both sexes. :) Truly, the only place I have had relationship issues with women are in the workplace. I mean, really, being the “fat girl” I was a threat to neither of them.

  76. Biblical examples of the PPPrincess & Sidekick Female relationship (just off the top of my head):

    Rachel & Leah

    Nooooooo! Leah isn’t a sidekick; she’s a rival. She’s also the most pitiful woman in the Bible, I think: manipulated by her father without regard to her feelings; despised by her husband, who nevertheless continues to have regular sex with her in order to have sons; hated by her sister, who never fails to rub her sorrows in her face (Rachel is quite a bitch, ya know). Her suffering is so unjust that the early rabbis had to invent stories about her sneaking in in her sister’s place.

    Biblical stories where the heroine is of unparalleled beauty and thus gets her way with the stronger, more fearful men:

    Samson & Delilah
    Esther

    Ah, the original beauty contest queen, with a little of Scherezade thrown in.

    Rebekah
    Tamar (nm, help me out here…isn’t she the one who was David’s daughter and whose brother lusted after her so much that he ultimately raped her and then repudiated her? Anyway, that’s who I mean. Her.)

    Rebekah is known to be clever, but is she beautiful? And Tamar is a victim of rape — she not only doesn’t “get her way,” she is abandoned by her rapist, her father, everyone but her full brother Absalom. I really, really don’t think you meant to put her on this list.

    I guess growing up in a traditional Christian education doesn’t really always put a good spin on femininity–we knew that–but it also doesn’t do much for female/female relationships in general. (With the story of Ruth & Naomi as the possible exception to that rule)

    Biblical households are certainly the biggest argument against polygamy I’ve ever read. We rarely get to see female/female relationships in any other context in the Bible.

    Beyond that, if you grow up with a Father God and a personal relationship with a Father God, I think you tend to imprint more positively on males as someone to be trusted, revered and held in esteem. Females, on the other hand, are foreign, earthy–”other”.

    We are given the Woman of Valor as a model — I think she’s a pretty good counterweight.

  77. I guess I should have put Tamar on the list with Gomer. But then again, do we know that Gomer was beautiful, or am I assuming?

    I love the Woman of Valour. Of course she puts me to shame what with her getting up early and making the bread and wheeling and dealing in the marketplace and all that. I’m all down with her until that “getting up early” part. If only she would sleep in occasionally…

    I have always had friends (buddies) of both sexes. I love both sexes. :)

    I think I’ve got to be careful lest everyone come away with this impression of me as a raging misogynist. I don’t mean to say that I don’t like other women or dislike their company. Far from it. It’s just that in my case I feel I have a stronger paradigm for dealing with men. Some of that is the religion thing, some of that is having an odd and aloof mother. And the rest of it is the fact that I am a geek and a nerd and most of my chosen social activities tended to skew male.
    (Chess club, AD&D, SciFi, A/V club, Latin Society, Mock U.N., BASIC programming group, Young Republicans, strip clubs)

    So when I say that I’m uncomfortable around women, it’s not a discomfort borne of dislike as much as it is less my native habitat.

  78. I am too whacked out with all this crazy stuff going on here this past week right now to throw in any decent input, but I am reading and thinking. I’m not sure I’ll have anything new to toss into it but if I do, I will.

    I will say I’ve had MORE close friendships with men but I’ve had plenty of close friendships with other women too. And have been both comfortable and uncomfortable with those of both sexes dependent on various things. I need to think about this some more.

  79. Wow… there are so many interesting comments here that it would take an hour to read them all, so I’m going to recklessly jump in after just a skim.
    I think that the dynamic you describe is worth examining, because it uncovers some of effects of cultural bias toward normalized beauty. Just to play devil’s advocate though, I’d like to weigh in as a (former?) Pretty Pretty Princess. Your description of PPP as the one who expects to have all the adventures (or start them, perhaps), the one who expects a monopoly on male attention, the one who can expect a little coddling–that definitely describes me in college. It occasionally rankled me at the time, and now that I’ve matured I like to think that I’ve outgrown it, but is absolutely true that a little prettiness and (much more importantly) unimpeachable confidence make many things and people more accessible. It’s too tempting not to take the opportunity.
    Where did that unshakeable belief in my own entitlement come from? My parents. Why did it last? Mostly, because of friends in college who willingly hung back to make themselves sidekicks, regardless of their own personal beauty. I thought about this while reading your post, and decided that I never wanted a supporting cast, I wanted friends. But I think a lot of women internalize the role of backup–as you suggested as you were kicking yourself above–and that mental submission holds them back them more than any stupid princess could. That makes the topic even more worth discussing.
    Tell you what, though… I’ve met some stupid princesses, but they didn’t last very long in the rat race. I’d honestly say that most of the attractive leading women I’ve met have been as ambitious and interested in booklearning as anyone with a stake in her own future would be. In fact, I am so addicted to booklearning that I ended up in grad school for literature. There are a number of beautiful, confident women in my program who certainly didn’t depend on their outsides to get in, and can’t expect any flunkies to get them through academia. Just throwing that in to flesh out the theory. : )

    Another form of woman-woman relationship I find interesting and harmful: The “if you’re not with me, you’re with the terrorists” approach. Many of the friendships I’ve lost over time have been due to my refusal to agree and support certain friends unbendingly. If I don’t agree with what you’re doing or thinking, I am going to tell you! Or, if I don’t understand where you’re coming from, I am going to ask you questions, find out more about how you think, tell you what I think–discuss. I wish more friends would do the same for me–that they don’t is perhaps an offshoot of the college PPP phenomenon, but really I think that it’s tacitly unacceptable for women to disagree with one another.

