But men aren't pretty!
Previously published here.
The above was uttered to me earlier today by a co-worker during a conversation where a group of us were listing off bands and musicians, and talking about who we loved and who we wished would stop making music. My boss mentioned loving Jared Leto, to which I could not help but unthinkingly exclaim, "Oh, I love him! He's so pretty!"
This prompted my male co-worker to inform me that "men aren't pretty."
I don't think he meant this maliciously, since he was smiling and shaking his head in that way that people do when they think I've said something funny, even if I hadn't meant to be funny. I really think Jared Leto is pretty, and didn't even have to think before I uttered that.
And it could have been worse. I once had a woman get very upset with me when I said her male puppy was pretty. I knew it was male (because she'd just told me his male name), but I still thought it was a pretty puppy, and I said so. She jerked her dog away from me and stated "He is handsome."
And in these situations I mean it as a sincere compliment. I don't think I say it necessarily because I find something feminine in these males I deem "pretty." There's just something about them that I find aesthetically appealing where no other word will do in my description and praise of them.
I'll admit I'm partially conscious of how I use language to challenge gender barriers, and most of the time I use traditionally feminine descriptors when talking about men. Going back through stories I've written shows that I apply this to male characters as well. But I forget that not everyone is as comfortable challenging gender as I am, and it's in everyday conversations that I'm reminded of this. Not only do we identify with gender and perform gender, but we adhere to strict rules regarding the language of gender. I used an adjective that did not fit the prescribed gender of the noun, and this confused my listener.
Nonetheless, I stand by my assertion that men can be pretty.