What is it like to be ugly?

I’m very interested in what it’s like to be ugly. I don’t know if I have personal experience with this or not (the title of this post is not meant to imply that I don’t know the answer to this question because I’m gorgeous), because I think only a very small group of people have any idea how physically attractive they are.

The reason I’m interested in this topic is because there are a lot of stereotypes floating around that I find essentially correct, which is that ugly people are more interesting than attractive people, but at the same time, usually more bitter, sarcastic, introspective, etc.

Biological and psychological explanations are ready at hand. Everyone wants to be with some attractive and it hurts when you can’t be. Sure there’s a lot of crap out there about finding the person you love and being happy with them, but I think that response needs much more careful treatment. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, but that I don’t believe it operates in anything like the way most people think it does.

Anyway, I think there is also a deeper explanation about why ugly people are so interesting, so driven, and so quirky, which is that they are excluded from one of the most basic and intuitive sources of human value, which is flirtation, sexual desire, companionship, and the magical feelings of attraction.

There was a 30 rock episode about one of Liz’s boyfriends who lives “in a bubble” because of his attractiveness. In that bubble, people gave him seats at restaurants and he got taxis quick and all sorts of stuff like that. But all that misses the point. Attractive people don’t get things (well they do, but that’s not important) they get a way of life that has value in its own right, which is the life of seduction, playfulness, flirtation, and socialization.

I used to think that attractive people were mainly just superficial, but I don’t anymore. They have just never had to train themselves to relate to people through facts, connections and ideas because they inhabit a world where such things are not necessary, and may spoil the mood or ruin the game.

So I take back what I said before and also revise something else I said. I said ugly people were more interesting. That isn’t really true. They are more interesting for people like me TO TALK TO, because I like facts, ideas, and ways of viewing the world; ways of OBSERVING the world. However, attractive people have a special way of participating in the world or being in it. This is not to say that some attractive people don’t live vapid lives, but if they do, I don’t think it has to do with their being attractive (maybe being attractive is a necessary condition of leading a certain type of vapid life, but certainly not sufficient).

Ugly people however are forced out of this world, and so they begin asking questions: why don’t people go out with me, and they start getting little glimpses of how different their life might be. They see a couple holding hands or two strangers hitting it off at charity event, or on the street, or yes, in a bar. Such experiences may seem alien or strange, and they ask more questions. And usually, these sorts of questions lead straight to a theory of sociality or a worldview about justice, or perhaps an understanding of what men are, or what women are. The list goes on.

I’ve said a lot of rambling stuff in this post, but the take away point is this. It’s easy to slip into the false belief that ugly people live in a kind of freudian torture, unable to satisfy their desires for attention and attraction, so that they find covert expressions of anger and jealousy toward attractive people (certainly many movies have explored exactly this theme; the revenge of the ugly on the beautiful). But really, something much deeper is going on, which is that one consciousness is confronting a question about the value of human society, and in some cases, trying to work out an answer.


2 Responses to “What is it like to be ugly?”

  1. June 26, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Fascinating analysis. You have a new fan.


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