Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 30 August 2012

Clever, Pretty Women

Women think that men like clever, pretty women, which is weird, because most men are absolutely terrified of them.

I like women, and the older I get the more I like them. Sadly, women have never seemed to like me very much. The people I have formed the most enduring friendships with have invariably been men. I have adored them, but I really would have liked to have had more women like and befriend me, especially in my teens and twenties when good girlfriends seemed to me to be about as rare as hen’s teeth.

Honestly, making friends has become easier as I have got older, and not only do I have more women friends now than I have ever had, but I am finally finding it easier to make good women friends. I feel blessed.

It was in conversation with my bone-mage that the question arose as to why, historically, I have found it difficult to make friends with women. I said I thought it was because I was ‘a bit rubbish’. 

My bone-mage, a longstanding male friend, wasn’t having any of it, and I was forced to think about it. It isn’t a pleasant experience, wondering why people don’t like you, and, while I haven't actually avoided the issue, thinking too much about it in the past has left me feeling rather depressed. 

I took a moment. I’m plain-spoken and opinionated, and I know that can alienate people, but not everyone, surely? I’m not horrible, cruel or malicious. I’m more likely to wince at another’s misfortune than laugh about it. I won’t say anything behind anyone’s back that I won’t say to his face, so what does that leave?

I managed to get a degree before the big education reforms of the late 80s were put into practice and I was the first of my family to do so, and, on top of the obvious disadvantage of being clever, I was also, heaven forfend, good-looking. It’s only now that I look back at old photos that I realise just how good-looking.

I wouldn’t go back, though. The 80s should have been a time of great promise, but, actually, I was sad and lonely, and rather adrift in the World, not least because I didn’t have the security of good and lasting friendships; I do, now, and I’m eternally grateful for them.

I won’t look like this again, but my looks weren’t a blessing then and losing them isn’t a curse now. I hope that ‘clever’ doesn’t go away, but, on the subject of ‘being a bit rubbish’; I suspect I probably was, and I do hope I’m doing better with that.


  1. It's a valid point, and one that gets demonstrated all too often in my own experience. Unfortunately, much as the world likes to pretend that it has moved on and become all inclusive etc, the fact remains that young women are judged - by other young women as well as by men - on the basis of their looks as much as if not more than they are on their actual personality and intelligence. There are several prejudices attached to this - that pretty women are somehow incapable of being clever because 'they don't need to be' (depressing because there is a ring of truth deep within there) or that pretty young women are completely vain self obsessed bitches because how on earth else can they be so damned pretty all the time? What would be really nice, in my own not so humble opinion, is if people could be judged on their character, their achievements, their actions, rather than on some random quirk of genes and facial characteristics, or what newspaper they read, or their taste in clothes or whatever. But I fear that in a society increasingly obsessed with appearance, especially with the X Factor generation of young ladies growing up watching television programmes and listening to music that tells them they too can be a superstar with a life of excess for no effort just so long as they have the appropriate sized boobs/bum/lips/lack of dignity that it's just not going to happen. I always said (and I stand by it) that I would a thousand times rather be clever than pretty, and I flatter myself that I am at least reasonably intelligent.

  2. Sadly I think it's as true now as it ever was and is becoming increasingly more true of men as well. People are a vain breed at the best of times and until people "looking good while doing stuff" isn't such big business, I doubt it will change any time soon.

    While I applaud the efforts of people like Gok Wan and really hope he makes some headway, all that the movies and such do when presenting a less than stunning protagonist is say "hey, it's fine that you're ugly! You could end up with a hotty anyway" because while the protagonist might be a bit of a munter, the person they're after is invariably gorgeous, and it's usually the first and most important thing they noticed about them.

  3. This is a wonderfully rich and thought provoking topic. It's also laden with provocative connotations which make it quite challenging to talk about openly. Thank you for sharing your, enviably smart, thoughts!

    I think the way men and women consider each other causes a great many problems. For example it is far more difficult, for many people, to establish friendships with people of the opposite sex. It's often worse when you, or they, are attractive as there's a great deal of prevarication that goes on while you make it clear that you're not interested in them sexually. Then once you begin a friendship you must constantly revisit the notion that your friendship is a friendship for its own sake rather than as part of an obscure courtship technique. There's also considerable pressure from friends and colleagues who will sometimes assume that friendships with attractive members of the opposite sex must be motivated by physical interest as opposed to mutual interest.

