"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Travails Of An Ugly Woman – The Fallacy Of Inner Beauty

Nancy Figgins was born ugly, and despite all the hopes and best wishes of her parents, she remained ugly. Her long, feral, deviant nose; her lips, somewhere between lipids and African; and her hair – an untamed thatch of brambles and thickets – all made her the very antithesis of classic female beauty.  The standards of such have not changed in millennia, and since Egypt, Greece, and Rome, women painted, carved, and sculpted have all been models of perfect symmetry.


As she looked at herself in the mirror and turned her head this way and that to get the best possible angle, one which would provide the depth, the shadows, and the mystery of a truly unfortunate face which other perspectives were not.  She tried every possible cosmetic – those that darkened and those that lightened; those that accentuated and those that diverted attention – to no avail.  There was simply no way of adorning, modifying, or changing what was a homely, irreparably unattractive look.

‘There is hope’, said a beautician from whom she sought professional advice – a little tuck here, a little tightening there, the woman said, but even the digital images generated to suggest the final product, ordinarily powerful selling tools, could not hide the unevenness, grossly asymmetrical features, and lack of Golden Mean order.


Diana Vreeland was a profoundly ugly woman, but thanks to her talent and eye for fashion, her elegance and sophisticated, tailored image overcame the same unfortunate features that dogged Nancy Figgins.

‘If she can do it, so can I’, said Nancy, and at great expense, bought the closest thing to Armani, St. Laurent, and Chanel originals.  The dresses and accoutrements – simple pearl necklaces, brooches, and gold bracelets – only made her look clownish, a caricature of a Parisian model rather than a recreation of her.  The string of pearls somehow accentuated her clavicle; the bracelets slipped and slid over her meager wrists, the brooches reminded one of old ugly Queen Victoria herself.

What was a woman to do?

In the meantime, other women whose luck of the draw had been favorable looked like the wood paintings of the women of Fayum; the statues of Aphrodite, Venus, and Hera; the beautiful matrons of Sargent, Homer, and Fragonard.  The best of the lot were on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan – seductive, attractive young women of indefinable allure. 

What was it about Marilyn Monroe that has appealed to seven decades of men?  What innate desirability did she have, and could it be imitated and adopted.  Was there something to be learned from Marilyn that even a hopelessly homely girl like Nancy Figgins could apply and use?

Of course unless you are born with Marilyn’s natural, inimitable sexuality it is of no use to parse it for meaning and relevance; but Nancy Figgins tried.  Like everything else, it was more caricature than model.  Her lips lacked Marilyn’s sensuality, her body missed that deeply sexual fullness and irresistibility.  She was a Marilyn look-alike and a bad one, no better than the thousand pompadoured, sequined Elvises in Las Vegas.


She went tart, all red lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, décolleté, and spiked heels, but that, she found out, was dork meat and no way to meet the right kind of man.

Now, the Columbus Beauty Pageant, a beauty contest held every year in a small town in Mississippi attracted hundreds of live viewers and a few thousand more on local television.  The contestants were not exactly Miss American quality, but in the mold; and many did go on to regional and state titles. 

They were all largely the same, for the standards of beauty have not changed since the first human settlements – symmetry, good health, brightness, and pleasing, subtle sensuality have always been the hallmark of beauty – and one by one the young women walked with poise and confidence across the stage.  The judges could have picked any one at random and done the job.

Beauty, after all, is a commercial commodity; and the Asian Airlines have understood this implicitly.  Their stewardesses are all beauty queens, chosen for the same familiarly standard looks – beautiful women certainly, but without the flaws that traditional Japanese artists look for and create in ceramics, flaws that raise beauty from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  And for such proximity to historical standards of beauty, these Asian women are rewarded. 

Beautiful women have automatic points added to their resumes – as counterintuitive as it may sound, a beautiful nuclear physicist has a leg up on her homely, unattractive fellow-applicants.  Beauty is as beauty does, and beauty makes money.

All of this was discouraging to Nancy to say the least, for she was not only unattractive but on the asymptote of the bell curve, the miserably homely one, as far from true beauty as can be.  With reason she wondered if there was hope; or would she always be at that awful point on the spectrum?

Would she do better as a man, she wondered, a possibility in an age of gender transition all was possible, and try she did, stopping far short of hormonal treatment or radical surgery.  It was far easier for a woman to become a man than vice versa – no lopping off of private parts, and only with a breast girdle, increased smoking for vocal roughness, and a tough guy attitude, you were home free.  She shuddered to think of the other way around.

In fact even the simplest cross dressing would have done the trick, for once in overalls, work shirt and shit-kickers she looked more like most of the men on a construction site; and as such she attracted only trailer trash and tough girls from New Jersey.  She was just as unattractive as a man as she had been as a woman, more so in fact.  She was an ugly man, one of the most unattractive.

There was now no other recourse.  Give it up, forget about beauty, feminine finesse and elegance, and male sophistication and just be her born, natural self neither this nor that.

Of all human traits, beauty is the most telling and the most valuable.  Slow learners can always find ways to make ends meet; clumsy people can find jobs which require no gracefulness or agility; but ugly people are sunk, without recourse and with little hope.  Better look in the mirror, take stock, and waste no more money on trying to change the course of the looks that were doled out at birth.

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