Large(girl) Lessons: The “Pity Pretty”


Good morning class!

I am so excited about a new segment on TBGB called “Large(girl) Lessons”. Unlike “A Big Girl Rant” which is a segment mostly venting and complaining, these entries are meant to educate.

Today we will learn about something that is a subtle nuisance to PSP’s everywhere: The “Pity Pretty”.

Pity Pretty

Definition: When someone gives you a compliment out of obligation.

Origin: My sister, Denise, coined the term when she came to New York to visit me one summer and a flamboyant gay man saw me, stopped dead in his tracks and started singing/yelling/snapping about how “GORGEOUS!” I was. Before I could even say “thank you” he turned his head sharply towards Denise (who is much smaller than me and super cute) and gave her the “once over”.

“You’re pretty too,” He said flatly. And with that, he was out the door.

Awww man!” Denise said, “He just gave me a ‘Pity Pretty’!”

… and thus the phrase was born!

Now class, anyone (male or female, fat or skinny) can be the victim of a Pity Pretty, I mean– we’ve all been there when a friend gets attention for a fabulous outfit or haircut and then the gushing party quickly looks for something nice to say about us. That is a Pity Pretty!

But for a PSP the Pity Pretty often comes when someone gives us a compliment because it makes them feel better about themselves or makes them feel they’ve done a good deed.

Like when someone says “Well aren’t you gorgeous” and as they pat themselves on the back, their inner monologue is: I’m going to take the time to tell this overweight girl how beautiful she is because I’m willing to bet that people rarely think of her as attractive or ever bother to tell her so… So I will tell her! Because I always have been someone who can truly see beauty in any shape or size! I’ll probably make her day… or her week!

Is this making sense?

Class, I really want you to get this… so I’ll give you a few examples.

Example A:

The first time I got a Plus Size Pity Pretty I was 16 years old. I was away at vocal camp and ended up having a conversation with an openly gay 18 year old boy. We were having one of those “deep” teenage talks, and the subject turned to beauty.

“I guess I’m the type of person,” he said. “Who sees beauty in everything… I tend to think there can be beauty everywhere, even in things that are unattractive…” He swept his long hair away from his face dramatically as he continued, “…like you… I think you are beautiful.”

He gave me a smile that was so self-gratifying, it was almost as if he didn’t realize I was still there. In focusing solely on how open he was to see beauty in ugly things, he failed to realize what he was saying about me.

My heart sank.

Then out of nowhere came courage I didn’t know I had, I looked him square in the face and said,

“So… I’m unattractive?”

“Well— Er– No– What I meant was– You’re Just….” He stammered on for a few moments until I rolled my eyes and changed the subject.

Example B:

I was in college and I went to a gay bar for karaoke with some friends. I was standing near the bar when a guy swiveled around on his bar stool pointed at me and said “YOU are gorgeous…”

“Thanks,” I said casually.

He took my hand.

“No… listen to me you are a really pretty girl! You need to know that!”

“Okay,” I said.

“I don’t care what anyone else says… You. Are. Fabulous!!”

I pulled my hand away and walked outside. Before I knew it my eyes were stinging and my throat was tight, I took deep breaths to keep the tears from falling. He had said so many “nice” things but what stuck out to me was “I don’t care what anyone else says…” What exactly do “they” say… I wondered.

Before you start to assume that Pity Pretty’s only come from gay men, I give you…

Example C:

After a wonderful date at the movies and a walk along Central Park, I let Benjamin come upstairs for a glass of wine. He leaned against the doorway of my kitchen as I opened a bottle of Riesling.

“You know, you really are a beautiful girl,” he said.

I looked at him, smiled and turned around to grab two glasses from the cabinet. I guess my silent-yet-gracious reception of his compliment wasn’t enough, because he then said.

“What? You’ve never had a man tell you that you were beautiful?”

I turned around and he had a proud smirk on his face, as if he had done me a great favor. Little did he know that I’ve had men telling me I was beautiful since the day I was born… starting with my Father.

I’ve always had enough people building me up, that I was rarely shaken when people tried to tear me down. Am I insecure? Absolutely! but any body image issues I have don’t come from other people… they come from me! I am my own worst critic, but no matter how hard I am on myself if I take a step outside of my apartment and I am met with intense opposition.

You see class, I know I am one of many Plus Size Princesses who don’t go a single day in New York City with out an approving glance, double take or positive remark from someone. I know people find me attractive, I know that people think I’m beautiful, I know there are men that want me.

Now, I’m not asking you to put an end to your compliments, but make sure they’re coming from a genuine place. When a girl is big, it doesn’t automatically mean her self esteem is zero. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it because in your quest for kindness you may end up doing more harm than good.

Class dismissed!

  • Dating Trooper

    I totally get it. I wonder if I”ve been guilty of a Pity Pretty before? Probably. But consider me educated. Oh, and here’s a genuine compliment from someone who has never laid eyes on you…your brain is FANTASTIC! Love reading whatever it is you have to say.

  • Louisa

    another awesome post from you! i agree with Dating Trooper, your brain is awesome and your writing is fantastic! Consider me addicted to your blog!

  • Ms. LMC

    Ohhh tell it!!!!
    I never heard that phrase but it makes so much sense.. when guys try to hit on my skinny friends then tell me “big girls are pretty too”, umm thanks I don’t need you to tell me what I know especially when you are doing it to placate me.

  • Helen Fin

    Ok so I know I’m commenting late, like by 4 years, but I LOVE THIS POST.

    I really identify with this, having always been praised and in turn being confident and comfortable. People are so surprised when, as a BBW, I am confident and secure. It really throws them!

    You just put it so eloquently. Thank you. x

  • Dating Disasters

    I’m a latecomer too, but this post is powerful! Just what I needed to read today!

  • MizzBee

    I LOVE this being a size 16 people just assume that because I’m not super model size I’m not comfortable in my own skin so I get the “pity pretty” and its very annoying.