I was inspired to write this article by a Formspring Friday post on Autostraddle, coincidentally almost exactly one year ago. This question was submitted from an Autostraddle reader:
I have a friend and she is like a 10 and I’m more of a 7, but I really like her but I understand that I don’t have a chance currently. Should I get to know her or agonize over becoming what she might want?
While trying to become something you’re not for someone else is generally a bad idea and utilizing “number ratings” should be reserved primarily for large guys in medium shirts — I totally got it and sympathized with her. On some level, we have all felt unworthy of something or someone. Starting from the moment we step foot into any social structure or begin consuming Western media, we connect what or who we are able to achieve to how good we look.
I was a cute kindergartner, from early on I discovered the leverage that granted me; I cut a hole in my classmate’s sweatshirt for jollies and got away with it with barely a slap on the wrist. I spit on whatever unfortunate soul happened to sit in front of me on the bus. I launched a good one onto some twins for having the audacity to wear matching sapphire hair-bows — with a thoughtlessly crafted apology letter to the bus-driver, my sins were promptly forgiven. I sold strawberry baby aspirin to my classmates and I’m pretty sure the teacher knew and didn’t seem to mind. I have a vague memory of actually selling my teacher the baby aspirin, which doesn’t make much sense. Surely she could buy it herself at the store without risking her career and self respect. Maybe she thought I was kidding around, humored me and upon discovering how gravely serious I actually was, she was struck speechless, in awe of my brazen ambition.
My looks degraded as I grew into my pre-teen form; other kids experienced growth spurts that I did not and the sun’s rays did not grace me with the golden hue it did my mostly Italian American peers, more of a tone closer to Pink Lady Apple. This appropriately complimented my ballooning figure that I nurtured through a steady diet of pasta and bagels. It was easy for teachers to discipline me in the same way that it’s easier to step on a bug than it is a puppy. I gradually transformed into an insecure, apologetic wallflower — I knew that life was harder now and maybe I deserved it through all of my sinister advantages as a kindergartner. I found that my underwhelming aesthetic diminished my talent and intelligence, I found teachers applauding more attractive students for less than what I was producing. Like the dexterous cuttlefish struggling for survival, I adapted.
As a teenager I tried to become what I thought everyone wanted for my own mental and scholastic survival; I was active in soccer & lacrosse, I mimicked whatever clothing the most popular girls wore, I barely ate and I desperately frequented tanning beds transitioning from Pink Lady Apple to Valencia Orange. I hadn’t actually come out of my cocoon, I was a caterpillar in butterfly’s clothing but believing I was ugly and believing I was disguising my ugliness were just two different forms of the same evil.
After graduating from the traumatic torture porn that was high school, college became a new landscape full of opportunity to be someone I never was before — myself. Well, if myself was my best Jane Fonda’s 1970s Cleveland mugshot impression. The important thing was, every physical decision I made whether it was inspired or not was because I wanted to not because I felt that I had to. I wasn’t attractive because I was trying to be, I was attractive because I finally believed that I was.
When I met Natalie, it was hard to ward off all of the feelings the Autostraddle reader above mentioned. I had just recently sloughed off years of conditioning to feel self confident. I was initially attracted to her physically, I knew she was beautiful and for some reason that called my own beauty into question. Maybe technically she was prettier, referencing the rigid number scale I was surely a couple notches below her — this suspicion was validated through the admiring looks that constantly glossed over my head to her tall, thin stature. We could both be wearing identical sequin turbans and 9 times out of 10 her turban would be revered as the next must-have fall fashion accessory, mine an afterthought if it were even noticed at all. Natalie was always uncomfortably aware of this — “oh no, look at her turban, it’s much better” she’d say, knowing they were the same, protecting my heart like a mother octopus.
Fact: a mother octopus will ingest her own arms for sustenance while protecting her eggs, often dying after birth as a result.
While I want to tell the reader that looks don’t matter, and ultimately they don’t, I know society tells a different story that feels very real and can make you feel like your potential cannot extend past the length of your legs. Natalie and I were attracted to each other physically, but no matter how attractive we were or weren’t physically, so many other things mattered so much more, we had a connection that surpassed her perfect nose or my great ass. A relationship thrives on brains and heart, not T&A.
