theinquisitor interviews Galina, an early-20-something heterosexual woman living in Boston.

theinquisitor: Where did you grow up? What was the high school like that you went to?

Galina: I grew up in a small town, right on the ocean on the north shore of Massachusetts. My high school was also small - a little fewer than 200 kids in my graduating class. Because both my town and, subsequently, my high school were so small, it was fairly standard to know at least semi-personal details of people's lives with whom you may never have had any real conversation. Because everyone knew each other if not by name than at least by face, high school could feel friendly, yet simultaneously suffocating. Classes were generally on the small side, and teachers were able to develop real relationships with their students. My high school also offered a fair selection of extracurriculars and sports teams, considering its size. J. Crew, Abercrombie, and other stores that carried popular labels at the time, probably got a fair amount of business from the student population. The fact that my town is fairly well-off probably had something to do with that...

I: What were the standards of attractiveness for girls? How "far" did girls go to reach these standards? (i.e. -- how seriously did people take being "hot"?)

G: I think the standards of attractiveness for females were pretty "ordinary" in hindsight. The high school's most coveted girls were those that could be found in any town, at any high school. Very...average. not that I wouldn't call these girls pretty, but the conception of attractiveness was so narrow, that many possibly unconventional "beauties" were likely overlooked by the boys for whom these girls were probably targeting their looks in the first place. There were also exceptions to the "obvious hotness" rule. There were those few girls who were attractive based on their confidence - though that's more rare, especially in a high school setting. A hot girl would inevitably have nicely straightened hair. That’s pretty much a given. I do feel, however, as the years have gone on, the standards of attractiveness have become more blatant, for lack of a better word. Girls are much more overt with their sexuality at younger and younger ages.

I: Can you remember a time in high school that you tried to reach these standards? (Assuming that most people feel as if they are inherently below such often lofty standards.)

G: My self-esteem was so crippled in high school (I’m not even sure I was aware of how bad it was - I felt that my sense low of self-worth was entirely justified by the fact that I did not see myself mirrored in the girls that were considered attractive) that I don’t think I felt that I was anywhere near the realm of the "hot high school girl," so I don’t think I even attempted. I was very self-conscious about my looks, and never got the attention from boys that I wanted, but probably pretended not to care about it. I do remember feeling good about how I looked at senior prom. It was a nice change, not that it helped me catch the eye of any of those eligible high school boys...I don't think I had the personality of a "high school hottie", regardless of how I looked.

I: Did you see a difference in the standards of attractiveness when you went to college? How so?

G: I think I was in a unique situation in college, due to the fact that the vast majority of girls at my school were fairly unattractive. Not to succumb to the popular standards of beauty, but I’d say that all sorts of standards, the women at my school wouldn’t be considered attractive. I think there was still the group of girls that were dubbed “hot”, just like in high school, but perhaps because my college was fairly small it seemed to matter less. I also think more of an emphasis was placed on confidence and other intangible qualities that leant themselves to attractiveness, rather than just physical features.

I: Looking back on both episodes of your life/schooling, do you see any difference between the relationships of GENDER AND ATTRACTIVENESS in high school versus in college? For example, if you attended a very liberal college, perhaps you encountered men and women who had less strict notions gender.

G: I think there may have been more outlets for people who didn't necessarily fit into conventional beauty ideals in college, just by virtue of having a larger student population, or perhaps a more accepting attitude overall. I also think other things were valued more in college by the majority of students (intelligence, shared interests, religion, etc) so physical appearance, and wearing the right clothes became less important. That being said, the sorority girls at my college, while not terribly attractive in my eyes, all sported the designer labels, the latest hair trends, big sunglasses, uggs, and the like. They had their own table in the dining hall and they just carried themselves with an air of confidence that many others lacked.

I: After having emerged from high school and college, which set of "rules of attractiveness”, do you feel impacted you more: those of your high school days or those of your college days?

G: I think your high school years have a huge impact on you just by virtue of your age and the fact that you're figuring things out and doing your best just to fly under the radar. I’ve definitely been impacted by the way I feel I was perceived in high school, and those feelings of not being pretty enough or not fitting into whatever that mold was that made boys want your company. It can make you feel a bit pathetic to admit that, but I think the way the opposite sex (or a potential significant other) responds to you, can really affect the way you feel about yourself. College was interesting because while I felt better about my looks from a more objective standpoint, I still lacked the confidence and self-esteem that had become more valued, which made my experience with boys sadly quite similar in college as it was in high school. I, unfortunately, am a bit of a slave to the conventionally impossible standards of beauty with which I am bombarded and against which I continue to judge myself...

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