Living in a pretty ugly world

Living for five years in California and then Oregon, Samantha Escobar felt okay about her appearance, more satisfied with her career and family and friends than she was concerned about weight gain or loss. After just over a month living in New York, she’s begun to feel ugly — “[u]gly enough that I view myself unpresentable to be in front of other human beings, as though I am literally disrespecting them by looking how I do.”

While I’ve always been a pretty self-conscious person, the last few years have seen me become stronger, more self-aware, happier and able to value the things that truly matter — my accomplishments, my integrity, my work ethic, independence. Although I do not value others based on their looks, it takes a fair amount of effort not to base my own self-worth on that, especially since I moved here.

[I] moved to Manhattan, and suddenly, I feel terrible about myself. Just… terrible. All the time.

Read the entire thing; it’s kind of heartbreaking.

As a person who is unremarkable along just about every physical metric (I’m height tall and width wide, with eye-colored eyes and hair-colored hair, when it’s not dyed), I know what it’s like to know, intellectually, that I’m no more or less hideous than the average woman — but still look at the crowd around me and feel like I don’t measure up. As a feminist, I know what it’s like to know, intellectually, that my physical appearance really is incidental to my overall substance — but still feel compelled to compare. As a woman, I know what it’s like to know that, at any given moment, my appearance probably is being judged — but not knowing when or by whom.

All of which is by way of asking: What do you do when you feel unattractive?

Author: has written 262 posts for this blog.

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149 Responses

  1. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit May 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

    Hot shower, good hair-brushing, a little bit of body spray. If that doesn’t work, I try to throw myself into a project to take my mind off it, just like I do most times when plagued by feelings I’d rather not have.

  2. BHuesca
    BHuesca May 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

    bubble bath.

  3. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

    Read the entire thing; it’s kind of heartbreaking.

    I don’t think there’s any “kind of” about it. I almost couldn’t finish it, it was so pathetic (in the pathos-inducing kind of way).

  4. Drahill
    Drahill May 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

    I go to the gym. It has always been different for me to try to feel “attractive” because I dress and present myself in a way that can best be described, I guess, as “butch.” I know that even when I am feeling my absolute best, the majority of society will probably not regard me as attractive, because I am a woman appearing in a pretty “unwomanly” way. Even by my standard of “attractive,” I’m still probably not going to get any compliments from most people. So basically, it sort of forced me to change what my metric of attractiveness even is. I feel at my best while working out – and right after. I will admit to being one of those “flexers” in the gym mirrors sometimes. Attractiveness always seems to be something that you gauge in comparison to others, but it becomes a lot trickier when you’re pushing onto the fringes of gender expression or identity. Who do you compare yourself to? That’s why I sort of gave up on it.

    1. FYouMudFlaps
      FYouMudFlaps May 27, 2013 at 6:47 am |

      You rock! :)

  5. IndianFeminist101
    IndianFeminist101 May 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

    Hmmm…. I get this feeling very rarely. Seriously. I really like to look at myself and have realized all these micro analysis of body parts and features are a waste of time. We build our lives around our value system. Or at least we try to be aware of our values and adjust in surroundings acxordingly. Why not do it with one’s body???

    Just go out on a run, feel the muscles in my leg, wind in my hair: feel good!!!

  6. karak
    karak May 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

    Unsurprisingly, I feel unattractive without my makeup on.

    I also hate working out. I like my body as Body, but I don’t like my body as a Work In Progress, because I feel like I need a lot of work, and I’m this skinny, yet flabby person at the gym with all these giant guys and girls running for 90 minutes on the treadmill while I try to bench-press the bar and stay on the elliptical for a whole mile.

  7. xenu01
    xenu01 May 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

    Oh, I don’t know. It’s really hard sometimes no matter who you are.

    Beyond therapy and/or health at every size type stuff, I think I oddly recommend most to just fall. Just fall off the pretty train and find other things you are good at.

    For a handful of years, I was riding the pretty train. Being pretty helped me get laid, get better tips, got me help from strangers and random compliments and unwanted attention, too, but whatev. Then I gained a bunch of weight (and got older! and developed thyroid stuff! Etc) and went from being slightly plump and dewy, glowy, etc to having blotchy skin and greying hair and oh yeah, I’m a whole lot more fat. And I carry a lot in the mid-section. But I am happier and healthier than I ever was.

    I went through a period where there was nothing I could wear that would make me feel good, because all I wanted to do was be 22 again and be pretty no matter WHAT I wore. Then I got used to being plain and even ugly because I had to. Then I went through a period of not caring because who cares really and dressing about 40 years too old (which sometimes looks chic on skinny gals but not when it comes to badly patterned plus-size “fashions”).

    And then, about a year ago, suddenly I cared again. Not because anything I wore was magically going to look good to most bystanders and actually quite the opposite, but because I started to feel at home in my body. The body I have, not the body I used to have. There were steps I took to get here: exercise was one, a brief jaunt with therapy another, and just time to get used to my new body with its new curves. And I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit or made me feel awkward in my skin, and I went and got fitted for a new bra, and I found a great plus-size thrift store (seriously, a store which disallows cropped pants and shoulder pads is a godsend when you are fat).

    Me & my body aren’t always best friends. Sometimes it gets mad at me for pushing it (I still haven’t totally become ok with the fact that I get tired more easily than I used to and can’t beat myself up at the gym without repercussions). Sometimes I get mad at it because I can’t even run a whole LAP WHY CAN’T I RUN A LAP DAMNIT (although I can run 3/4 of one, which is 3 times further than I could run at this time last year). But most of the time, we’re ok.

  8. A4
    A4 May 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm |

    I dance. I put on some music and explore my inner world and try to notice something new about what my body can show me about the world or a new feeling that I haven’t noticed before. In the face of the magnitude of sensation of my inner world, the shallow judgements from other people fall away.

    I also like to feel my heartbeat and think about how amazing it is to keep going all the time every moment, swishing blood through my body and keeping me in motion.

    1. A4
      A4 May 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

      I think feeling unattractive and body dissatisfaction comes from a disconnect between what we are told our bodies should look like and be able to do and our actual experiences of what our body is and does. Focusing on your own experience of yourself is my way of supplanting how others pressure me to internalize their external experience of myself.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune May 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

        A4, that’s a really wise attitude to have. I know from experience it’s really hard to get there. D: But it’s nice to have it stated so clearly. Obviously, my perspective’s a lot different, with the disability and stuff (which basically makes me uncoordinated as fuck, and thus unlikely to ever derive anything but fury and frustration from trying to dance, lol) but the tension of others’ view of what I “should” be able to do and what I can do is a BFD in my life, what with the invisible illnesses and all.

        1. A4
          A4 May 23, 2013 at 8:33 am |

          I’d love to hear more of your perspective because right now I’m studying movement and the body and it’s very important for me to take into account real perspectives on experiencing movement in the body.

          I’ve noticed that one consequence of mind body dualism, where people think of themselves and their body as separate, is the regular sacrifice of the body to the morals of the mind. The body is judged and found to be wanting in some “fundamental” way, and then people use that to justify or require of themselves some sort of damage or abuse.

          This results in sayings like “Pain is weakness leaving your body!” and “Beauty is pain” and I’m just like “NO. Pain is a message from your body to pay attention and be careful”. It’s also the message behind people who talk lovingly about bloodstained satin dance shoes, because the sacrifice of blood (the body) shows a full commitment of the mind to perfect body presentation.

          In a world where it is possible and encouraged to pass moral judgement on other people based solely on our examination of their bodies, we are praised for indications that we are willing to sacrifice comfort and health for a worthy aesthetic. In the inevitable situation where someone finds something “wrong” with my body, my willingness to subordinate it to the “right” aesthetics might be enough to show that though my body may be wrong, my mind is still virtuous.

          It’s all fucking crap, and it leads to a lot of injury and death.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune May 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm |

          My perspective on pain is it’s a bloody inconvenience and the body wants it gone. Also, if pain is weakness leaving the body, I should change my name to Clark Fucking Kent and wear ironic glasses.

          The virtuous mind/traitor body thing is a familiar mess for anyone with chronic invisible disabilities. My health (and mental health) went for shit last fall because one of my professors wouldn’t give me the appropriate disability accommodations, and I was so wound up in having a Virtuous Mind, still, that I figured hey, it’s just one class, I should manage. I can’t. I fell right the fuck apart. And my whole life has been the same thing, on increasingly slow cycles, as I internalised and became okay with being publicly and invisibly disabled. (Yes, I chose the juxtaposition very carefully.)

          I find that sometimes distancing myself from my body is the only way to retain any sense of self-esteem whatsoever. (It doesn’t help that I’m something of a champion derealiser by nature.) Living intensely within my body usually just leaves me feeling helpless and useless. So I try to engage in “useful” activity when I’m feeling physically okay (housework, etc) and the rest of the time, I let myself slack off. But yes, a big YES to your comment.

          And there’s probably more, but my hand’s not okay right now, so.

  9. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

    Short answer to Caperton’s closing question: Retail Therapy is what I do when I feel unattractive.

    As far as the article goes, I had the opposite experience, when I moved out of New York (where i had lived for 35 years,) I felt far less attractive- and when I moved back five years later, immediately reverted to my more confident self, so for me it was largely about being comfortable in my surroundings. The author doesn’t really have my same experiences so I’m unsure how analogous her situation is to mine, but the article really brought me back to how uncomfortable I was when I walked around a more suburban area looking like a ‘degenerate artist’ (as my uncle once described my look.)

  10. Phoebe
    Phoebe May 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

    I go back to New York, ironically enough.

    I sympathize more than I can say with Ms. Escobar, since I’m afflicted with the same basic syndrome whenever I have to travel to Los Angeles. On the East Coast, I feel as okay about my looks as a reasonably privileged white woman older than 25 whose looks are not her profession is ever likely to. I don’t look like Aeryn Sun, but I don’t feel any particular angst over it; after all, who does?

