Body of Opinion

Why is it always the smart girls versus the pretty girls?

Think about it. It's always the smart girls versus the pretty girls. The smart girls aren't expected to be attractive. Usually overweight, with pimples or cystic acne. Often in glasses. Never blond. But Jesus, are they smart. College-bound, hard-working. Often charming and witty. Funny and personable, to make up for their lack of beauty. Pretty girls, on the contrary, are the polar opposite of smart girls. Pretty girls have long, flowing hair in the perfect shade of buttery blond, cheekbones that make you weep and a body that you can usually only come by with the help of a plastic surgeon. They aren't expected to have brains.

Like my sister and me. She's the pretty girl, and I'm the smart girl.

It's not like I'm ugly; I like to think I'm halfway attractive, with my dark hair and eyes, ivory skin and full lips. It's just that I'm overweight and always will be. It seems like the needle on the scale has always hovered close to 200 pounds, no matter what. I eat well, a Mediterranean diet with a glass of red wine (or two). I do a lot of yoga, but I just can't lose the weight. However, I'm a dentist. I went to school for eight years, I squandered the first quarter of my life on my education. Now I have a condo in a coveted location, a fast red convertible, and money in the bank. People respect me for my mind and doctorate. Nobody expects me to be pretty or slim.

My sister, on the other hand, is a visual orgasm. She's perfectly slender, with a perfectly sleek silhouette. She has sapphire-blue eyes and thick, waist-length honey-blond hair. She never went to college, instead she went to a year of (wait for it) beauty school to become a make-up artist. Everywhere she goes, she's the center of attention, with people laughing at her jokes, listening to her stories and staring at her with jealousy or lust, whatever the case may be. It used to bother me, but now I'm used to it. Nobody expects my sister to be smart, and nobody expects me to be beautiful.

I once asked my sister what she thought about this. At the time, we were doing our hair and make-up, getting ready to go out for our cousin's bachelorette party. It took her over an hour to do all her primping and preening. I was done in ten minutes.

"Well," she answered matter-of-factly, "I don't see anything wrong with it. I mean, I know I'm not stupid. So what if everyone else expects nothing more than a pretty face?" She smiled back at me with her perfectly made-up countenance and glittering eyes. "It's my ace in the hole."

"Ah." I then spent the rest of the evening wondering exactly what my ace in the hole is.

It has always been like this between my sister and me. I'm three years older than her, and when my parents brought her home from the hospital, she looked like a little cherub with her plump pink cheeks and her plumper pink lips. My mother used to take us for long walks to burn off the remnants of her pregnancy weight, with my sister in the stroller and me walking next to her, Cabbage Patch Kid in hand. We were approached by a stranger once, a woman with ash-blond curls who glanced over me in passing before settling her gaze on my baby sister. "Oh, she's so beautiful!" the woman shrieked ecstatically to my mother. She looked back over her shoulder, sizing me up with a skeptical eye. "Well, at least you got one pretty child." It's a good thing I've got confidence and a sense of humor to go along with my brains. How else would I live that story down otherwise?

No matter how you decide to look at it, it seems like it's always a case of the smart girls versus the pretty girls. To boil the argument down to something more local, it's a case of me versus my sister. Believe me, it's not as though I don't feel bad about myself from time to time. It's not like I don't wish I had model good looks and a killer body. It's not as though I don't wish I could magically fit into anything and everything in the department stores or even find a decent pair of jeans. I do. (By the way, the largest size at the Seven Jeans shop in Vegas didn't make it past my hips.) Some days, I'd give up everything I have to just know what it feels like to wear whatever I want.

Ironically, my sister once said to me that she can wear whatever she wants, but she can't afford what she wants to wear. She told me that she'd need my salary to purchase the items she openly lusts after, but she just doesn't earn that kind of money. This is how life works. You can't have everything. It's like the case of one of my patients, an ice-haired princess who could give any high-end editorial model a run for her money, yet when she opens her mouth, she's shot with caries, root canals and crooked teeth. You really can't have everything.

I suppose I should be grateful for what I do have. I suppose that if I'm smart and loved, if I have money and a home and a car, if I have job security and a sense of humor, if I have my health and great personality, then I shouldn't be worrying that I don't wear a size six. I shouldn't be worrying over whether or not my cellulite is showing in my granny-style bathing suit (it is), or if I can't wear all the jeans or other fashions that I'm just too big to fit into. But just once, I would love to know what it feels like to be a pretty girl, using the entire world as my catwalk.