There’s No Prize For Being The Ugliest
Posted by Mel Campbell on December 23, 2008
Yesterday I was on a tram opposite three girls who looked to be aged somewhere between 15 and 20. They looked like they’d been out at the pool or the beach, because they had that mussed-up hair, and bikini strings peeped from their clothes.
I was looking at them longingly, thinking how fresh-faced and gorgeous they all were: the very epitome of what all women are expected to look like. One had amazing blue-grey eyes with lots of eyeliner; another girl managed to be both slim and buxom; the third girl had long, foal-like legs and lovely, honey-coloured skin.
One of them got a mirror out of her bag and started staring crossly at herself. “I look so awful,” she groaned to her friends, “Like a drowned rat. Time to put that bag back over my head.”
Of course, her friends refused to countenance this; “You look fine!” and that kind of stuff. But I began to think about the way women learn so early in life to criticise their own appearance to their friends. It’s almost like a little competition: who’s got the fattest thighs or the stumpiest legs; the worst skin; the frizziest, more unmanageable hair; the biggest nose? And our friends so often respond by pointing out their own shortcomings: “At least you’ve got boobs! I’m flat as a surfboard!”
Why is this? Perhaps it’s a desire to appear modest, not to boast. Perhaps we’re fishing for compliments to reassure ourselves that other people find us pretty when we might not ourselves. Or perhaps it’s pre-emptive and defensive: if you’ve noticed your own cankles, nobody else can humiliate you by pointing them out.
But it’s ridiculous! I wanted to go over to these chicks and say, “Y’know, a while ago a Facebook friend of mine uploaded some pictures of me from 11 years ago – I couldn’t believe how wonderful I looked when I was 20, but at the time, I thought I was hideous! You have no idea how much I envy you your looks. Just enjoy them, for fuck’s sake! There’s no prize for being the ugliest!”
Of course, they would have looked disdainfully at me and gone, “Mind your own business, you weird, fat old lady.”
We’re so distrustful of other people’s attempts to reassure us of our own beauty. I still can’t help feeling that feminist statements like “Ladies, love your bodies!” and “You are beautiful!” fundamentally miss the point of why women feel ugly and unhappy in their bodies, but at the same time I can’t think of how else women can stop competing with each other for who’s the worst.