    But five minutes after landing at LAX and I can hear the internal drumbeat start up. I’m too short. I’m not blonde enough, I’m not thin enough, and suddenly I totally need a facelift: Need it, I tell you! How can I go out in public looking like me? It’s a wonder that dogs don’t bark at me on the street, that’s how ugly I am!

    This is freaky to experience even now, but it was the very worst the first time I was there, when I had to be in town for weeks and didn’t realize exactly what was going on. Now I know to expect it, and to treat it as a kind of temporary cognitive distortion that will be uncomfortable for as long as it lasts, but that I can count on resolving as soon as I can flee the left coast.

    I’ve never heard of it working the other way round before, but as I started off saying, I believe it. And I shudder in sympathetic pain.

  11. Athenia
    Athenia May 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm |

    I feel for the writer of this article. New York City makes me feel all sorts of anxious–I wouldn’t even say it’s the “pretty” people who live here–it’s just that so many people are near you every day, not friendly, they’re very serious or “angry” as my SF friend would say.

    1. DAS
      DAS May 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

      I agree: in NYC you have so many other people near you that you end up having interactions with, and many of these involve asking/being asked to do things (upon seeing someone in their car in a parking spot you’d like, “are you coming or going?”, in the subway, “excuse me, may I sit here”) or even just having people packed up near to you, that it can get uncomfortable for those of us who are not naturally assertive or gregarious or comfortable in our own skin.

      I’ve lived in Queens for almost 5 years now, and I am still getting used to the level of interactions one has on an almost daily basis with people you hardly even know (to someone in another wing of your apartment building that you hardly ever see “are you using that washing machine?”, to the person sitting in the aisle seat of the bus “this is my stop”, to the person with the illegal curb cut “don’t yell at me: this is a legal parking spot!”). And prior to living in Queens, I already went through the culture shock of moving from the So.Cal. suburbs where I grew up to central NJ (where everyone seemed much more in your face friendly than the transplanted midwesterners around which I grew up) and then to Tallahassee FL (where the dictates of “southern hospitality” ensured yet another level of in your face friendliness). I could imagine that all of these interactions that just happen due to the population density of NYC, not all of which are pleasant by their very nature as many of them involve competition for resources, would be triggers for someone who already has body image issues.

      1. Henry
        Henry May 22, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

        I’ll take more interactions with actual human beings over the cold stab you in the back “friendliness” of So. Cal any day. In NYC you know if someone’s pissed at you or loves you.

        1. Violet
          Violet May 22, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

          You sound like you need better friends. People aren’t a certain way just because they live in a particular city.

        2. Mike
          Mike May 23, 2013 at 3:37 am |

          this^

      2. EG
        EG May 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm |

        That’s a lot of what I like about living here, the everyday interactions and offhand comments between strangers.

        1. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable May 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

          Last week, a random guy at the table next to me high-fived me because I said I was hotter than the (now nearly ex-) girlfriend of a boy I want badly. Then the guy behind us chatted about a guy in a white paisley suit. Today, a stranger (who albeit lives in my building) helped me carry my suitcase down the stairs. I really only have had pleasant interactions with other New Yorkers, but I’m swimming in privilege, granted. I do love the one-offs. It makes me feel less alone.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L May 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

      so many people are near you every day, not friendly, they’re very serious or “angry” as my SF friend would say.

      I don’t know. I’m convinced that’s largely a myth. And to the extent it’s true, it’s a matter of self-preservation. When you pass one person on the sidewalk every day, it’s easy to smile and say hello. When you pass 1,000, not doing that has nothing to do with being unfriendly.

      1. Comradde PhysioProffe
        Comradde PhysioProffe May 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

        My experience of NYC having lived her for decades is that people are pretty friendly and jovial.

  12. birdie
    birdie May 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

    I’m very happy to be unattractive. It saves me form an awful amount of unwanted attention.

    1. born in east LA
      born in east LA May 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

      i agree with you, birdie—i had much lower self esteem at twenty than i do now—and i think it was because of the unwanted attention

  13. arcadcesproject
    arcadcesproject May 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

    Champagne. Not in excess. But the good stuff. A glass or two and I am sophisticated, worldly, charming and so on and so on and so forth.

  14. Kalen
    Kalen May 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm |

    A combination of the following for when I feel unattractive: clothing therapy, exercise, and pampering myself. In terms of mindset, I look at the whole appearances game as just that: a game.

    Weirdly or interestingly enough, when I’m all in and playing this game with the rest of the world, I shift my focus from something I either can’t or do not want to change (my body), to something that I feel is more in my power to change (my clothes, my health). An appearance based on what I choose rather than what genetics doled out. Anyone can be fashionable with the right materials. It’s still superficial, but I have the final say in how I want/choose to feel about myself. I also find my feelings of being unattractive coincide with my moods, of which I put down to my living less than a healthy lifestyle.

    I have these thick stumpy, athlete legs rather than the more slender ones that I think I want and the world tends to shove at me as the more aesthetically pleasing — but then I put on a well-designed skirt and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. Silly even. My legs are awesome. I can lift 45 pound bars to container lash container ships and do roundhouse kicks with these things! Plus, I can wear some cute sandals now that I’ve taken the time to primp and paint my toenails electric blue — let’s show off to the world! And look! This coat would be great with that skirt! And my ears which stick out and my aunt suggested surgery for? Piercings! Lots of piercings! I can be a pirate now. [/narcissism]

    I’ve been slowly replacing pieces of my wardrobe with pieces that I can wear and usually always feel attractive in, irrespective of my mood. My clothes become my comfort blanket that way.

    As for the days when I feel unattractive because I think I look unattractive — I just don’t care and I know I just don’t care. I tend to tell myself, “I’m not playing the game today. I’m fine with that. I can play some other day if I want. But not today. It’s a stupid game today. I need to go catch up on learning how to cook properly now.”

    In thinking about it, for me, it’s about what I can do. Agency. Not necessarily in terms of changing myself, but changing my image of myself in my brain — going for the most positive spin on my looks and linking it back to something I like. Like roundhouse kicking and feeling like a pirate.

  15. Aaliyah
    Aaliyah May 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

    I try to get my mind off of it. Thinking about how much I dislike my appearance is bad for me because it makes my dysphoria even more painful to deal with.

    1. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah May 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

      Correction: focusing on how much I dislike my appearance. The “thinking” part is always there because of dysphoria.

  16. Katie
    Katie May 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

    Yeah, I’m with Kalen — attending to your looks is a hobby. Sometimes I have time for it — and then I try to rule in my unruley hair or find a shirt that matches my pants, or hey, put on some eye-liner! And sometimes I just try to make sure my fly is zipped and my shirt is not on inside out because I have other priorities.

  17. Donna L
    Donna L May 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

    I’m not sure I’ve ever actually felt particularly attractive, but at least I no longer feel hideously ugly or see myself as such when I look in the mirror. Most of the time, anyway. What helped the most, not surprisingly, was the fact that I turned out to be entirely wrong in believing (as I had for a very long time) that my facial appearance was too inherently masculine — which, for me personally, was the same thing as being unattractive — ever to be able to be perceived as a woman.

    And that revelation — along with getting far more compliments about my appearance over the last eight years than in the previous 30 years or so combined, even if I don’t entirely believe them — helped me reexamine my self-negativity about my appearance in general, although I’m not sure that my internalized transphobia (on that subject and others) will ever disappear entirely. (More than one person advised me to try saying positive self-affirmations to myself while looking in the mirror, but, for some unfathomable reason, repeating “I am, in fact, reasonably presentable” several times each day, which was the most I could manage without feeling ridiculous, didn’t do much for me!)

    But even though there certainly are a great many very beautiful women in New York City (where I live and work), the intense sadness I used to feel when I saw any woman — the knowledge that no matter what they looked like, they were able to be what I couldn’t be — is gone. I’m no outstanding beauty by any stretch of the imagination, and wouldn’t be one anyplace, and wouldn’t have been one even if I’d been able to transition in my 20’s or 30’s rather than when I was almost 50. I admit that I can’t help wondering sometimes what I would have looked like as a young woman, if I ever could have been a young woman, but I’m not under any illusions. And I know I’m not going to get any better-looking in the future. But none of that bothers me, for the most part, because at least I’ve gotten to be myself for the last 8 years, and that’s way more important, and way more than a lot of people ever have the chance to do.

    So seeing other women doesn’t really bother me. In fact, it’s good for me, because it reminds me that I’m one of them. Just another woman. Not particularly attractive, but not notably unattractive. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. So when I do get down about myself, whether it’s about my appearance or my “realness” or anything of that nature, the best thing for me is to get out of my own head, and out of my apartment, and into the world. .

  18. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm |

    The only times I really feel unattractive now are when I’ve taken a self-portrait on my phone in daylight. Even then it’s more “Shit, that’s a crap pic” and hitting the Delete button.

    I used to feel hugely unattractive when I was a teen (nearly forty years ago) because the other kids made it very clear that’s what they thought. It didn’t matter in one respect, because I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, or girlfriend: I despised most of the kids at school.

    The friends I made when I was thirtyish (through work) were all Goths and not into competition or putting each other down. It was far more “You look fantastic!” when we were gussied up in our black velvet and lace. :)

    These days I’ll have my half century in a month, I’ve the droopy belly that goes with NAFLD, and between that and a crap knee, I’m not particularly fit. But I’ve gone to a D cup for the first time ever (whoot!), my hair is long and curly and dyed a great colour by the best hairdresser evah, minimal tinted sunscreen and powder has fixed my roseacea and, and with lippy and mascara is all the makeup I use (it takes all of ten minutes to put on). I have clothes from Secret Lentil that suit me perfectly, and as far as I’m concerned I look fucking fantastic. Not beautiful, not pretty probably, but fucking fantastic.

