Studies have long shown that attractive people have an advantage. They get more attention from parents, teachers, and classmates growing up than their less attractive counterparts, and from potential mates once they mature. In the work place, good-looking people are hired faster, get promoted more quickly, and earn an average of 10% more than people of average looks, or about $230,000 more over their lifetimes, according to Dr. Gordon Patzner, author of Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined (2008).
So if given choice, always strive to look your best, because it offers an excellent ROI (return on investment).
Just beware the “sparkly” people.
You know – the ones who have traded on their looks for so long, they simply expect to get their way. Many have a sense of entitlement; if no one keeps their ego in check, they can get really obnoxious about it.
Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and Charlie Sheen are just a few examples of attractive celebrities who act like they’re entitled to behave however they want. But for every story you hear about on the news, there are millions more you don’t hear about.
Like my neighbor, MJ*.
She’s a single mother in her thirties with three school age children. Her ex-husband, Mark*, has a key to her house. So does her boyfriend, Joe*. Both men visit frequently, and on the rare occasions when their paths cross, it gets ugly.(*Not their real names.)
When Mark’s there, he plays with the kids and helps with home maintenance. I’ve see him plant flowers, mow the lawn, and clean the gutters. Joe’s not nearly as industrious. The only work I’ve ever seen him do is wash his car. He didn’t wash MJ’s.
A foot of snow fell overnight recently. Mark apparently had the kids that night, because when he dropped them off early the next morning, he stayed for an hour to shovel snow for both MJ and our elderly neighbors. He carved out spaces for their cars, a path to their doors, and not much else – there was that much snow.
MJ left at some point and Joe came over and let himself in. Later, I noticed her minivan sitting at an odd angle across the street – because Joe had parked in the spot Mark had cleared for her that morning. Joe didn’t shovel the rest of the driveway so they could both park there, nor did he move his car to the street so she could have the better spot. No, he just took it without a second thought and left her to fend for herself.
It annoyed me.
Especially when, as we were all leaving for school the next morning, one of MJ’s kids slipped on the icy street and got hurt. Where was Joe? Upstairs, asleep.
Now I don’t know their whole story. I don’t know why MJ and Mark split, why he still seems so devoted to her, or if Joe played a part in the breakup. It’s really none of my business.
But having observed bits and pieces of all their drama for awhile now, one thing is abundantly clear: Joe gets away with A LOT of garbage because he’s so “sparkly” – good looking, nice car, dazzling smile – while MJ and her kids pay the price.
It’s really easy to see when you’re not involved. The bad behavior speaks for itself.
But when you’re hopelessly devoted to a sparkly person, it’s not so obvious. You get sucked in by the charisma and charm in the beginning – and then end up putting up with a lot of garbage for crumbs of it in the end. You spackle over the bad parts so you can enjoy the good ones.
I know, because I’ve been there.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
I’ve written before how I discovered the power of image when I was a teen. After losing weight and upgrading my style, I went from wallflower to print model in a very short time. The nerds who used to flirt with me were shoved aside by athletes. It’s a heady thing, being hit on by hot guys – and suddenly finding yourself at the cool kids’ table after years of being excluded.
But I quickly discovered that looking good doesn’t always mean people ARE good. The ones who have been raised well to respect others? Absolutely. Those who haven’t? Not so much. If beauty is a power that can be used for good or evil, I’ve seen just as many use it for good as for evil. Usually, a self-serving evil.
Yes, anyone can have a bad day and act like a jerk. But if it’s persistent? That’s a problem. And if the only reason you put up with it is because they’re good looking, charming, have money, or whatever, then it’s time to reassess things. Because if you wouldn’t put up with it if they didn’t have those things, there’s no reason you should put up with it because they do.
You can do better.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
When I was in the 5th grade, I got a big crush on one of the boys in my class. He was good looking and popular and I wasn’t, so our paths never crossed. I admired him from afar.
We didn’t see much of each other after we graduated from grade school. But a year or so later, after I’d had my makeover, I saw him at church. He was more gorgeous than ever, and I smiled at him as I walked by on my way back from communion. He did a double-take, and then made a point to stop and talk to me after mass. He said we should get together sometime. It was like a dream come true.
My mother knew I had a crush on him and suggested I ask him to take me to the homecoming dance (one of the disadvantages of going to an all-girls’ high school – you have to do all the asking). I told her I couldn’t possibly – he’d probably laugh in my face.
But a few days later, I mustered my courage and called him. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I asked him to take me to the Homecoming Dance. He said yes.
I nearly fainted.
Never, in all the five years that I’d been crushing on him, did I EVER think it was possible. He was popular, always dating someone, but I never thought I’d be one of them. The girls we’d gone to grade school with were going to DIE when I walked in with him. It was quite the coup.
