“Too Pretty” or “Too Handsome” — Acts of Intimidation?

Is it an act of “intimidation” against others if they find you too attractive?

Consider a story reported at pjmedia.com on 3/20/14:

In her first workout since being injured in a car accident, Tiffany Austin said she couldn’t wait to get back on the treadmill.

But barely 15 minutes into her walking exercise, she noticed people staring. Then a member of the Planet Fitness staff approached and told her to cover up because she was intimidating others in the facility.

Austin, who said she’d just joined the Richmond, Calif., gym, agreed to put a shirt over her halter top. But she drew the line when a second worker called her out as she waited for the first employee to bring her shirt.

That staffer said “excuse me, we’ve had some complaints you’re intimidating people with your toned body,” Austin quoted the woman as saying KTVU-TV reported.

To start with, I looked up “intimidate” in various online dictionaries. Definitions varied from using forcible behavior against others to “making” people feel anxious, concerned or otherwise upset.

It sounds like the staffers of this gym were operating on the latter definition. They were telling the attractive woman, in effect, “You’re making other people feel anxious and jealous.”

Of course, even a short study of psychology will tell us that nobody can make anybody feel anything. Your feelings are your own responsibility. While you’re never responsible for another’s actions (only they are), you are responsible for your mind’s own creations in the form of emotions. This isn’t to say that you deliberately choose to have all of your emotions. But your emotions rest and rely upon ideas which you must take the time, yourself, to analyze.

Perhaps some of the women in the gym felt threatened because they’re hoping to meet boyfriends there. “If this other woman is so attractive, then she’ll get all the men.” Let’s think about this feeling for a moment — probably something the women who complained to the gym management did not, and will not, take the time to do.

Project a woman looking for a boyfriend at the health club. If she’s looking for a serious boyfriend, one she hopes to meet at the gym, then her underlying premise is that her future serious boyfriend — perhaps even spouse and the father of her children — will choose to devote time in a probably hopeless cause of gaining the attention of an unusually attractive woman instead of settling down to the business of meeting someone who can be a realistic and fulfilling match. That’s the kind of man who probably will be rushing to gain the attention of this woman she so fears. Is that the kind of man she really wants as a boyfriend?

More likely, the women complaining to the gym management have something less articulated in their minds than, “This woman will steal my potential boyfriend.” If their emotions could speak freely, they probably would say something like, “She makes me look bad. I don’t like that.”

The implication here is a premise one would probably deny, but gives fuel to the fire of that particular emotion of jealousy and resentment: “I’m entitled to have my fair share of attention, too. This woman takes away my fair share and hogs it all to herself.”

Whenever you’re reading or hearing of something irrational, like what happened at this Richmond, CA health club, always look for the entitlement mentality. In some form, it’s just about always present.

I’m not challenging the health club’s right to set the rules of health club membership, so long as they don’t violate an already previously agreed upon contract between customer and owner/manager. But I do question the elevation of personal insecurity, jealousy and resentment that carries the day in a world that seems to be filled with spoiled, resentful brats who don’t think they should have to be uncomfortable for one second.

The deeper question here: Is another’s superiority, in some context, a threat to you personally? Has another taken or stolen something from you by being better? Looks are partly an inborn trait, though not totally. What one does with one’s looks, including through exercise at a health club, is more a function of choice and self-responsibility than mere chance.

But even if one’s looks are totally due to good luck, how has someone with those better looks harmed you? Nobody ever has a satisfactory answer to this question, which is a clue right there to its inherent immaturity and irrationality.

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