If you’re feeling like she’s got a fire so hot that you cannot touch her, some words of advice:
1. If she won’t be with you because you’re not as physically attractive, why do you want to be with her?
This is sort of a “which came first” argument, but someone who cannot get past the fact that her hair parts a little more effortlessly to the side than yours is stuck in the phase I went through in high-school. If for some reason, you negotiate her highness to stay with you, she will bring nothing but pain, misery and boredom into your life. It doesn’t matter that her eyes pierce through your heart because she dots her I’s with hearts and that’s far worse.
2. Maybe she thinks YOU’RE the ten and she’s the seven.
Tell me about it, stud.
3. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
You can’t go out to bars without flocks of men and women alike clamoring over her like the heart of the mother loving ocean. Don’t shrink into a quivering polyp. Put your arm around that lady with pride and ogle her with the best of them, honk her boob if you must — people will respect your confidence and back off in most instances. I call this the peacock tactic: stand tall, show that fancy tail of yours and its luminescent bouquet of charisma.
4. You are correct in thinking if she isn’t attracted to you, it won’t work out BUT…
There’s a lot of different evidence regarding what attracts whom and why; some studies show that neotenuous features (small nose, large eyes and full lips) attract people in certain populations, but it’s difficult to develop a lot of concrete evidence as to why. I suspect there is much more to it than the symmetry of your face or the subjective preferences of one person to the next. The truth is, she may not be attracted to you and that is beyond your control. I’ll say it one more time — that is beyond your control. Marilyn Monroe said “I think sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous” which couldn’t be more true. I guarantee that the thin veneer will fade with time if you try to change yourself to suit someone’s pallet. Be your authentic self, do what is healthy for your body and above all try to spend an equal or greater amount of time expanding your mind as you do expanding your collection of eyeliner pencils and Crest Whitening Strips.
5. “Enough of this Oprah Soul Sunday “love thyself” bullshit, can you actually give me some real advice on snagging and keeping that hottie I so desire?”
Okay, phantom Autostraddle heckler! If she has a smorgasbord of admirers, it’s going to take a little bit of work to stand out in the crowd. It’s sort of like applying for a job at Google: a lot of people want a job at Google and that’s why you have to make a collage of line dancing water moccasins in neon tube socks on your cover letter to stand out.
5a. Let her know you dig her but don’t be cliche about it. “Hey, I like your hair” or “you’re so hawt” are not effective forms of flattery. They hear that kind of thing regularly and will toss you into the NO pile with haste. Invite her to go to the Carnivore Preservation Trust or The Lemur Center — assure her that you will cloak her with your favorite cardigan should one of the ocelots attempt to mark her. Maybe throw something in there about marking her later, actually don’t say that.
5b. Don’t come on too strong. Confidence is key, dumping a hot steamy mass of relentless praise on her right off the bat can backfire and make you seem desperate. It’s a turn off to feel worshiped by someone who barely knows you. A turn off at best and a restraining order at worst.
5c. Check your breath, check your smell, wash your hair. I’m serious, lick your hand and smell it, minty fresh or hot mess?
5d. Take a hint. Have you coolly and confidentially let her know how you feel in the most uniquely outstanding and honest way you can possibly muster? Does she keep putting you off or dodging your madcap adventure invites? It seems like she’s just not that into you. Luckily, she’s humane enough to not string you along until she finally confesses it over a basket of barely-touched bread sticks at Olive Garden after three months of pity dating you. Stop e-mailing her, stop texting her, stop inviting her to do things that you know she will politely come up with a creative reason to dodge. You keep doing you (merch for sale here) and eventually you will find that special someone who makes you feel just the right amount of unworthy.
Feature Image via lemoderntrinket.blogspot.com
I can’t tell if it was sarcasm, but “honk her boob if you must”? Seriously?!? Assert that you own and have access to this other person’s body and people will back off because she’s not for sale? fjdfjnsjn gross gross gross.
