How to Be Ugly

How to Be Ugly


I’m not using the verb “to be” in the sense of becoming, a transitive action from “being” to the adjective “ugly,” but rather, in the essence of being, of existing. How to be while ugly, how to exist despite being ugly — “ugly” being the independent variable at the core of being, a noun central to an identity.

One of the difficult parts about being ugly is that we’re not allowed to be ugly. Our surrounding exerts itself at convincing us otherwise. Loved ones try and persuade you of your beauty — which they indeed perhaps see with their subjective eyes. Gyms make a dream body attainable through hardship (and money). Surgeries make a dream body attainable through money (and hardship). Clothes are a way to hide your ugliness. Makeup distracts others from it. Eat well, have a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and you will finally be beautiful. Work out and eat well, you lazy piece of shit. Health is beauty, they say. Ugliness is just some sickness you have to ward off. Every one of its symptoms is marketed as treatable. You’re not allowed to be sick in public. But if you throw up looking in the mirror in the privacy of your double-locked washroom, that’s fine. Keep eating the unattainable dreams that society feeds you and choke on them.

Ugliness is congenital. It is inscribed in our DNA. Beauty is a lottery in which the winners convince the losers they got there through hard work. As if their everyday actions change their DNA sequence in a society whose beauty standards have been long established. Beauty is a privilege which needs to be recognized as such, much like heterosexuality, cisgenderism, whiteness, and class. And like those, it is not static, you may of course gain and lose beauty due to events, like going up and down social classes, but that doesn’t make it less of a privilege.

As a kid, I wasn’t told that I was cute or handsome. I was born ugly and grew up ugly. Yet I always blamed myself for being ugly. I must not have worked hard enough to be cute. Maybe I didn’t practice my smile enough, maybe I didn’t shower enough, maybe I needed to cut my hair, maybe I had to buy more expensive clothes, maybe I didn’t do enough sports. But it ran deeper than that. It had to be my fault; other kids were told they were beautiful. The most basic yet most excellent quality. They didn’t even really have to try. There was something wrong with me, in me. My body was wrong, my face was wrong. They still are.

But much like the rich who try and convince the poor that everyone gets what they deserve, the beautiful actively work at keeping the ugly ugly. They benefit from them. Their identity is based on their relative beauty, and the uglier the ugly are, the more beautiful they are. And, of course, in the current social climate, beauty translates to success and wealth. Beauty sells. Ugliness buys. The ugly need to buy those skin creams and workout programs that the beautiful use. The beautiful need the ugly to watch their TV shows and listen to their music and follow them on Instagram and pay attention to them and control them. “Be good little uglies, and maybe you’ll be less ugly. Watch us and bow down to us, and maybe we’ll grant you a bit of attention.” Have you ever seen an ugly influencer? They literally make a living from their beauty.

But, what if the ugly embraced their ugliness? Ugliness would become a tool of deconstruction. It could be an empowering statement. The ugly could unite and with time could dismantle the institution of beauty, and capitalism would crumble with it. The ugly would only date each other and take over, since beauty lacks content and depth.

I wish. If only.

Meanwhile, I am stuck in the in-between, and always have been. Do I accept, embrace my ugliness, and spend energy developing other tools to achieve success and happiness (qualities, intellect, skills)? Or do I work more actively at fighting, at concealing my fundamental ugliness?

Perhaps this in-between position is what I should embrace. Perhaps I could find solace and empowerment in having my inherent ugliness push me to develop compensatory qualities which have become central to my identity, while at the same time fighting this ugliness, diminishing the control that this sickness has on my life. And hey, I do like how those branded jeans make my butt look, and how that expensive conditioner makes my hair silky and soft. But I can never be healthy if I was born sick. I will never sell, and not buying at all is utopic, but maybe I can barter.

Here’s to bartering, fellow uglies. Stay strong and smart and kind. You deserve love too.

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