    The core of the confidence isn’t a feminist thing, though. I always knew intellectually that there is no good reason to feel bad about my appearance – it’s irrelevant to my achievements or worth, though it’s part of who I am, and bad feelings are all just hangovers from the crap at school. But the emotional strength to go with that came from being in contact with my beloved at last, and him making it crystal clear, by word and deed, that he thinks I’m beautiful and wonderful, because I’m me. (For the record, I feel the same about him and we both go around permanently baffled by it all!)

    1. Donna L
      Donna L May 22, 2013 at 8:32 pm |

      How lovely. That made me happy to read.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

        Thank you, Donna! :)

        PS if anyone wants to be seriously tempted by Awesome but Not Cheap handmade one-off clothes, Secret Lenti’s website is here. She’s based in Syracuse, I think. (Hey, I got sucked in, why shouldn’t others?)

        1. martian
          martian May 22, 2013 at 9:18 pm |

          Beautiful clothes! I imagine you looking glorious in them.

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

          Aww, thank you!

          ::blushes::

          ::shuffles feet::

        3. hellkell
          hellkell May 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

          I got you hooked, Kittehs!

          Seriously, the woman who runs it is super nice, into social justice, and makes a damn flattering dress/tunic/whatever.

  19. martian
    martian May 22, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

    I suppose when I’m feeling unattractive (as opposed to knowing I’m unattractive, which is always), I make plans. I’m seriously considering plastic surgery.

    I never imagined I’d be in this headspace, but cancer surgery has left me with a weirdly lumpy torso, the drastic weight loss after the surgery left me with loose, hanging skin, and a subsequent pregnancy really exacerbated the problems. I’m literally, physically uncomfortable in my skin. When I’m not imagining the ways in which something rather too drastic to call a nip and tuck would improve my life, I’m chastising myself for my inability to achieve a more self-accepting, body-positive feminist outlook. Round and around I go. Is a lot of my discomfort because of the culture I live in? Likely much of it – it’s amazing the degree to which being self conscious amplifies physical discomfort. But it’s still wearing me out.

    Pro tip: If ever it occurs to you while commiserating with a cancer sufferer that extreme weight loss is kind of a silver lining to cancer, don’t share. Really. Don’t.

  20. Amelia the Lurker
    Amelia the Lurker May 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm |

    What do I do? Hairwashing, powder that covers up blemishes and evens out my complexion, and lipstick.

  21. sidhe3141
    sidhe3141 May 22, 2013 at 9:49 pm |

    I remember that I don’t particularly care about being attractive.

    Then (since about a couple years ago, anyway) I start feeling sad about that, since I can’t be sure whether it’s because I legitimately don’t care or because the patriarchy has designated me as “consumer” rather than “consumed”.

  22. mh
    mh May 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm |

    I was browsing through some pictures of myself volunteering at a school and pointing out all my horribleness to myself, but I stopped for a moment and looked at all the people around me.

    Nobody was recoiling in horror. In fact, I am blessed with a life where people really DO look at the beauty coming from “within” me. I’m tough and kick ass on a lot of things, and people appreciate me for it. I can overcome a bad first impression (yes, I am conventionally unattractive enough to make them.) It’s OK.

    My mother used to sing me this truly horrible song when I was a kid:
    Yo no soy buena moza/ ni lo quiero ser/ porque las buenas mozas/
    se echan a perder

    Loosely translated: “I’m not pretty and I don’t want to be, because the pretty girls become spoiled.” Weirdly, it gave me a lot of comfort even though it probably shouldn’t have. Pretty girls have it easier? No worries: bring it. I kick ass.

  23. zomonim
    zomonim May 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm |

    meh, I’m quite unattractive, but the only thing it really costs me is sex (and an SO I guess), which is an urge temporarily satiated with porn. I get along fine doing all the other stuff I like doing being a hideous bastard, I guess it just depends on your interests.

  24. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 May 22, 2013 at 11:04 pm |

    “Always remember that it is of no consequence to you what other people think of you. What matters is what you think of them. That is how you live your life.”

    –Gore Vidal

    1. Donna L
      Donna L May 23, 2013 at 12:05 am |

      Well, that’s good, because he definitely wasn’t one of my favorite people.

    2. Shay'a'chern
      Shay'a'chern May 23, 2013 at 9:40 am |

      I much prefer the iteration uttered by RuPaul, “What other people think of me is none of my damned business.”

      1. Marksman2000
        Marksman2000 May 25, 2013 at 12:21 am |

        +1

        Yup. Golden.

  25. XtinaS
    XtinaS May 22, 2013 at 11:56 pm |

    Honestly, when I start feeling unattractive, it’s usually because I’m dealing with meds + weight gain, and I find I still have “am I physically attractive enough?” garbage in my head.

    What I do:

    * Do workouts with my partner.
    * Talk to my psych about moving to a different med.
    * Listen to my wacky music.
    * Read a C# manual.
    * If it’s still present, talk with my partner, so that we can suss out whatever’s bothering me.

    (Today has been brought to you by the distinctly odd privilege of not feeling the need to feel attractive to others het-cis-men, since I mostly swore off men about a year and a half ago.)

    1. XtinaS
      XtinaS May 23, 2013 at 12:04 am |

      For extra bonus hilarity which I no lie just now noticed, I moved to New York (Inwood, then Brooklyn) back in late 2011, from Portland OR, where I lived for 5 years. *amused*

      The two main things I’ve noticed regarding my constant sense of feeling attractive-or-not:

      1. Having no interest at all in cis-het-men really helps me not give two shits about whether I’m designing myself appropriately for men every morning.

      2. Having sooo many people around aaall the time really quiets the paranoid parts of my anxiety. I genuinely expected it to be the opposite. I am relieved to be wrong.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 3:21 am |

      “(Today has been brought to you by the distinctly odd privilege of not feeling the need to feel attractive to others het-cis-men, since I mostly swore off men about a year and a half ago.)”

      *high fives*

      I’m in that happy position too – the only man whose opinion matters to me is Mr K. Other men might as well be ghosts, and unsolicited opinions are not wanted (another bonus of being so horrendously old: said opinions are rare). I dress and make up to please me and him, in that order, when I go to work or go out, and when we’re at home together it’s jeans and tees or jumpers, that’s it.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve May 23, 2013 at 11:26 am |

        I’m in that happy position too – the only man whose opinion matters to me is Mr K. Other men might as well be ghosts, and unsolicited opinions are not wanted (another bonus of being so horrendously old: said opinions are rare). I dress and make up to please me and him, in that order, when I go to work or go out, and when we’re at home together it’s jeans and tees or jumpers, that’s it.

        It is possible to both care about how others view your exterior presentation and be devoted to a long term partner.

        I’d like to think that when Mrs. Fat goes out and wants to look attractive or even ‘sexy’ that it is to please herself and herself in that order. It doesn’t bother me that it pleases her for people to think she’s attractive, why would it? I certainly don’t think it casts a negative light on her attitude towards fidelity and her devotion to me.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune May 23, 2013 at 11:43 am |

          Neither Xtina nor Kitteh generalised beyond themselves or claimed the two things are mutually exclusive. Not everyone reacts the exact same way to monogamy, so please stop telling women how to feel about being in relationships, Steve. Just because it’s possible to do both doesn’t oblige women to do it.

          In fact, please stop telling women how to feel about anything ever that has to do with their own personal lives. This is the third time I’ve seen you do this (after significant pushback/education the first two times no less), and I really like your comments most of the time, but this trend is really getting on my nerves.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

          Nither Xtina nor Kitteh generalised beyond themselves or claimed the two things are mutually exclusive. Not everyone reacts the exact same way to monogamy, so please stop telling women how to feel about being in relationships, Steve. Just because it’s possible to do both doesn’t oblige women to do it.

          In fact, please stop telling women how to feel about anything ever that has to do with their own personal lives. This is the third time I’ve seen you do this (after significant pushback/education the first two times no less), and I really like your comments most of the time, but this trend is really getting on my nerves.

          I was not telling anyone how to feel. Anyone.

          I swear I was only referring to my own relationship. I specifically said me, and Mrs. Fat. I also urge you to go back and read the first occasion that you’re accusing me of- I never did it in that case. On the other occasion I acknowledged I did it and apologized.

        3. XtinaS
          XtinaS May 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

          (For this comment thread, assume “men” == “cis-het-men”.)

          It is possible to both care about how others view your exterior presentation and be devoted to a long term partner.

          I wrote about how I don’t feel the need to “feel attractive” in the conventional sense because I swore off men a while ago. Kitteh agreed, and talked about their experience with their partner. You responded with “it’s possible to do both of these things”. I infer one of two things:

          1. You are addressing our unspoken issue of personally experiencing attractiveness XOR devotedness. Since neither of us stated this issue, your response is irrelevant.

          2. You’re assuming that we’re generalising to all people everywhere, that swearing off men directly equates to not feeling the need to feel attractive. Since neither of us framed our experiences in this way, your response is irrelevant.

          Is there something I’m missing that would make your response more relevant? Sir?

          Also, where’d you get this wacky “devotion” thing from?

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm |

          Xtina, I was not addressing you at all. I’m sorry if you thought i was, it was just addressing the specific comment that I quoted.

          I did think that Kitteh was implying something about women who did care what other men thought. If I was wrong about that, I was wrong, but my comments hd nothing whatsoever to do with yours. I apologize if the nested nature of the comments made you think I was addressing you. I promise I wasn’t.

        5. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

          Xtina and mackavitykitsune – what you both said!