Yeah I was not okay with that part either, especially the “respect your confidence” nonsense. That just sounded like the worst kind of trying-to-be-funny-and-failing-miserably frat-boy bullshit.
robyn was being sarcastic. if anyone thinks she’s serious about honking someone’s boobs, they don’t read AS very frequently.
Oh, I totally understood the sarcasm, sorry I meant to include that in my last comment :). It’s just that I’ve been on the receiving end of jokes like that and even when you know they don’t mean it it’s kind of disheartening, I guess. Overall I found this whole thing to be sweet and funny and I really like Robyn, my knee jerk reaction was just to not like that part so much.
Probably not the first or last time I will be compared to a gross frat boy trying to be funny.
I respect your knee jerk reaction and I am in NO WAY advocating grabbing a stranger’s boob or applying to Google with line dancing water moccasins on your cover letter.
Sorry! Was 100% not meant to be taken literally.
Dig your fire truck shirt.
No need to apologize! Thank you for the reply and clarification.
I read autostraddle lots (i.e. all the time) but maybe don’t have a perfect grasp of each author’s voice? Or maybe wasn’t in the best headspace to be reading this this morning? I dunno, but my bad for the misread.
I had the same reaction. When my friend first introduced me to her now-fiance, he -kept- honking her boob and it made me really defensive of her and not like him much.
#2! I’m currently crushing on a gal who recently insisted that I’m way too hot for her, and she can’t understand why I’d be into her. The whole time I was thinking the same? Sidebar – don’t say that to somebody, it’s not the business.
I suppose it’s ideal for you both to think the other is too good, right? Isn’t that the dream?
I don’t know if I’d want to be with someone who I was like “yeah, she’s just about what I deserve.” Something about that seems off unless you have GREAT self confidence.
Me neither. Actually deserving strikes me as a really strange way to think about this.
Every once in a while it gets commented on “you know, you’re very forward.”
and I respond “Well if I didn’t show it, i’d still have felt it and that would be a waste.”
I’m thinking do we connect?
On what levels?
and then it comes a conversation.
What do we want this to look like?
I only seem cool cos I’m not trying :)
I don’t see my relationships as validation and that makes this all go away.
Problem is, I only connect with people who also don’t and that makes my dating pool a small one :S
That’s happened to me too and I was offended by the implication I was that shallow. Mostly, I just find it really annoying.
Based on her tone of the entire article, I didn’t take offence. I actually laughed really hard & imagined Beetlejuice “honk-honking”. Robyn, I think you’re hilarious! I’m also not saying this to completely invalidate negative feelings about the statement… just tossin in another perspective.
I thought the reference to boob honking was hilarious too, based on the good willed humour of the whole article. Robyn your writing made me laugh many times, no offence taken. I have had my boob honked by my ex when we were together, and she always honked it with humour, so, yeah…
YES! Definitely was kidding around but I can’t lie and say I haven’t done it on occasion to my girlfriend of ten years.. and vice versa.
To each their own, right?
I appreciate that! Definitely invoked a whole lot of Beetlejuice there, thanks for feeling that vibe.
I feel this article so hard. There’s nothing quite so relationship-stunting and awkward as avoiding asking a woman out because you think she’s better/more attractive/etc than you and finding out she was feeling the same way and you could have been in a relationship a long time ago.
Also want to add: in most cases, if she’s into you, she’s into you and it can be really awkward if you’re always second-guessing that. I was with someone once who constantly thought I was better/more attractive/whatever than her and she often got really insecure and needed me to prove I actually liked her and wasn’t just playing her. She also put me on an impossibly high pedestal that I couldn’t avoid falling from. That can be an instant death blow to any relationship. It also makes things super awkward and can feel really emotionally invalidating to the person you think is above you.
In short: if you think she’s more awesome than you and she’s with you? Accept that this means she thinks you’re super awesome yourself. Awesome people don’t waste time dating people they don’t respect/love/find attractive/like being around etc.
There is nothing worse than being with someone who makes your “prove” your love and/or attraction constantly.
