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Where Different Is Nice But It Sure Isn’t Pretty

“Mother always said I’d be very attractive, when I grew up, when I grew up. ‘Different,’ she said,’ with a certain something, and a very very personal flair.’ And though I was 8 or 9, though I was 8 or 9, though I was 8 or 9…. I hated her.

Now, ‘different’ is nice, but it sure isn’t pretty. Pretty is what it’s about. I’ve never met anyone who was different, who couldn’t figure that out. So beautiful, I’d never live to see. But if was clear, if not to her… well, then, to me.”

A Chorus Line

Why We’re Here

Cosmo. Shine at Yahoo. Match.com articles, He’s Just Not That Into You. It’s Not Him, It’s YouThe Rules. Take A Look at Yourself, You Dumb Slut (okay, TV writers made that one up, but I bet you almost Googled it didn’t ya?) There are dozens of big time magazines that cater to women. There are enough relationship articles, self-help books, and “women’s issues” blogs to fill an entire mountain range.

I’ve been through ’em all. Being the good little academic I am, I tottled to the library, to the book store, and pulled every book off the self-help section I could fit into my spindly arms. I’ve poured years and many paper cuts into the pursuit of what I was told was my problem as a person, and as a woman.

My problem, in three words? I was ugly.

I felt ugly, but perhaps more importantly, I was told I was ugly. Not just by the typical Big Bads of our modern psychological woes, the Media. I certainly wasn’t tall, or skinny, or blonde, or thick-lipped, or slim and athletic, or slim and graceful, or lily skinned or raven haired. As the Mountain Range of Women’s Issues can attest to, that’s hard enough. On top of that, though, I wasn’t even Hollywood Ugly. I was just ugly. Other students shoved me into lockers or locked me inside freezers. Guys passed me notes that kindly requested I go kill myself, to spare the world my ugliness.

Kids are cruel, I told myself, and most everyone is awkward in high school. I held my head high and prevailed that once I got out of the drenched hothouse of hormone hell, once I met the mature and the worldly, my Every Day Ugly looks would matter less and less.

It didn’t exactly happen that way.

Matter of fact, surviving high school through a combination of expectations, anti-socialism, and anime, I found myself even more frustrated than I had been in high school. People were less obviously cruel, and inside the sweet cocoon of academia professors seemed to care less if I trudged in resembling Swamp Thing. Outside the classroom, though, it was nothing but a confusing mesh of contradictions, dual talk and heart-wrenching realizations.

That’s when I started leaning hard into the collected wisdom of shiny periodical paper and Internet forums. The answer to my frustrations had to be here, somewhere. At every turn… disappointment. No matter how different the presentation, and the loud exclamation print, every book seemed to be the same. “Have confidence!” “Love yourself!”

I spent hours puzzling over what exactly that meant. What did they mean by confidence, or loving yourself? Well, the natural answer was accepting and liking yourself. Believing you are a worthwhile person. But I already did believe that. I made it to Nationals in Speech, darn it! I wrote hundred page novels for fun. I happily showed off my extensive knowledge of Greek myths in a “Give a presentation as a mythical figure” by lampooning everyone in my class. Teachers constantly wrote comments on my papers like “Amazing insight!” and “Great storytelling.”

I was a writer. I was an intellectual, an impassioned and outspoken spark plug! I just also happened to think I was ugly. Did thinking so somehow mean I didn’t like myself? Did liking myself despite my unfortunate genetic arrangement somehow perversely mean I actually didn’t?

And how could I think I was pretty, when I was told every day, through a combination of media outlets and personal interactions, that I wasn’t? Was I imagining it everything? I was in some sort of A Beautiful Mind scenario, except instead of being a paranoid math whiz, I was a delusional Uggo? Would confidence only come from somehow convincing myself of a different reality?

These are the questions (among many, many others) that I had that no one seemed open to address. On Internet forums, I was shouted down. I was “negative”! I was “just being an attention whore”! Everyone is beautiful, women are only single because they’re “too picky”!

After years of trying to search out the answers, I’ve given up finding them from another source. Instead, I’ve set out to define the answers for myself. What does it mean to be beautiful? What does it mean to be ugly? Is it possible to hold both a love of self and a belief of personal ugliness simultaneously? Can an ugly girl succeed in a dating world that still places extreme importance on a woman’s looks, where physical appearance is still irrevocably tied to femininity, and worth?

All these I hope to explore, maybe even answer. You don’t have to be ugly, or even consider yourself unattractive, to join me here. But it’s high time we Uggos had our own slice of the Internet.

Without further ado, I introduce… The Ugly Girl’s Guide to Dating.

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