          I did think that Kitteh was implying something about women who did care what other men thought. If I was wrong about that, I was wrong …

          You were wrong, Steve. That’s not what I was talking about, any more than what Xtina was. It was about the expectation too many men have that every fucking thing women do should be about men’s opinions, men’s gaze. We’re blamed for complying with that and blamed for not complying with it. I’m not judging any woman for responding to that sort of pressure. I was agreeing with Xtina that it’s a great thing to be free of it, to not give a damn about some random dude who is not a protagonist in my life.

          As for monogamy, what on earth made you think I was suggesting anything about other people’s relationships or thoughts on the matter? I’m as near as dammit to asexual, my beloved is in Spirit, but is the only man alive for me as far as love or sex or attraction go. (Friends have called it Extreme Monogamy or soul-mated. I just wish “single target sexuality” was more than just a TV Tropes term.)

          It’d be reallllly silly to suppose there’s a whole lot of overlap between my feelings and anyone else’s. I’m not remotely suggesting anyone else’s level of devotion to their partner(s) is questionable because they take pleasure in how other people look at them.

          Seriously, if you think someone’s saying something, how about ASKING instead of jumping in thinking you know and contradicting it? I know we all do that (guilty as charged) but you drew some totally incorrect inferences here.

        6. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

          Seriously, if you think someone’s saying something, how about ASKING instead of jumping in thinking you know and contradicting it? I know we all do that (guilty as charged) but you drew some totally incorrect inferences here.

          Kitteh,

          Thanks for taking the time to correct me and sorry for jumping right in. I definitely should have asked, as you rightly point out. I also appreciate that you understand that it was an incorrect inference on my part and not an attempt to put words in your mouth.

        7. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm |

          … darn nesting fail. :P

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

        No probs Steve! :)

  26. Alexandra
    Alexandra May 23, 2013 at 2:06 am |

    I remind myself that the traits I most value and admire in myself (and in others) have nothing to do with my physical appearance — that is, kindness, intelligence, hard work, and integrity.

    And then I put on my Walter Sobchak t-shirt and a red floofy skirt and hiking boots, and I walk myself and my unshaved legs and my big belly and bigger backpack to school and I am AWESOME.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 11:43 pm |

      Love your description there – awesome is the word! :)

  27. miga
    miga May 23, 2013 at 2:27 am |

    1) I check and see if I’m PMSing, because normally when I start obsessing about my appearance for no reason it’s because of that.

    2) I choose one part of my body and find things to like about it. For the longest time, when I was suicidal, I would look at my legs and remark how strong and sturdy they were. I used to hate my large thighs, but thinking about them in a positive, utilitarian way changed my script. It kept me from self-harming, I think.

    3) I think about how it’s not the worst thing in the world if I’m ugly. As an actress I trade on my looks, but I’m also a writer. If one day the world agrees with my assessment of my ugliness I can always go into hiding and I’ll still be able to pursue one dream. As long as I can live my life and be with the people I love I’m ok. And it’s not like I couldn’t get work as an “ugly” actor. It’d just be different work.

    4) I think about how society conspires to make certain groups of people feel uglier than others. Most of my ugly woes are race or weight related. For years I felt less-than because I wasn’t a petite white girl with “good hair.” My ass and my hair especially set me apart for a lot of ridicule, and I still deal with the fallout of it. Now I love my bottom, and I’m learning to love my hair- allowing both to take up space is both revolutionary and therapeutic for me.

    5)I practice being a good friend to myself. That includes letting me eat junk food once in a while and not judging me for it. That includes saying “guurrrl, you look cute in that!” and “don’t say my friend is ugly! She’s not!” to myself.

    1. A4
      A4 May 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

      5)I practice being a good friend to myself. That includes letting me eat junk food once in a while and not judging me for it. That includes saying “guurrrl, you look cute in that!” and “don’t say my friend is ugly! She’s not!” to myself.

      I totally love this.

  28. Liza
    Liza May 23, 2013 at 2:35 am |

    I can understand this feeling. At 18 I traveled to US as exchange student. I took my best clothes with me of course.
    But I was used to wear same sweater whole week long. My best bra was my aunt’s nursing bra, and my make-up was my mothers dry maskara. Most of my things were one-two sizes bigger, but they didn’t look cool like in R’n’B clips, thy just looked mismatched.

    I never knew that a girl can have boxes full of NEW socks, shirts, bras and so on. I never knew that you can change everything you wear every day.

    What helped me feel good nevertheless was communication. I went straight to people and talked, asked questions, did speeches, told jokes.
    At some moment you catch that feeling of change in attitude.

  29. Kerplunk
    Kerplunk May 23, 2013 at 5:23 am |

    I am often mystified — at least somewhat, since I am not entirely unaware, of course, that many women feel this way — by articles and posts such as this one. I honestly couldn’t care less about being unattractive.

    I’m pretty sure that I am fairly ugly, though I can’t be entirely sure because my boyfriend and ex-boyfriend don’t think so, and are quite adamant about it. So, who knows? What I do know is that I don’t own any make-up, don’t shave my legs or armpits, have not been to a hair salon in something like 30 years (I’m 49), and only very grudgingly — and not as often as I would have to in order to give the impression that it does not exist — bleach my mustache.

    I am saying this not to imply that I am somehow special, but because there is sometimes a tendency to discount opinions or experiences that are not thought of as universal, especially when it comes to issues forced onto women by societal standards.

    It’s not my place to tell anyone that they don’t have to care about how they look (and I say this because in my experience no one else actually does care about how you look), but if anyone is looking for advice, that would be my advice. We are much more self-conscious than others are conscious of us.

    Concerning the article linked here, my amateur-psychologist guess is that its author suffers from body dysmorphic disorder.

    1. mh
      mh May 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

      I think, though, some of what the author is talking about is not only her actual appearance, but how she perceives she is being treated because her appearance is somehow different. I think that’s an important distinction.

      In a slightly different vein than what the author wrote: I really don’t care about my own looks and I hate “upkeep,” but I’m aware that there is a certain amount of implied communication in how one presents one’s physical self. I’m also aware that I am not very good at this kind of communicating.

      Unfortunately, the perception of a person who’s bad at “upkeep” is often globalized to everything else about that person. I am frequently underestimated, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of my appearance – and fair or not, I have to ask: do I try to conform, or do I work twice as hard to prove myself in ways unrelated to my appearance?

      There’s room for some serious angst there without it being body dysmorphia.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L May 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

      my amateur-psychologist guess is that its author suffers from body dysmorphic disorder.

      I wish people would stop making that kind of amateur-psychologist guess. I very much doubt you have any real idea of what body dysmorphic disorder involves. I’ve had to learn something about it, just to be able to explain when I have to that it isn’t the same thing as gender dysphoria, and why trans people with gender dysphoria that includes body dysphoria are not, in fact, “disordered.”

      1. Willard
        Willard May 24, 2013 at 12:46 am |

        Donna, you wouldn’t happen to have links, titles, ISBNs, etc somewhere in your noggin would you? I’d be interested in reading.

      2. Kerplunk
        Kerplunk May 25, 2013 at 3:22 am |

        You are right. I was hoping that by qualifying my comment with the words “amateur-psychologist” and “guess,” that I was making it clear that this was not a remark that I felt should be taken as presuming to be authoritative in any way. My mistake. Apologies.

    3. Donna L
      Donna L May 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm |

      in my experience no one else actually does care about how you look

      That may be your experience, but it rather obviously isn’t universal. Just ask anyone whose appearance transgresses certain limits of gender-normativity, which tend be considerably narrower for AMAB people than AFAB people. And I don’t just mean trans women who are “visibly trans”; there’s a far greater universe of people who’ve learned that others do sometimes actually care about how they look.

      1. Kerplunk
        Kerplunk May 25, 2013 at 3:26 am |

        You’re right about this as well. I was only thinking about, and meaning to refer to, the small ways in which people might feel self-conscious (things like a bad hair day, or a zit).

    4. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet May 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

      I’m in the same boat–I’m completely mystified as to why one would ever care if one appeared attractive or not.

      We’re all just bags of meat and water after all; a few inches or different textures don’t make that much difference.

      If I’m trying to get a job I’ll try to appear as attractive as possible, but only because studies have shown that it helps. I can’t imagine actually experiencing any emotions based on how other’s think you look.

      1. A4
        A4 May 23, 2013 at 10:35 pm |

        I can’t imagine actually experiencing any emotions based on how other’s think you look.

        I don’t believe this.

        1. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm |

          Don’t then?

          It’s just a general extension of my overall difficulty in understanding how anyone can care what anyone thinks about almost anything.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

        Think of all the crap kids go through at school for being too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too dark, too pale*, too different in the slightest way. Think of the emotions kids can go through with that sort of bullying. It can leave one very vulnerable and insecure for a long time.

        *Yeah, this is a thing – when not having a tan meant you were treated as a freak.

        1. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 25, 2013 at 11:27 pm |

          Yeah I went through plenty of that bullying. I still don’t get it. Why would what those kids said or thought meant anything to me?

          I mean, I know that it *does* hurt people very badly, I just don’t really get why.

    5. Alexandra
      Alexandra May 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |

      I’m twenty-three, and sometimes I can’t wait to be in my forties, just so I will be past the “mating game” period where I feel almost obliged to decorate myself like some weird patriarchy clown in order to attract a mate.

      1. EG
        EG May 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

        I’m nearing my forties, and I’m going to ask that you rephrase this so it doesn’t come across as implying that those of us at such an advanced age have lost all hope of romantic engagement.

        1. Tyris
          Tyris May 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

          Also, it’s completely possible to lose such hope much, much earlier.

        2. Angie unduplicated
          Angie unduplicated May 23, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

          I was in my mid-fifties before I lost hope. My work wardrobe consists of fifty-cent t-shirts, dollar scrub pants, and runners, and I am thoroughly unattractive. I compensate by compulsory extroversion. After hours and a cool shower, I change into satin nighties and cute houseshoes, slide into satin sheets with dinner, a book, and sweet solitude, and regain my sense of self, aka The Sexist Public Be Damned.
          My rx for the New Yorker would be a form-fitting “I Love My Attitude Problem” t-shirt, nude beaches and workout sessions, and a reminder that her biodiversity is a valuable gift to consumer-conformist Manhattan.

