Every girl has been told that she is pretty. I don't care who you are. People tell girls to their faces, "You're pretty," but they don't always mean it.
Its the time you spend eavesdropping, listening in to the grown ups talk about you in the other room, that lets you know exactly what you are and where you stand with them and their personal opinions.
"She's so pretty, but..." You think that adults would have better manners, or at least know when you're listening in from 4 feet away, and trying not to cry your little eyes out.
Great-Aunt Melody, gods love her, was the biggest purveyor of pretty-but.
Except she was the only one who'd ever say it to my face. "Oh honey, you're so pretty, but you should just lose a little bit of weight. You've got those long legs, honey, you could be a model if you wanted. Gosh, I always wished I was tall like you..."
I always wanted to hate her for it, but then I'd remember that she grew up in Gramma's shadow, probably hearing lots of pretty-buts, too.
Uncle Mark was so loud that you could hear him down the block, so it was less like eavesdropping, and more like common knowledge. "Yeah, she's pretty, but she's a fucking troublemaker/loudmouth/tattle-tale/brat/know-it-all..."
Sure, I was pretty, but I was all of those things, too. He thought his 4 daughters were perfect in every sense of the word, but we all have our vices, our issues, our own dark passengers
My grandmother's husband would routinely lecture me, "You're pretty, but you're so clumsy/you've got those damn tattoos..."
So I've always thought of myself as "pretty, but..." in a sort of depressing, self-loathing kind of way.
Until he came along.
Laying in my stuffy, Costa Mesa apartment, half-naked and in the process of getting dressed, he whispered, "Get back over here, Pretty, But."
"What?" I responded, not sure I'd heard him correctly.
He blushed. "I keep wanting to call you Pretty, But."
"Why?" I felt the heat rising in my face, and I almost couldn't face him.
My stomach churned with a sickness I hadn't felt since I was 16.
"Because you have a pretty butt, now get back over here!" He commanded, slapping his palm down on my Ikea mattress and smiling a smile that crinkled his eyes just a little.
And you know what else? He likes that I'm a curvy, loudmouthed, long-legged, troublemaker, know-it-all. And he's never once said, "You're pretty, but..."
He took something that had made me disgusted with myself, and turned it into a funny sort of praise I enjoy hearing.
The only nickname I've had from a boyfriend, and the only nickname that melts me down, like crayons in the sunshine.