  80. KC: We have to assume that Gomer had great sexual self-confidence that translated into being very attractive. And it was easy for the Woman of Valor to get up early, because she probably wasn’t such a spendthrift as to burn lots of oil sitting up late. Cheap electricity has had a profound impact in the way we think about time, but she didn’t have it.

  81. KC: We have to assume that Gomer had great sexual self-confidence that translated into being very attractive. And it was easy for the Woman of Valor to get up early, because she probably wasn’t such a spendthrift as to burn lots of oil sitting up late. Cheap electricity has had a profound impact in the way we think about time, but she didn’t have it.

    Tanglethis: yes, the kind of self-confidence that you’re describing can be based on a lot of different attributes. And someone mentioned upthread about how we have most of us been the supporter in some relationships, the star in others, and the equal friend in others still. I think it’s rare to always fill the same role in the same pattern in all of one’s relationships, even if we didn’t grow. And, as you point out, we do.

  82. Tell me about the sister thing. I didn’t even go there, but, could write pages and pages of how my sibling rivalry affected my relationships with women. It wasn’t really my rivalry, more hers. She was the firstborn, long awaited child and then when I came along, 2 years later, everything changed. She didn’t like sharing her toys or attention with me, thus, she spent the next 18 years trying really hard to put me in my place and still often tries to.

  83. And as far as the strict Christianity theme…neh. I don’t buy into that. Not for me anyway. I wasn’t raised in an environment where women were whores. Yes, my parents were strong Christians, but, it wasn’t like my father was the King of the House and we all bowed at his feet. I was an overly sensitive kid who took everything to heart was/is my problem.

  84. Twice I was told that they “trusted” me to watch over their boyfriends since I was not percieved as a threat to them and twice I took their boyfriends. I think the relationship with the PPPrincess was more symbiotic than true friendship-we each used each other to get what we wanted. Not very flattering but true.

    Yikes.

    Wow…this comments section is a great story section, but man, can I not relate to that one.

    I just never went through a relationship period like that, and neither did people whose boyfriends I might have been interested in (the behavior wasn’t modeled for me in anything but movies, so there was no, “So that’s how it’s done!” education to make me think that maybe I could do it myself).

    Being even older now, without any early practice, I’d feel even more inept trying to even figure out what the mindsets I’d need to adopt to be in that kind of situation and think about doing that (or having that done to me) are.

    (In case anyone’s curious, my attitude about my boyfriends has been and is, “As far as I know from the time I’ve spent with my eyes & ears open, I’m a good person, my boyfriend’s a good person, and my friends that he’s interacting with are good people. We’re all capable of telling ourselves, ‘Don’t go there, thoughts!’ and, if the thoughts get to relationship-messing-up, telling ourselves, ‘Don’t go there, actions!’ Besides, the dynamic of awkwardness among good people is easy enough to read–I’ll see problems coming and talk out how my boyfriend or I feel about any potential conflicts between the appearance of attraction and the actualization of cheating or sudden dumping.”

    Naive as all get-out, and probably succsesful based on a lot of luck as much as my thoughts being an accurate assessment of my social situation? OH HECK YES! But it’s all I feel capable of. Oh well. :-) )

  85. I think I’m with Coble here in that most of my friends are guys because my interests skew more nerd/geek than otherwise. The few friends who are gals are either people I have known for eons and therefore share my nerd/geek interests, or people I have met in other contexts who later discovered I shared their nerd/geek interests. For instance, I was at a party recently where almost every woman in the room was talking about plastic surgery – they had either had it done, were about to have it done, or were considering having it done. I could just not wrap my head around spending a considerable chunk of time talking about liposuction, tummy tucks, or nose jobs (not to mention voluntarily signing up for this kind of surgery without having been in a car accident first), so I wandered around until I found a couple of men who were talking about the newest Microsoft software (which I will not mention by name here), and spent over an hour learning some interesting stuff and having a geeky good time. I have also recently been at a party where I found a group of women talking about whether feminist video games could have a niche in the X-box market, and that was a cool conversation I willingly joined (as opposed to the conversation the men were having, which was about NASCAR). I have never been either the PPP or the PSSk, but I’m also not socially adept enough to consider the roles as plausible. I’ve never worn the pretty label, but also not the ugly label – I guess my label changed from “vivacious” to “competent” as I aged. But I have seen the dynamic Aunt B has described so well in this post. I think it tends to go away as we get older, except for the drama queen set.

  86. It goes both ways, I think. I had a friend back in the day who decided that I was the “pretty, pretty princess” and that she was the “smart, but plain sidekick.” I didn’t like that situation one bit- and it wasn’t fair because- goddamnit, I’m not stupid! Which she tried to make me feel like I was. She got it into her head that I could have any guy I wanted (which, really, wasn’t true) and thus if we both liked a guy, I had to be the one to back off (to be a good friend). She’d always say things to people along the lines of “See, men like Robyn because they’re shallow- if they were deep and really cared what people are like, they’d like me.” It was like a giant self-esteem-ectomy. I would be so happy for her when something good happened in her life, but when something good happened in mine she’d just act bitter about it. Her snide remarks and jealousy ruined our friendship. I mean, I could see how someone who thought the only value they had as a human being was their attractiveness might not be bothered by that- but I was. I think since then I’ve generally, subconsciously picked friends who are around the same level of attractiveness as I am because I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want a friend who would be secretly glad to see me fall down the stairs, or get dumped or hurt or gain weight or something like that. And I’ll tell you- it’s been my experience that plain girls are a lot more treacherous than women who feel good about the way they look.

  87. Pingback: samantha y. » Everybody is Just a Stranger

Comments are closed.