Two letters from people who feel ugly are below the jump.
(#367 ) Dear Captain Awkward:
I’ve never had much of a social life and I’ve had exactly one serious relationship ever (I’m in my late 20s now). That ended because, after more than a year, she decided she wasn’t attracted to me and we weren’t “soulmates” and she saw me as more of a friend. So that sucked but I’m pretty much over it now. I’ve been trying to meet people with a dating website and I’ve been on a few dates but there was never any chemistry, it always fizzled out after one or two dates.
But I met someone via the site earlier this year and I thought things were going well, we went on a few dates then I got The Fade Away. I thought it was too early to tell whether we really had potential as a couple but I thought we were having a good time, and it seems like the other person just suddenly did a 180. My last e-mail, in reply to her canceling plans we’d made, said basically “that’s OK! E-mail me if you want to get together some time.” And since then, there’s been nothing from her so I think that’s a pretty clear rejection.
I’m not really bothered by this one incident – people change their mind, that’s fine – but it’s starting to bother me that there might be something wrong with me, that I’m never going to meet someone where I want to be with them and they want to be with me.
The only people who ever show interest in me are people I’m not attracted to at all. Like guys way older than I am. On the one hand, they probably do that to lots of people and it probably doesn’t mean anything about me in particular. But on the other hand, it makes me worry that they think it’s a good idea to hit on me because I must be desperate. I try to be outgoing and friendly towards everybody – because it’s against my introvert nature and I’m making an effort to be more socially acceptable – and I think that also encourages these guys.
I’ve always been introverted and I was recently diagnosed with social anxiety. That diagnosis makes sense to me; I’m fine interacting with people at school or work and I’m OK at public speaking, it doesn’t really bother me. But I get a lot of anxiety about social situations like parties. I also have depression that’s being managed pretty well. So I’m working on those issues in therapy.
I think I have a fair bit going for me: I have my own money, I had a good job and I’ve gone back to school now so I can get a better one, I think I’m pretty laid-back and good at communicating and listening, I have some interesting hobbies and I pay attention to current events and pop culture. I’m very book-smart, which can be a pro or a con depending on the other person but I’m not interested in trying to date someone who’s turned off by intelligence anyway. I seem to have some Asperger’s-y traits, though my therapist said I don’t have Asperger’s, I know I can get intense about subjects that interest me but I’m really trying to curb that. I’m in a STEM field and people show interest in my work but I wonder if they’re just being polite and they really think I’m too nerdy.
Appearance-wise, I have acne that’s not much better than it was when I was a teenager (I’ve been to so many dermatologists, I feel like I’ve tried absolutely everything except Acutane, which I’m not going to try because it has awful, permanent side effects). And I’m kind of not fat but not thin either. I work out and I’m pretty fit, I can carry heavy things!, but that doesn’t result in me being fashionably thin. And I think I just have boring, not-very-attractive facial features. I try to wear nice clothes, I brush my teeth and hair and all that, and I wear concealer and mascara (the concealer hides the acne but makes it get worse, so I avoid wearing makeup as often as I think I can get away with it) but I feel like people see that and think “who does she think she’s fooling?”
I don’t think I look especially bad, not that much worse than average, but I can look at pictures of attractive people and I can see what features society labels as “attractive” and see that I don’t have them. And knowing that the ones in magazines are all Photoshopped doesn’t help, it doesn’t change the fact that everybody is looking at those fake photos and thinking “this is what attractive looks like,” even though nobody can look like that in real life.
I’m not hoping for a partner who’s out of my league or anything. But it worries me that the only people who’ve shown interest in me are borderline-creepy older men (even some who know I’m gay…) and a couple of women with serious emotional issues where what they look like doesn’t even enter into it: I wouldn’t go out with them whatever they looked like because I don’t need all their drama.
I’m beginning to think I’m doomed to be Forever Alone because all the interesting, nice people I’d be attracted to can get partners who are better looking than I am. Help?
What If The Ugly Duckling Is Actually Just An Ugly Duck?
(#368) Hi Captain!
I’m another boring old Really Insecure Dude. But hopefully it’s different enough to be a little bit interesting? No? Well, it’s still worth a shot.
I’m a straight, young-ish guy who is pretty much completely inexperienced, and the problem is that I’m ugly. You can talk about different strokes, different people like different things, but the fact is that by any sort of conventional standard and to virtually every woman, I’m profoundly unhandsome. Just extremely unattractive and ugly, and so things are kind of tough for me. Now, I don’t blame women for not being interested… I wouldn’t be either, if I were one. But it’s still hard. Beyond my appearance, I think I’m kind of an interesting person, and I have some hobbies that bring me some happiness, and that I like to share with other people. And I don’t consider myself socially inept. So on a superficial level, you’d think that I could just follow all the advice that’s been given here and elsewhere, and accept that my success rate is simply going to be lower. But I don’t think it really works that way.