    I admire and envy the ease with which my homosexual friends are able to form meaningful friendships with people of the opposite sex while remaining mindful of the many social challenges they face from those who remain phobic and critical.

  4. It is only with the passing of the years that I have come to appreciate that it is not our 'perfections', be they in the area of beauty or brains, that make us attractive to either sex. As you rightly point out, Nik, most men are frightened of beautiful, intelligent women As a woman, I know I was!.Rather, it is our imperfection and our vulnerability that strike a chord with our fellow human beings, and form the basis of close and lasting friendships, if we're lucky! It seems that both you and I have been lucky in finding life partners (30 years for me) and they are the people who have not only seen us at our boldest and most attractive but have not run away when we have turned into quivering, self-doubting jellies,with rivers of mascara running down our cheeks! So, yes, beauty is overrated, but dare I say it, so is intelligence, at least of the intellectual kind. Don't get me wrong, I am not belittling intellectual intelligence, far from it, but I do feel it is so much more effective when combined with emotional intelligence, which involves an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of human nature and human experience. After all, our own personal experience of life, from our upbringing onward is what makes us who we are and none of us wants to be judged for that. To me, both the receiving and giving of compassion is a major factor in contributing towards harmony between human beings, whatever their sex. Sorry, I have rambled here! Just for the record, Nik, although I haven't seen you for a very long time, I have always thought of you as an attractive, intelligent and compassionate woman and am very pleased for you in your success as a writer. x

  5. A couple of today's comments were posted elsewhere and I copied and pasted them here because I thought they added to the discussion. I do hope Greg and Birgitta won't mind.

    Thanks to all who comment.

  6. I am often amazed by the wonders that different clothes or a change in voice can make when making an impression. As much as I'd love to think that looks don't matter, they do, sadly.

    That said, when it comes to spending a lot of time with someone, then looks don't matter; it's the mind that counts, and I'm with English teacher and rap artist Mark Grist on this one, "Give me a girl who reads".

    (That may be a bit obscure, this is what I'm talking about: )

    1. As a girl who reads, I'm also a follower of Mr Grist on Twitter @montygristo.

      Thanks, Ed.

  7. I will never understand the fear of clever women. Clever women keep a marriage interesting. It was a deciding factor with me deciding to marry my wife. By the traditional diploma count, nearly all the women in my family are more educated than myself. That fact really makes me happy because it means my daughters will all have great role models.

  8. Sorry I've got to disagree, as most of the men I know find dim but good looking girls ... dim but good looking. Whilst in our teens we might have gone for the good looking aspect and tried to overlook the dim, as we got older the dim became painful, and finally just plain boring and stupid.

    None of my friends have married dim but pretty women, but have gone for women with looks, personality and brains. To be honest, I've yet to meet a man who doesn't look for all three in a partner.

    What you might find however, is that men, and people as a whole can't deal with people who are outspoken. Usually because people who are outspoken 'tend' to lack a sensitivity filter and that's what puts other people off.

  9. And the picture of you and the picture of your daughter could be the same people!

  10. Shane McElligott9 December 2012 at 11:12

    I've always found it easier to make female friends rather than male friends. And I love shopping. I've wondered in the past whether this meant that I was actually gay, but as I seem to have an obsession with ladies wobbly and not so wobbly bits, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not. I've always found it easier to talk to women, as long as I don't immediately 'fancy' them. If I do 'fancy' them, then I cannot actually talk to them at all. To make a generalisation, which is a dangerous thing to do, I think men will naturally gravitate towards a man who they deem intelligent AND good-looking as they subconsciously wish some of the magic will rub off on them. I've always thought that a (young) woman's thought process was the complete opposite. If a woman is clever? Fine. If a woman is beautiful? No problem. If a woman is clever AND beautiful? Now that's just being plain, bloody greedy. That's way too much competition!
    If I may be so bold, and I offer the requisite apologies to Dan for said boldness, which are sincere and profuse, your looks have not 'gone'. Clever and beautiful. It's a cross you will have to bear. The one consolation of getting older is that the potential women-friends you meet are more comfortable with themselves and no longer see that combination in you as a threat.