We spoke twice in those two weeks before the dance because I called him – once to tell him the dress code and the color of my dress (so he could match the corsage), and the other to tell him what time we’d pick him up (my father was driving).
The night of the dance, we had to wait for him to finish dressing because he said I hadn’t told him the time (I had), he was under-dressed because I never told him the dress code (I had), and he didn’t have a corsage for me because he didn’t know I needed one (he should have). When we got to the dance, he didn’t have any money for the tickets. We were 20 minutes into the date, and already it was a disaster.
But I refused to throw in the towel. I’d waited 5 years for this, and by George, I was going to make it work.
So I forced a smile and paid for the tickets myself because I KNEW what was going to happen once we walked in the door together: my classmates were going to DIE.
Instead, they pushed me aside and took turns hugging him. It was like a reunion. He was the center of attention, and he LOVED it. Me? Not so much. I spent the first hour standing on the side of the dance floor watching him dance with all the other girls we’d gone to grade school with.
Finally, he asked me to dance. I hid my hurt and anger as he took me in his arms and we slow danced. It was nice. For about two minutes. Then he leaned over and whispered something in my ear – something sexual. Tame compared to what I’ve heard since, but shocking to my then-innocent ears.
I stopped dancing and stared at him. Then I ran off the dance floor and spent the next 15 minutes in the ladies’ room, furious at him for treating me with such disrespect all night, and mad at myself for caring so much.
It was our one and only date.
My expectations were too high, his delivery too low. He apologized, but he fell off his pedestal for me that night, and that was that. His harem relationship model didn’t work for me. Never has.
After that, I got pretty good at spotting “sparkly” people when dating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t nearly so adept at work. I put up with a lot of bad behavior on the job before I figured things out.
- Like the debonair department head who always had a charming word for all the ladies – and then paid all the men twice as much.
- Or the co-worker who was always quick to roll up her sleeves and help – but just as quick to ask for a bigger favor in return.
- Then there was the fun-loving subordinate who always seemed to disappear at deadline time so I was forced to step in and pick up the slack.
Eventually, my definition of a sparkly person became: when I do all the work, and they take all the credit.
But it really boils down to manipulation. When I find myself in a relationship like that now, I do three things:
- Stop listening to what they say.
- Watch what they do.
- Then, act accordingly.
Assessing The “Sparkly” People In Your Life
So why am I telling you this?
Because I often preach that the better you dress, the better you’re treated, and that’s true.
But I’ve also discovered that the more visible/popular/influential you become, the more “sparkly,” manipulative people you tend to attract. I want you to be prepared and understand why. Sometimes it’s because you can make them look good. Often, it’s because you can do something for them.
I did payroll for many years. Paychecks were handed out Friday morning. So on Thursday afternoon, I could always count on certain people to show up, asking for their paychecks early. It was against the rules and made me uncomfortable, so when I resisted, I’d get a show. The charm! The drama! The sob stories! They’d chat me up in the lunch room between paydays. They’d show me pictures of their kids. They kept those lines of communication open because they wanted special treatment. Yet the day we switched to direct deposit, I never saw them again. I was of no further use.
Then there was the story about the handsome lawyer who liked to marry smart, successful women. Then he’d cheat on them to prove how much smarter he was than them. He thought it was hilarious that Wife #3 – a New York Times bestselling author – unknowingly spent 45 minutes of their wedding reception talking to his “old family friend,” Jane – who was actually his long time mistress. When Wife # 3 learned the truth a few months later, she thought it was grounds for divorce. Why Jane stuck around through all of his marriages is anyone’s guess.
Dr. George K. Simon talks all about these behaviors in his book, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People (2010). Most manipulators have a superiority complex and a need to win, so they learn to zero in on others’ weaknesses to remove any obstacle that gets in their path. Charm is one way; shaming and violence are others. It’s a fascinating read.
So…have any “sparkly” people in your life making things uncomfortable – or a living hell? If so, it’s time to do something about it, because it’s not going to resolve itself. They’re not going to “snap out of it,” or suddenly see the “error of their ways.” They’re going to continue the behavior because it’s always worked for them. It has nothing to do with you; it has everything to do with their need to win and feel superior. You’re just the latest person caught in their snare.
As I said earlier, it’s really easy to see when you’re not involved; not so easy when you are. And like my neighbor MJ, it may be causing you to put up with bad behavior from “sparkly” people that you might never tolerate from anyone else.
So beware the “sparkly” people – and either end or neutralize their impact in your life.
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to dress well whatever their age, shape, size, or budget. Download Wardrobe Magic right here.