How it is if you’re ugly...
I wonder how many people know how it is to be unpopular and socially clueless. Luckily, if you're not one of them, I’m here to help you understand.
“Normal” is a pretty narrow stripe on the spectrum of possible human behaviour. You don’t have to be very far outside that section to make people uncomfortable, and people don’t like to feel uncomfortable. All you have to do is be a little funny-looking, or height/weight disproportional, or dress badly. Or fail to make the right kind of eye-contact, or project an aura of cringing cluelessness, or miss a few social and conversational cues.
If you’re “abnormal” – especially if you also seem powerless – people don’t treat you with respect. Usually, their eyes kind of just slide over you – except when they’re having a joke at your expense.
For example: let’s say you’re in high school, and you’re an acknowledged dorkwad, and you go into the student store to buy a pen. The popular student behind the counter will ignore you. He will talk to his friends, or make a phone call, or help everyone else before you. If you screw up your courage to ask for what you want, he will look at you with a faintly amused sneer. It’s a little bit like what the guy described in Black Like Me – when you’re different, a certain number of people just dislike you automatically. I don’t remember very often getting what he described as The Hate Stare, but I got a lot of The Sneer.
And it’s even worse when it’s girls – at least, it was for me. I really didn’t care that much what Joe Jockstrap thought of me in high school – most of them seemed like morons, and they were definitely BO-ring. Even when they were being oafish – the fundamentals of which they excelled at – they had no imagination.
Jock1: Did you see the boobs on that new girl?
Jock 2: Yeah, man. I saw ‘em.
Jock 1: Man, I’d like to get ahold of *them*.
Jock 2: Dude, me too.
Jock 1: Dude.
Jock 2: Yeah.
I wanted to grab them by their thick jock necks and bang their heads together. You guys are such freaking idiots! You can’t even leer with any style! Girls’ bodies are the greatest thing on this entire planet, and all you can say about them is “Dude”?
Anyway, where was I? Right, it was worse to be ignored or mistreated by girls, because I couldn’t hate them or dismiss them like I could the guys. I desired them desperately, and wanted badly for them to like me. When they laughed at me, it was disheartening and demoralizing.
And I *was* definitely a dorkwad. I had glasses, and they weren’t the stylish kind. (Back then there were only about 4 kinds anyway, and none of them looked good – but I set some sort of Guinness Book record for Stupidest-Looking Glasses, I’m sure.)
I read constantly, I played chess, I scored a million on the SAT. I skipped first grade, so I was younger than everyone else. To make it worse, I didn’t start the puberty process until I was about 15, which meant that throughout high school I looked like a little boy surrounded by hairy, muscled young men. I had straight, fine hair, and it was cut short – by my dad – at a time when everyone else wore it long, parted in the middle, and blow-dried. And we had very little money, so I had no car, a second-hand bike, and weird clothes. (To be fair, I could have dressed better on the same amt of money, but I was utterly without clue when it came to clothes.) All in all, it wasn’t a picture to inspire much enthusiasm in a young woman, and I don’t really blame them for not being interested. Most chicks don’t dig the elegance of the Queen’s Pawn Opening, or Durkin’s Attack, and I understood that – but the ones who were mocking and mean about it – that kind of hurt.
Okay, so what is my point? I’m sure I had one at some stage of this ramble down memory lane. Oh yeah, here’s the deal:
If you’ve never been in the position in life where every interaction with people (clerks, cops, peers, waiters, salespeople, etc etc) is a challenge, it’s worth thinking about. When you’re good-looking and confident, people WANT to help you. They notice you. They greet you. They go out of their way to get you what you need. When you’re Strange (as The Doors said), people step in front of you, people ignore you, dismiss you, talk down to you, or just plain don’t care.
I am no longer in the Strange category, that I know of (shut up, Anya). I matured a lot in college, my looks improved, and I gained some self-confidence. I can afford a decent haircut and clothes, and looking young is now a bonus.
But I remember so well how it feels to be snickered at, to never be taken seriously, to be unnoticed or deliberately ignored. Twenty-five years later, I’m still slightly surprised when people remember me, or when strangers smile or women flirt. And I value that memory of what it was like when I was young. It gives me a connection with people who are still in that situation, the inclination to take them seriously, and a desire to see the person underneath the hesitant exterior.
So anyway, that’s how great I am. I have been forged by the fires of social ostracism into a person who is incredibly empathetic, yet at the same time amazingly handsome and confident. I dazzle myself with my splendidness. I don’t blame you if you want to be like me, or at least bask in my aura a little. I’m available for parties and bar mitzvahs. Weekends extra.