See, the problem is that a lot of advice seems to be aimed at average-looking folks, guys and girls who already have some baseline “sexual market value”, and so there’s this unspoken assumption that they have something to offer right out of the gate, to people who don’t know them that well as individuals. Since I don’t have that, in my particular case, it all seems very… presumptuous, I guess. As an unhandsome man, I’m obviously going to have to do the approaching, but who am I to impose myself when I have nothing to offer? I wouldn’t be interested in ugly Stranger Me, or even Casual Friend Me, so why the hell am I presuming to ask her? If we’re in different leagues, and everyone and their mother can tell, I feel like it all becomes awkward and creepy, almost as if I feel entitled to waste someone’s time. And since I consider most women to be out of my league, definitely women that I’m attracted to, this poses a problem.
So my question is, do you have any dating advice specifically tailored to people who are conventionally unattractive? How should we go about this?
– Wishes He Was Normal
Dear Ugly Duckling (#367) and Wishes He Was Normal (#368):
Here is a picture of me from earlier this winter. It was featured prominently in my dating profile when I had a dating profile:
A few years ago I might have thought that was a terrible picture of me, but after reading a lot of Shapely Prose and other body acceptance blogs and books, I think it might be a GREAT picture. I was happy when it was taken. I was fucking killing that song. I was not thinking about how I looked or anything besides killing that song.
I share it with you guys today so you know that I’m not writing this advice from Mount Jolie-Pitt of Hollywood Beauty Standards.
So, all the dating advice (including the dating advice for “ugly” people) is here:
Check this one out, especially:
(This had a very happy ending!)
And also this:
There is some really good advice in there from General Expression, especially about breaking the habit of negative self-talk.
The truth is that some people will meet you and immediately think, “No. No way.”
Some of that might be about how you look. Some of that might be because of your personality. Some of that may be because they are already involved with someone, you are not of their preferred gender, you’re a vegan and they love meat, they don’t like the color of your socks or the cut of your jib, they’re really absorbed in their book. Whatever.
The truth is, you’re also going to look at a lot of people and think “No. Not for me.” So it would be a bad idea to set up everyone in the human race that you’re not currently dating as People Who Have Pre-emptively Rejected You Because You Are Not Good Looking Enough. That’s a lot to carry around.
Attraction is unfair and subjective. This is not a bug, it’s a feature. You get to be picky. They get to be picky. When you do connect, it’s awesome, because two picky people picked each other.
I almost never get approached in public by anyone I actually want to be talking to. It’s mostly just bored shitheads who see me as a way to pass the time on their boring public transit rides. Does that mean there is something wrong with me? I have almost never in my life approached someone in public for reasons of maybe we should date. Because that’s not my jam. But online dating turned out to really be my venue. I am awesome in writing. I could put up many pictures of myself and let people make whatever decisions they wanted about them from a distance. If people passed me up, FINE and GOOD. Plenty of people decided that I seemed neat and wrote to me or responded favorably when I wrote to them.
#367, you seem to have the assumption that because no one cool is approaching you, something is wrong. You’re doing all the right stuff by making an online dating profile and seem to have a great attitude. Maybe you’re just in a slump. Maybe you need to write to more people. Maybe some more people will also write to you. Some of them might be neat.
#368, you seem to have the assumption that you must approach people. Maybe make an online dating profile and see what happens. Write to some people. See who writes to you. Maybe bars/public spaces aren’t your venue. Maybe let go of the idea of leagues. Definitely, if you see a site that talks about people’s “sexual market value” like that’s an actual thing, close the site and maybe close your whole browser and delete it from your internet history. And definitely don’t talk about your “success rate” like that’s a thing.
What I can tell both of you is that you only get one body and one face, and you only get one life, and the most helpful thing you can do for yourselves is to learn to drive these miraculous vehicles like you stole them. If you approach people as if you have something to apologize for for merely existing with this body and that face, you are bringing a bunch of weird baggage into the interaction and making the other person do a lot of extra work to actually get to know you. You can’t be mad if they decide not to sign up to do that work within 5 seconds of meeting you.
You could do a lot worse than trying out what frequent & beloved commenter PomperaFirpa describes as Finding & Displaying The Awesome:
To that I’d add a big general: What if you aren’t going to find a dating partner right now? What else will you do with your time to make sure you have an awesome life? Maybe do that stuff for a while and circle back to dating another time when you’re feeling it.
Because you can’t make someone like you. There is no amount of cool or suave or good-looking you can be, no magic words or lines, that will make someone be into you if they are not. So you kind of have to let that whole thing go. Liking yourself, including the way you look, is a habit. Some of us learn it way late in life, but you can learn it.
The people in movies and in magazines are deliberately chosen/designed to make you aspire to be like them. They are caught like flies in amber, at these specific moments in time, with clothes expertly tailored to fit them and expertly applied makeup. The ideal is actually extremely narrow and boring, if you think about it. They try to make you think that skinny able-bodied cis-gendered white people within a certain age range are the only people, or at least the only people worth being. And the creators make it seem like you are a failure if you don’t look like them instead of seeing themselves as boring and crappy for not including people who look like everybody. This fear or need they create in us is very useful in making us buy stuff, but is not useful to us really at all. So if those magazines make you feel bad, stop buying them. One thing that helped me a lot in having more self-acceptance was to look at a lot of images of happy people who looked more like me.
You don’t have to have a perfect face for your face to eventually be someone else’s very favorite face. I promise, promise, promise this is true.