        3. Alexandra
          Alexandra May 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

          Apologies, EG. I guess I meant that I am looking forward to some magical future period where I will no longer give a fuck, and as a young’un I sorta assumed that would come in my forties or fifties.

          Although I suppose I could just start living my life according to the poem,

          “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
          With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me…”

          by Jenny Joseph: Warning

        4. Donna L
          Donna L May 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm |

          that would come in my forties or fifties.


          When I am an old woman

          Wow, you really must be young! I don’t think those two statements go together.

          This reminds me of when I was helping edit a book a friend of mine wrote when she was in her early 30’s, and felt compelled to suggest to her that juxtaposing a reference to people turning 50 with the description “entering their twilight years” was not the best way of phrasing the significance of that birthday.

        5. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

          40s and 50s is old to me; since almost all of my family members haven’t lived past 60.

        6. Alexandra
          Alexandra May 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm |

          augh, I appear to have foot-in-mouth disease today. I was thinking of that poem because my grandmother had it up in her house; I don’t think people in their forties and fifties are old! I apologize again!!

        7. EG
          EG May 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

          No worries, Alexandra. I know you didn’t mean it that way.

          If it offers you any hope, I started to give much less of a fuck in my mid-30s. I still care about my appearance, but only in ways that give me pleasure–i.e. I enjoy creating a given image through clothing. But I rarely wear any make-up, and when my hair doesn’t look right, I just don’t care much–I’ve got too much to do and worry about.

        8. Donna L
          Donna L May 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

          Absolutely, Alexandra; no apologies necessary. I find this kind of thing to be quite funny. (Especially what my friend said in the draft of her book!)

          For obvious reasons, which I tried to explain a little bit earlier in the thread, I can’t pretend that I don’t care about my appearance. The one thing that’s made it easier for me is that being attractive to men isn’t a concern for me and never really has been.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L May 23, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

        God. Twenty-three. My son turned 23 last month.

      3. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

        I do feel rather shallow when I see most of the attitudes in here, because I really do worry about looking attractive to people I pass as I walk down the street. Like if I smile at someone and they don’t smile back, I’m checking myself in the reflection of the next shop window. I’m certainly not looking for romance, but somehow crave approval. I would never want to start a conversation with a woman who returned a smile to me on the subway but I would somehow feel a lesser person if she didn’t. Does that just make me incredibly vain and immature?

        1. XtinaS
          XtinaS May 24, 2013 at 12:19 am |

          Probably insecure in some fashion. Might be therp o’clock.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |

          Probably insecure in some fashion

          Xtina, I must take issue with your use of the word ‘probably’ ;)

        3. XtinaS
          XtinaS May 25, 2013 at 4:03 am |

          ‘Sokay; I take issue with your use of asking feminists to diagnose you instead of seeking help*. ;)

          (* Against all odds, I am genuine when I refer to therps. Therps have helped me tremendously, in major and minor ways.)

    6. Azalea
      Azalea May 24, 2013 at 11:57 am |

      We are much more self-conscious than others are conscious of us.

      I agree and disagree with this line of thinking. I think I look nice. I am regularly told that I am very attractive. The flaws I see when I look at myself seem to be invisible to those passerbys who compliment me and those who see me on a regular basis. To me my flaws are BIG AND OBVIOUS, whereas the physical characteristics that make me attractive are subtle and insignificant.

      So yeah at the end of the day I just want to be attractive to ME. Do *I* like the way I look with my hair like that ,or my clothes like this, my skin clear enough, my body toned enough, too much weight, not enough weight?

      But i think what makes people self conscious, as another poster pointed out, was teh comparison of how other people – deemed attractive- are treated vs how they are treated. Maybe this means, witnessing a beautiful woman getting a freebie, compliments, a door held while she has NOTHING in her arms but the door not remaining open for them when they are right behind her.

  30. born in east LA
    born in east LA May 23, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

    i just remember what my grandma used to tell me—other people arent thinking about you at all, they are thinking about themselves

  31. umami
    umami May 24, 2013 at 7:20 am |

    Ugh, I wish I hadn’t read that. Sometimes I ignore how I feel about my looks and tell myself I’ve grown past caring, sometimes I just convince myself I’m ugly so I won’t have to think about it, sometimes I talk myself into feeling pretty. I was on one of the latter swings, based mostly on the reactions other people have had to me lately.

    But I look rather like that blogger. 5’7 (and I didn’t actually previously know that was a height deemed officially unattractive by society, but I guess I do now, although I don’t know if it’s too short, too tall or too inbetween) with pale skin and big blue eyes, and now I’m having an attack of “well, if she’s so ugly I guess I’m that ugly too.” Sigh. I hate this. I know there’s some disordered thinking in there but I have no idea how to get at it. Logic and reason doesn’t do anything. It’s all too inchoate to argue with.

    (I’m not asking for suggestions, just complaining! Therapy also does nothing, and I don’t respond to meds.)

  32. Kungfulola
    Kungfulola May 24, 2013 at 11:17 am |

    I feel unattractive all the time. I know how ugly I am, and why that is. I see how the beautiful women around me are treated differently. I know that there are words I will never hear, things and experiences I will never get to do or feel or have. I know that the only escape is death. When it seems unbearable, I remember all of the people in my life who are so kind to me, and how much I owe them. I remember that I have a duty to honour them by giving them my loyalty and encouragement. I have a responsibility to show them how brilliant and beautiful they are, and to help them bloom into their greatness. I was made ugly and unwomanly so that I would never be distracted from my charge or lulled into laziness by comfort. My purpose is to be useful and nurturing until I die, and then I’ll be free. Until then, I have work to do.

    1. Azalea
      Azalea May 24, 2013 at 11:43 am |

      I see how the beautiful women around me are treated differently. I know that there are words I will never hear, things and experiences I will never get to do or feel or have.

      That’s messed up. Call me argumentative but my first impulse to your statement that you know you’re ugly was ; you’re probably not. Only because I assume you were comparing yourself to what other people think is beautiful. I like to think (and hope) the people treating the women they find attractive/beautiful differently than they treat you aren’t showing you less respect or otherwise being cruel by way of mistreatment. I know that doesn’t soothe or solve anything but I’m holding hope for humanity here that it isn’t great treatment vs. horrible treatment and moreso great treatmeant vs decent treatment.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve May 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

      I feel unattractive all the time. I know how ugly I am, and why that is. I see how the beautiful women around me are treated differently. I know that there are words I will never hear, things and experiences I will never get to do or feel or have. I know that the only escape is death. When it seems unbearable, I remember all of the people in my life who are so kind to me, and how much I owe them. I remember that I have a duty to honour them by giving them my loyalty and encouragement. I have a responsibility to show them how brilliant and beautiful they are, and to help them bloom into their greatness. I was made ugly and unwomanly so that I would never be distracted from my charge or lulled into laziness by comfort. My purpose is to be useful and nurturing until I die, and then I’ll be free. Until then, I have work to do.

      I cried when I read this (it’s that kind of morning.) These kind of posts make me very emotional and maybe thats why I’ve fallen into the trap of ‘telling women what they feel.’

      I won’t do that this time. What I will say, is that, in my opinion, kungfulola, just from this comment you sound like a beautiful woman by any metric which I consider important.

      1. XtinaS
        XtinaS May 25, 2013 at 4:04 am |

        (Buncha “I” statements there, Bob.)

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

          (Buncha “I” statements there, Bob.)

          Agreed…probably went a bit overboard with the “I”s in order to show I wasn’t telling her what ‘she’ felt.

    3. xenu01
      xenu01 May 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

      I feel unattractive all the time. I know how ugly I am, and why that is. I see how the beautiful women around me are treated differently. I know that there are words I will never hear, things and experiences I will never get to do or feel or have. I know that the only escape is death.

      I am not going to come in here and tell you you are beautiful because that doesn’t really help me. I understand, from one unpretty to another, and pretty people DO get treated differently, and it is true and you are not making it up and I believe you. I also thought for a long time that my only duty in life was to help my pretty, more talented sister succeed. In my case, I actually had to get away from a family who, while well-meaning, also believed this and was helping me feel the same way.

      What I want to do is tell you this:
      1) Find a therapist. If it doesn’t work within your budget, there are other options. I am and was a poor and was able to find a sliding scale therapist in my area to work through my feelings of worthlessness. Here is a post on the excellent Captain Awkward website which talks about low-cost mental healthcare. I actually recommend reading the whole site because there is a lot of really good really cathartic stuff there.

      2) Maybe search out an online community in which you can participate and feel heard and validated without people knowing what you look like? It is kind of like a blind audition- it helps to know that people think you are interesting or angry or nice or weird or cool or whatever just from your words and personality. This can be one, or maybe Shakesville, which was my first safe online anon community in which I could feel active. Feel free to find your own (Goodreads! Fly Fishing Forum! Etc.).

      3) When you feel more comfortable in your own skin, go and find a meetup group where you can hang out with strangers who share your interests. Gaming nights are good for that, or maybe meetups in which people go to the movies, or again, whichever interest appeals to you the most. Here is the best part: not only do you get to see fellow people having fun (a lot of them will be fellow unpretties) , but if you don’t have a good time you can un-join the group and drop them all like hot potatoes.

      4) Read The Blue Castle. The heroine, Valancy Stirling, is plain and unmarried and scandalously old at 29 (it was written in 1926). Her family treats her badly or ignores her, and everyone jokes about how plain she is. Then she finds out she may have a serious health condition and remembers how much she wants to live.