There’s a lot of different evidence regarding what attracts whom and why; some studies show that neotenuous features (small nose, large eyes and full lips) attract people in certain populations,”
I’m glad you mentioned this because everyone I know always thinks that I have the weirdest type ever – girls with larger noses, thinner lips, olive skin, and usually large dark eyes. And shorter. So, yeah. :)
EXACTLY. Everyone is someone’s ideal, really.
You’re hilarious. There’s a void in my life due to Effing Dykes’ hiatus and you’re filling it marvelously.
I have been Alice Cooper and I’ve been Wayne and Garth and both positions suck. I don’t ever want to get involved in a weird dynamic like that ever again. Like you say, the RIGHT amount of unworthy is a good thing, but too much poisons the attraction.
One of the best parts of A-Camp was getting told by several ppl at once that they had a crush on me. (I had a crush on approximately 100 people so it evened out pretty nicely.) It was cute to see random ppl falling in love. I could never have predicted any of these pairing, which only proves that you can’t psychically calculate who will be attracted to whom so you might as well declare yourself with confidence whenever possible and hope for the best.
My HS friends and I have broken down and confessed our decade-old crushes on one another. THIS has been awesome because in HS I was convinced I was slime, but apparently other people felt very differently! So if you are struggling with your own Slime Self, and if this is making you sing terrible Tal Bachman songs, I highly recommend confessing your crushes cuz some of them might have secretly felt the same way about you. #iknowsomeofyouareathomeonwinterbreak #usethisopportunitywisely
Dude, I love this series. It gives me a chance to asses my relationship and totally relate. That opening paragraph. I remember when I first saw my wife in college. I had total crush on her and I really thought she was the type who would NEVER look twice at me because 1. she was dating guys at the time 2. I wasn’t just a 7, I was like a 5.
It’s true though what they say…to really just be yourself. I can’t tell you how many countless times I’ve told my co-worker that you have to be comfortable in your own skin before you can truly be confident and comfortable around someone else. It’s a hard process I wish I could explain-how to boost your self-esteem and all that. I think that when you find THE ONE they boost all aspects of you.
When we were on our first few dates I really felt like the ground and my hot wife was the clouds in heaven. When I told her that she told me how utterly ridiculous it was. But to this day I tell her how beautiful I think she is and how she never notices how other people stare at her. She says it’s not true but I think it is. Like Robyn said, putting your arm around them and giving a confident smile (NO BOOB HONKING LOL) will get you respect from the ogling crowd.
And this is going to sound cliche but I think that if the person truly loved you, they wouldn’t want you to change who you are. Remember, they fell in love with who you were at that time. You were already doing something right. Try to stay on that path.
And I forgot to add, remember everyone has their own flaws. It’s very true that no one out there is perfect but there is that one person who is perfect FOR you.
was convinced this article was about weed before i actually started reading it, cool either way.
Anyone who would make someone feel bad for liking them has fucking issues. Really, whomever would dream of acting like that is a troll. I’m not sure how I feel about the tone of portions of this article, like the unconventionally attractive partner (because both will be attractive, just differently) having more of the burden of appearing presentable. What you’ve mentioned is expected on both sides.
I have to admit, I’ve been an asshole to someone who liked me. I didn’t plan it that way, and I felt horrible about it, but it happened. I went on to apologize to that person twice and wince every time I remember it. I hope I’m not a troll. :(
Dude it is ALL about confidence. With enough confidence in who you are and what your life is, you will always be a 10. If you don’t have it, fake it and eventually it comes true. Seriously. When I am at my most confident, I am a 10 and usually dating a 15 who thinks shes the 10. By the way I detest the number thing. No one is better than anyone else it is a very shallow concept. I once dated a woman who had zero confidence and was constantly remarking on it. Always saying “id probably leaver her for someone better” and when we had sex she would ALWAYS say that she didn’t perform to the standard she wanted too and I must have “not liked it”. I had to dump her. It was insane. Way to much.
The ONE thing she was confident was her career, and she belittled mine which is why I dumped her.
Point is: be confident with you and you can do anything.
Great article :) North Carolinians are the wisest.