      Hugs if you want them. Please don’t give up and just wait to die.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune May 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

        As yet another unpretty, seconding almost everything (I haven’t read The Blue Castle, and I would highly recommend staying away from Shakesville if your main interest is forming a community, as there are some deeply bizarre mods there). Also, other communities that have meetups are Captain Awkward (I think I’ve seen you there though?).

        Also, as a friend of unpretties, may I also say that familiarity breeds hotness? I have so many friends who when I met them, I felt objectively weren’t good-looking, but be damned if I can remember why now. And people have had the same reaction to me, I think, lol.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L May 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

          I’ve noticed as well that whenever I know and like someone, I no longer am able to see their faces “objectively,” and they become beautiful to me. Which suggests that seeing people “objectively” has no objective meaning in the first place.

        2. xenu01
          xenu01 May 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

          This is true. Even things like bad breath and gnarly toes get cute on someone you like. :)

          And yes, you have seen me on Captain Awkward- I used to be quite active there until my last undergrad semester kicked my ass. Anyway, I miss it there! For both Ms. Captain herself and the commenters.

          PS @ Donna *boosh!* mind blown.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L May 25, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

          PS @ Donna *boosh!* mind blown.

          What? Did I say something wrong?

        4. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

          I’d watch saying things about Shakesville mac. I made a wisecrack about them once and Donna called a giraffe on me. My post was scrubbed and I was put in moderation.

        5. tigtog
          tigtog May 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm | *

          I doubt that had anything to do with who you were “wisecracking” about, Barnacle Strumpet.

          If you have any further snide insinuations to make about our moderation team, at least have the courtesy to do so on a #spillover thread.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune May 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

          I made a wisecrack about them once and Donna called a giraffe on me. My post was scrubbed and I was put in moderation.

          Barnacle, I recall that incident, I think, and I don’t think it was your statements re: Shakesville as much as your comments on that thread in general, which I recall being pretty judgy and not remotely nice. Also, I think you were talking about one person in particular, which does tend to attract the Wrath of Mod here, no matter who the particular other is. I’ve been mod-warned for talking badly about Amanda Marcotte (largely in ignorance at the time), but never for getting snarky with her in a conversation.

        7. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

          [this off-topic discussion belongs on #spillover ~ moderator team]

        8. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet May 25, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

          tig-tog, I have indeed taken it to the spillover post, and await your clarification of the matter with bated breath.

        9. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve May 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm |

          Also, as a friend of unpretties, may I also say that familiarity breeds hotness? I have so many friends who when I met them, I felt objectively weren’t good-looking, but be damned if I can remember why now. And people have had the same reaction to me, I think, lol.

          I was thinking along these lines too. I could get used to anybody’s looks within a week, no matter what they looked like and then i would just see the person that I know and like. Whereas if someone was, for example, a Holocaust denier or someone else ‘ugly on the inside,’ I couldn’t get over that ever.

      2. kungfulola
        kungfulola May 27, 2013 at 10:26 pm |

        Let me begin by saying that your affirmation of my feelings means a lot to me. I’m truly grateful.

        Thank you for the link to Captain Awkward. I sometimes go looking for cathartic stuff online, but it seems hard to find because there are things that no one ever talks about, you know?

        Also, The Blue Castle is one of my favourite books ever. My aunt, who was always giving me books to encourage my love of reading, gifted it to me when I was 12. Sometimes I still read the dust-pile story out loud to myself. It helps.

    4. Hrovitnir
      Hrovitnir May 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

      Oh, Kungfulola, no! *hugs if you want them*

      I feel unattractive all the time. I know how ugly I am, and why that is. I see how the beautiful women around me are treated differently.

      Yes, you are treated differently based on how you look. Yes, there are some people who could probably be described as “ugly”. Not many though – most people are in between beautiful and ugly. Even if you ARE ugly, you shouldn’t be feeling unattractive all the time. You don’t deserve to feel bad about yourself constantly, and it’s possible to be realistic and not feel that way.

      I know that there are words I will never hear, things and experiences I will never get to do or feel or have. I know that the only escape is death. When it seems unbearable, I remember all of the people in my life who are so kind to me, and how much I owe them. I remember that I have a duty to honour them by giving them my loyalty and encouragement. I have a responsibility to show them how brilliant and beautiful they are, and to help them bloom into their greatness. I was made ugly and unwomanly so that I would never be distracted from my charge or lulled into laziness by comfort. My purpose is to be useful and nurturing until I die, and then I’ll be free. Until then, I have work to do.

      Nononono. Finding romantic love may be harder but by god it is so possible. And you can have friends who love you. No one is destined to never have anyone tell them they’re wonderful, or they love them.

      And the people who are kind to you are kind to you because they want to be. You don’t owe them any behaviour. You give what you want to give, to people who want that caring from you.

      It is possible to not feel this way. The way you look affects your life but it is not a doom. People can and will love you. Please try and believe if even if you can’t feel it.

      Second a call for therapy, if it’s possible for you. Bearing in mind that not all therapists are equal, nor equally suitable for you. It’s OK to say no, I want to see someone else. And it’s not easy, it takes time and work. But it can help!

      1. kungfulola
        kungfulola May 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

        This made me cry, but in a good way.

        I’m ok WRT romantic partnering, I’m happily gay-married to an amazing woman. That is part of why I feel so weird and hardly ever talk about this stuff. I’m lucky to be pansexual and not have to worry about appearing f*ckable to Patriarchy-indocrinated men; I know there are women like me, but who are het and trapped by it. I just feel like I’ve missed out on things, things that other women take for granted. Basically, everything that goes with being read as a sexually available cis woman. It’s often hard to comprehend why there are so many women all around me who have all of this love and security and acknowledgement of their femininity, who swim and dive and curl up to sleep on mounds of it like Smaug with his gold, and never give it a thought. And then, there’s me.

        I am trying not to let this descend into navel-gazing wankitude. I have a huge tangled mess of issues. Let me close with a story, if anyone is still reading. In 2008, I met Russell Brand. It was intoxicating. The way he talked to me, looked at me and touched me (I got two cuddles and a kiss on the cheek), it was as if I were Helen of Troy. And I know that he only did it because he knew he would be one of the only men ever to treat me that way. He’s obsessed with novelty and perversity, and what is more novel and perverse than a handsome lothario treating a chubby little pipsqueak like a queen. I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me as taste of how it feels to be normal and safe in the world.

    5. EG
      EG May 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

      Kungfulola, I’m so sorry you’re hurting the way this comment sounds like you’re hurting. Have you ever read Jane Eyre? What you’re saying about yourself sounds exactly what St. John tells Jane towards the end of the novel (“You are formed for labor, not for love,” he says), and I’ve always found him to be appallingly emotionally abusive. I don’t think it’s less abusive when you’re telling it to yourself, and I wish you wouldn’t treat somebody I like and respect that way. You can have purpose, helping others, and love and help for yourself. You have as much a right to bloom as anybody else does. Prioritzing yourself isn’t laziness.

      I strongly suspect that where you are now means that you won’t be able to accept what I’m saying, and I’m not pressuring you. But maybe you could put it away in the back of your mind to look at when you feel able to?

      1. kungfulola
        kungfulola May 27, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

        Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful. I won’t forget.

    6. A4
      A4 May 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm |

      You are a worthwhile person just like all of those you help. Your feelings are just as strong, your thoughts are just as real, and your face is just as human. You are a person, a unique object of the universe, full of emotion and poetry and love. Your purpose is to be and I love that you are.

      Your belief in the goodness of others in the face of such unkindness is nothing short of amazing. Greatness is not for the beautiful, it is for the living.

      1. kungfulola
        kungfulola May 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm |

        It’s very hard to believe all of those things. There were times when I lived as if they were true, and I was punished so humiliatingly that I could hardly bear it.

        I had rocks thrown at me at school, and I went to the Principal, who told me that I was so freakish I made myself a target and I should try harder to be someone else. I tried to have friendly conversations with a boy who walked home from school the same way I did, who was friendly back, then at an opportune time (for his popularity) accused me of sexually harassing him and had me publicly punished. The time I confided in a trusted adult about some sexual experimentation. She went to my beloved mother, who spent a twenty minute car ride crying with shame, said that she wished she could trade me for another daughter, and begged me to “be normal”. My Mom and I had a loving relationship and she was not abusive or a prude, I was just that inappropriate and weird. I was excited about the specialized theatre program I got into during high school and my therapist(!) said; “Well you probably wouldn’t make it as an actress, you don’t have the looks.” Listening to my brother talk at length about how much more beautiful my best friend is than me. Watching all of my friends get hit on and date and fend off creeps and have normal love lives, while I was treated like part of the scenery, like a telephone pole. Developing PCOS, gaining a ton of weight and facial hair very, very quickly.

        The cosmos is trying to tell me something. It’s bigger than I am, so I have to do what it says.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune May 27, 2013 at 11:34 pm |

          Listening to my brother talk at length about how much more beautiful my best friend is than me. Watching all of my friends get hit on and date and fend off creeps and have normal love lives, while I was treated like part of the scenery, like a telephone pole. Developing PCOS, gaining a ton of weight and facial hair very, very quickly.

          Wow. Uh. I feel exactly where you’re coming from. Big hugs if you want ‘em, KFL.

  33. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |

    I wonder if anyone else experiences this. There are times when I feel extremely unattractive based on my interior situation, i.e. I get massive migraines and when I go out to the shops or something I feel like people can see the agony radiating from me.

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra May 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

      Yes, totally. I get migraines too, and have developed some weird coping mechanisms, like walking around with one hand over the eye where I have the worst photophobia. I also wind up cringing when people speak loudly or turn on music. Thankfully, most people are polite enough to keep quiet and/or oblivious enough to strangers that nobody comments, but I feel you.

      I’m pretty well aware of how internal my perceptions of my attractiveness are because I’ve kept track of my internal perceptions of my ‘fatness’ and my actual weight upon that day – and there’s basically no correlation. Similarly, family members will spontaneously compliment my appearance on days when I know objectively I’ve done absolutely no grooming – because they’re in good moods and are therefore affectionate. I think for a lot of us we use beauty as a shorthand for self-worth, or for worth of others, and so will call people “beautiful” when what we’re really thinking is, “I like you!”

    2. Tyris
      Tyris May 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

      We’re unreliably informed that occasional bouts of worrying that the people around you may be telepaths is “pretty normal.”

    3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help May 25, 2013 at 1:17 am |

      I’m sort of the opposite – not that I get migraines (thank the gods!) but when my crappy knee is playing up and I’m limping, I’m more “CAN YOU NOT SEE I AM LIMPING GET OUT OF MY WAY”. Because of course everyone’s eyes should be trained on how I’m walking and the PAIN SIGNALS coming through several layers of clothing from said knee. :P

  34. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

    I pretend I am a brain in a tank.

    I hate my body. I used to be short and thin; now I am short and thick. It does not fit my image of myself. It makes me feel like a troll, or a dwarf. (Tolkein dwarf or D&D dwarf, not a reference to a condition applicable to real humans.) The fact that my natural facial expression is a scowl doesn’t help, but I think I look goofy when I’m smiling so that doesn’t help either.

    So I just pretend it’s not there. I don’t look in mirrors if I can help it. I don’t concern myself with what my clothes look like other than “clean” and “not obviously mismatched”. I don’t let my head go anywhere near the question of my appearance. And I delete all the photos that anyone in the family manages to take of me, except for the ones I mock (photos, not family members).

    When I am forced to remember that appearance is a thing, and that I would actually care about it if I let myself… results are not good. So I just refuse to think about it.

    1. Li
      Li May 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

      I don’t look in mirrors if I can help it.

      This was my experience for a long time. I especially hated seeing my reflection accidentally when I was out, because it inevitably caused me to go into a panic about my appearance. Fortunately I am now much more ok with seeing my reflection so surprise mirrors are no longer I thing I have to deal with. I still hate seeing photos of myself though, especially when I’ve felt pressured to smile in them.

  35. igglanova
    igglanova May 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

    I am currently struggling to deal with this question. I am fortunate enough to have gone through life without internalizing any sense of personal ugliness. But, lately, the bigoted opinions of others are starting to wear on me in a way they hadn’t before. I guess there’s a limit to the number of times you can be misgendered in public before it starts to get to you, you know? I can brush off the notion of an androgynous appearance as value-neutral, but the immediate discomfort of others is painfully evident in their reactions. They might deflect their discomfort back onto me with laughter or ridicule, or panic and forcefully apologize to me in a way that just ups the awkwardness factor and exacerbates the offence.

    How do other people deal with this shit? Because I just…don’t. I can reject gendered notions of attractiveness all I want, but that doesn’t make the hostility of others magically disappear.

  36. Nicole
    Nicole May 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

    Cross-posting because this is something I struggled with A LOT in the recent past:

    This breaks my heart, and I remember feeling this way in college. I’m Asian, and I went to a predominantly white college with the slimmest, blondest, tallest girls you will ever see. I’m 5’6″ and a size 8, and I felt so fat and short ALL THE TIME. I never felt so ugly as I did my freshman year of college, and it really took a toll not only on my confidence but my health. I thought it was weird because I never felt that way in high school – I actually felt confident about my looks then (not like I’m the hottest person on the planet, but that I looked fine enough), so I knew I had the ability to feel better.

    As a result, I did something I thought I’d never do. I joined the Filipino club at school. I always thought that those kinds of clubs were silly and self-important (internal racism much?) but suddenly it was nice to be around a bunch of people that looked like me. I still kept all my other friends – it’s not their fault that they were slim and/or blond, I just had to deal with it – and it felt good to have that balance and know that everyone looks different by hanging out with a bunch of different looking people. Randomly, I joined the Indian and Folklorico clubs because I got pulled into those circles as I looked for new friends, so it was nice to add some other faces and bodies to the mix.

    I don’t know how you can find a group of friends that look like you outside of school (I miss the variety of college clubs just being there), but my school stopped feeling like an Abercrombie ad and more like the real world after that. I stopped obsessing over the model-like students everywhere and re-shifted my focus away from my appearance and back to my life and, especially, school (thank goodness, since that’s the whole reason I was there). Moving back to the SF Bay Area was a total blessing. And it’s nice to have forums like this to discuss these issues on now :)

    1. miga
      miga May 29, 2013 at 2:04 am |

      Same here. I’m from the midwest, where girls tend to have more “meat on their bones,” as we would say. I’m tallish, naturally curvy, and fit into the stereotype of what a blatina is “supposed” to have: ie full lips, very curly hair, and a large and shapely bottom. I was also heavier than I am now, as a result of my diet.
      I was in advanced classes in school which were mostly white, so while I had friends I felt largely alone. I had no one to talk to about hair concerns (not even the black girls because my hair is more “mixed”), about critical theories of race, or how I felt unpretty because of the body type I was given. At least, though, I felt largely comfortable with my weight.
      When I went to college it was like puberty all over again: here I was-tall, large, and out of place among the shorter, tinier, richer white girls from the coasts who always looked perfect even in their hippie disheveled-ness. I learned to be comfortable with myself by surrounding myself with other mixed and brown people. We all had different body types but we were all beautiful and inquisitive and gentle and supportive. I considered it vain for me to accept compliments or appreciate being told I was pretty and worthy of respect, but they kept telling me anyway and I began to believe it. It was harder to feel “pretty-for-a-black-girl”. I started to feel pretty as me.

  37. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 May 25, 2013 at 12:09 am |

    And it’s nice to have forums like this to discuss these issues on now :)

    Yes it is. Feministe rocks!

  38. Andie
    Andie May 25, 2013 at 12:39 am |

    I am one of those who gets told she is pretty and has a hard time believing it, because as a child and adolescent I got saddled with what I felt was “the works”… I felt overweight (more so than I was, in retrospect) and I had glasses AND bucked teeth. Crooked bucked teeth. So awkward. I still have all these issues – I had braces, which fixed most of the crookedness but fixing the overbite fully would have required breaking and re-setting my jaw… No Thanks!

    But over the years I’ve learned to either reframe the so-called “bad stuff”… You know, instead of berating myself for being fat, I try to tell myself that fat is okay (because, you know.. It IS), and I can feel smoking hot at any size, especially if I am feeling good internally. I’ve learned to enjoy wearing glasses. I don’t have a huge overbite. I have a brilliant toothy grin.

    You know.. Reframing and positive self talk.

    I still have times where I feel horribly gawky and weird and unnattractive.. And sometimes I indulge those days and say “you know what? Fuck it. Today I am ugly and sloppy and gross and will continue to be because today I am all out of fucks to give.” Other days I will force myself I to putting extra effort into taking care of myself and talking nicely to myself.

  39. Li
    Li May 25, 2013 at 4:14 am |

    I still do pretty ridiculous things to myself when I feel unattractive. I hate my nose because I have an asymmetrical septum. When I get really obsessively focused on it sometimes I try to physically force it straight and hold it there until I can smell blood. Getting a nose piercing was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because having a stud on one side helps focus the asymmetry down to something I feel I have chosen for myself. Putting sparkles in things totally makes them easier to live with.

    I deal with my dislike of my wide neck by having a beard and shaving below my chinline so that I can feel like the point at which my face starts is really obviously differentiated. Which gets in the way of being able to present in more feminine ways a bit but I just completely obsess over it if I’m clean shaven.

    Both of those things I know other people don’t notice on nearly the scale I do (if they notice them at all). I tend to be much better at dealing with the aspects of my appearance that *are* frequently judged by people, like my gender presentation, my hair when it’s coloured/bleached/part-shaved, or having a large amount of body hair (particularly as it appears on my back). Sometimes that means finding people who I find attractive myself who share some of those features. Sometimes that means giving myself a really good belly rub while repeating my tummy-positivity mantra (“A belly is the hug you give yourself!”). Sometimes it means just not giving a shit what straight people and femme-haters think about me or making sure I’m in a group with other tough queers so we can support eachother in laughing the street harassment off and talking about how amazing we all look.

    And in total emergencies I just break out some Honey Boo Boo, because that is some life-affirming wisdom right there.

  40. EG
    EG May 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

    I get my meds readjusted.

    I’m not joking. Feeling deeply and irreparably unattractive is a major sign of depression for me. I even developed a whole idea that I was beautiful, but not attractive, and you could tell because I wasn’t attracting people to me (in my opinion, largely because I was depressed). This was a specious bullshit rationale to rationalize my feelings of misery, self-loathing, and worthlessness, and when I feel those feelings or their rationale returning, it means that something’s wrong.

    I’m very grateful to my mother for always affirming my worth, both physically and mentally, which I have been able to use as bedrock.

    This thread is making me very sad as I read how many people I care about and enjoy reading/writing with feel unworthy physically. Alara, Kungfulola, Li–I think you’re all wonderful people. I’m sorry our society is hurting you so badly.

    1. EG
      EG May 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

      And, thinking about it, I’m grateful for growing up in NYC where just leaving the house meant seeing a great variety of kinds of human beauty racially, ethnically, and culturally, which worked against the idea that there was only one acceptable way to look.

      1. PeggyLuWho
        PeggyLuWho May 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

        I’ve never lived in NYC, but this is how I’ve felt when I visited, and also how I feel in Oakland. I think it’s because most of the time, if I feel unattractive, it’s due to internalized racism. NYC is the only US city I’ve ever been to where no one asked me “what are you?” or looked at my face and gave me the “that doesn’t make sense” look that people give me when they’re trying to figure out which label to stick on me.

        1. miga
          miga May 29, 2013 at 2:08 am |

          That’s really nice. I moved to NY because I figured those kinds of questions would stop- unfortunately they haven’t for me :( Guess I’m still a weirdo. But an extraordinary one (that’s good, right?!)

        2. PeggyLuWho
          PeggyLuWho May 29, 2013 at 2:48 am |

          That sucks, miga. There should be one place on earth where each of us gets to be without having to feeling like we have to explain.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L May 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      I even developed a whole idea that I was beautiful, but not attractive, and you could tell because I wasn’t attracting people to me (in my opinion, largely because I was depressed).

      Oddly enough, I’ve had very similar thoughts myself: I have trouble imagining that I could ever apply the word “beautiful” to myself under any circumstances and believe it, but enough people have told me in the 8 years since I transitioned that I’m not ugly, and that I’m perfectly OK-looking, that I’m able to accept that (most of the time!). (I also agree that living in New York City is helpful in that regard; it’s what finally convinced me that my visibly “Jewish” nose wouldn’t prevent me from being perceived as a woman: all I had to do was walk around Manhattan for a while and actually look at other women’s noses to realize that mine is hardly unique!)

      But I’ve decided that since people aren’t ever actually “attracted” to me, that must mean that there’s something about me that makes me “not attractive”; some unspoken signal I give off (or don’t give off). And it can’t just be my age, because I’ve known other women my age who are obviously “attractive” in that sense.

      I think one thing that helped convince me of this was something that a (non-trans) woman I met in person shortly after my transition wrote about me on an online forum — that one would think to look at me that I was what she described as a “born woman,” but I completely lacked what she referred to as “erotic energy,” and was entirely sexless in that regard. (Now, it happens that when we met I was very preoccupied worrying about my then-15 year old son, whom I had permitted to walk around Greenwich Village by himself for the first time while I was at this gathering, so emanating erotic energy was hardly paramount in my mind — not that it ever is; I wouldn’t begin to know how to do it! — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t internalize what she wrote.) So, yes, OK-looking but not attractive; it makes sense to me for me. Not that I’d ever buy it for anyone else (certainly not you), but I’m always much nicer and less judgmental towards other people than I am towards myself.

    3. Li
      Li May 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

      This thread is making me very sad as I read how many people I care about and enjoy reading/writing with feel unworthy physically. Alara, Kungfulola, Li–I think you’re all wonderful people. I’m sorry our society is hurting you so badly.

      Thank you for saying this EG. My feelings about my body are one of those areas where I always consider myself relatively well off and not deserving of complaining/asking for support until I actually ask consider the details of my own experience. Just like I think things like “I had it pretty well as a queer young person at highschool” until I remember that “pretty well” included being sexually assaulted because of my sexuality, I tend to think that I don’t have issues with self-esteem because I generally like my body until I hate parts of it enough to injure myself trying to fix them. It’s part of what I inherited from my father in insisting that things are ok and normal when actually they are pretty fucked up. So, it’s nice to feel validated I guess?

      1. A4
        A4 May 29, 2013 at 9:20 am |

        “I had it pretty well as a queer young person at highschool” until I remember that “pretty well” included being sexually assaulted because of my sexuality

        Oh gosh I feel you on this right here. Sometimes I realize how much I whitewash the bullshit I’ve been given for my sexuality and realizing that and seeing through it helps me understand for a moment why I can feel inexplicable bouts of great anger and helps me deal with them.

    4. miga
      miga May 29, 2013 at 2:19 am |

      I experienced the reverse. I felt attractive but not beautiful. Both peers, grown men, and men old enough to be my grandfather would approach me and harass me; white children would run up and touch my bottom as if it was their toy; people would grab at my hair or talk about my body or take pictures surreptitiously as if I didn’t matter and nobody seemed to stand up and protect me. I didn’t get the positive and genteel treatment that my smaller white peers got. I didn’t get treated like a delicate flower that needed to be praised and protected.
      I felt like a cheap sex doll, my curves made solely for others’ amusement- not like a quality, beautiful human being deserving of respect. It probably contributed to my assaults years later, because I felt like I deserved what I got. That my body was just fulfilling its true purpose- to be used by men and tossed aside.

      1. Jessica
        Jessica May 29, 2013 at 11:53 am |

        That sounds horrible! Did you report any of the sexual assaults? But I know how it feels like to not be able to do anything… I’ve been sexually assaulted during sex work (yes, it IS possible) but I had to deal with it myself.

  41. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm |

    I’m not joking. Feeling deeply and irreparably unattractive is a major sign of depression for me. I even developed a whole idea that I was beautiful, but not attractive, and you could tell because I wasn’t attracting people to me (in my opinion, largely because I was depressed). This was a specious bullshit rationale to rationalize my feelings of misery, self-loathing, and worthlessness, and when I feel those feelings or their rationale returning, it means that something’s wrong.

    This why I HATE when people refer to Sarah Palin as ‘attractive’ or ‘beautiful,’ and especially hate when they claim that it’s my ‘political bias’ that is blinding me.

    To which I reply ‘Sarah Palin repels me, she does not attract me it all, and I find her to be one of the ugliest humans alive. So how could I find her attractive or beautiful?’

    Then I get accused of political bias again.

    That’s why I told kungfulola that I found her attitude of loyalty beautiful, even though I get it sounded a bit tacky…

  42. Kyra
    Kyra May 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm |

    I look at myself in the mirror in my bathroom. It’s a big mirror, taking up most of that wall, and in front of it on either side are two hanging globe lights, frosted glass, that hang down from the ceiling to just above head level, reflected in the mirror, and the result is the most flattering light I’ve ever found anywhere. (The bathroom tile is a soft yellow, which may help.) I do a lot of staring into that mirror, fixing my appearance in my mind as it shows up there, where it’s most flattering.

    More specific things: I turn my head upside-down and ruffle my hair so when I flip it up it looks fuller. It only stays that way if I’ve washed it in the last six hours or so; otherwise it settles back flat pretty quick, but I have the image in the mirror of it full to keep in my mental picture of myself.

    Physical labor, actually, is the most effective thing at improving my self-image feelings. It focuses not on how I look but what I can do, and the aesthetic I’m going for shifts from “pretty” to “tough/strong/badass.” The pretty factor matters much less to me when I’m wearing men’s carpenter pants and steel-toed boots and work gloves and safety goggles, or when I’m covered in clay or sawdust or engine oil or smelling like fire from raku-firing clay or ozone from welding, or when I have that feeling of competence and accomplishment when I’ve pounded fence posts into the ground by hand or been carrying fifty-pound sacks of clay around or mixing a double batch of cement.

    I go to the gym and lift heavy, trying out the next increment up in the weights. There’s a certain feeling of accomplishment that comes from the max amount I can lift going up, even if I can only lift it once. The first time I did an unassisted pull-up I was elated for a week.

    So, basically, they boil down to “find a flattering reflection” and “use my strength.”

    1. Willard
      Willard May 25, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

      Sorry for the tangent, but…

      Oglaf!

      1. Kyra
        Kyra May 26, 2013 at 12:30 am |

        Yes! Oglaf.

        Or Grier, rather, to be more accurate.

  43. Kyra
    Kyra May 26, 2013 at 12:26 am |

    I just remembered one of the things I used to do, back in high school, when I had worse problems with feeling ugly.

    I would look around at everyone else, and ask myself, if I could be any of these other people, rather than myself, (body-wise), would I?

    And as soon as I applied to other people the sort of scrutiny I applied to myself, suddenly there was NO ONE who I considered good enough looking that I wanted to have their body instead of mine. Everybody had flaws, everybody had physical features I didn’t want, everybody was, in different ways, someone I didn’t want to look like.

    Not to say that I went around judging people as ugly, but rather realizing that even when I admired them as far more beautiful than I was, I didn’t want to be them.

    Suddenly the fact that I didn’t want to look like me didn’t seem so bad in comparison, and at the same time, the reason I wasn’t wanting to be anyone else was that they didn’t look like me.

    It was really something, back then, for a gawky, washed-out, geeky, awkward teen who rated seeing her profile in a dressing-room mirror as one of her top ten most traumatic memories to realize that she didn’t prefer, even, to look like her one friend who had competed in the Miss Minnesota pageant. Not if it meant no longer looking like herself.

    1. Tyris
      Tyris May 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

      So having read this, we went out into town and tried it. It went something like this:

      “What do you think, anyone we should bodyswap with?”
      “Yeah, that one over there!”
      “…that’s a mobile crane.”
      “So?”

      Not sure if purpose of experiment achieved or not…

      1. Willard
        Willard May 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

        Umm, purpose achieved…cranes are awesome! You can lift stuff, move around and get parts in movies. Plus if you ever want a new look, coat of paint!

  44. Adrian
    Adrian May 28, 2013 at 10:41 am |

    I’m a heterosexual man in my 50s. I respect the comments some have made about not understanding why people care about other’s opinions of them; I’m equally baffled as to how people can seem so unconcerned. I’ve always needed to belong, and for a variety of reasons belonging has always been a struggle. Being thought physically attractive was one more way I believed I could feel included, and one more way I failed in that pursuit.

    When I was younger and feeling especially ugly I’d throw myself into exercise, excessively and counter to my mental and physical health. I’ve learned not to do that, and the last decade what was once a form of self abuse (exercise) has become a healthy outlet. Just physical work in general tends to ground me and take my mind off of my concern for my appearance, and I guess the endorphins level me out for hours. It’s a nice relief.

  45. seisy
    seisy May 29, 2013 at 6:52 am |

    I wish I hadn’t read that. I was feeling pretty gorgeous and kickass today, but that’s all gone. I’ve got a very similar build to the woman writing the article, and now, even though I know it’s stupid, really stupid, I’m finding myself thinking, “oh, that’s bad?” because many of the things she points out as hideous-making are the things I was feeling proud of five minutes ago.

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