Saturday, August 24, 2013

Piece of Advice #109: Don't deliberately sabotage your looks

At the risk of being accused of pulling a "Kids today..." curmudgeonly rant, it does seem like many young people are deliberately making themselves unattractive, and I do not understand for what purpose. 

And I'm not talking about the tattooing/piercing/branding trends, although I find myself horrified by those as well.  I get that those are a fad, fed by our narcissistic cultural urge to be unique while still being conformist.  I'm talking about people who seem to want to make themselves look as ugly as possible.

This week my family and I were standing in line at a store and two young women came in.  They both had shaved their heads in some sort of hideous long Mohawk, but the second one was also grossly overweight, had two sets of spacers in her earlobes (in orange and green), and was wearing an incredibly sour expression.  Everything about her was off-putting.  I tried imagining what she would have looked like circa 1985 (or, heck, circa 2000), and while she would never have been stunning, under different circumstances, she could have been attractive.  But everything she had done to herself made her look more tribal, more sullen, more hostile, and it had to have been deliberate.

Was she motivated by some sort of self-loathing, I wondered - did she choose to repel people rather than wait for them to reject her?  Or was this some sort of political or sociological statement she was trying to make?  Was I supposed to notice her or was I supposed to avert my gaze? 

A week or so ago the local shelter put up pictures of new dog and cat adoptive families, and one couple was strikingly unattractive.  Both the man and the woman were heavy and dressed like itinerants, but the woman had dyed her spiked hair a fluorescent pink, and had an illustration from The Giving Tree tattooed all over her shoulder and arm.  Why, why, WHY? 

Neither of these women were physically ugly in their basics, but they had made themselves so with their clothing/ornamentation/lifestyle choices.  I'm not talking about people who have let themselves go or people who, for instance, have inherited unfortunate dental problems but can't afford to get braces.  I understand laziness and poverty.  But I don't understand self-sabotage.

The fact is that even if you are not in the dating market, your appearance does affect how people perceive and, therefore, treat you.  Your choices about what you wear and choose to look like affect the choices people make in how to treat you.  We all may secretly dream of being treated according to our inner selves, but people judge you on what they see, and if you look scary, hostile, threatening, sullen, unapproachable, outlandish, or just plain ugly, they will treat you worse than if you were beautiful, attractive, or even plain.  Most of us aren't beautiful, but we can at least strive for clean, pleasant, and unremarkable.  You may think, "I'm not interested in meeting anybody," or "I'm not looking for a job," but the way you present yourself now affect the way people will feel about you and talk about you when recommending (or not) you for anything in the future. 

So don't wreck your looks on purpose. 


  1. I was one such person, a long time ago. High School was rough on me. I transferred from private to public, knew almost no one, and decided to act out years of frustration at being bullied by making myself unappealing and hostile. It worked, I had few friends, no closeness with anyone, and the crown I ran with was full of burnouts and losers. What a number I did on myself.

    I think people saw it but figured "oh, it will pass, it's just a phase." Well, for me it was. I didn't do any permanent damage to my face or skin with tats, piercings, or branding, and hair grows back thank God, but I did do damage to my reputation and that is hard to recover. You're hurting much more than your looks when you do this to yourself, and even if it is "just in high school" consider that you might never be able to look anyone from your town in the eye again, from the shame of being such an ASS.

    Someone told me once "teenagers need their parents more than toddlers" and she is right. I needed parents desperately then, despite my protestations that they were holding me down (MAAANNNN!!!).

  2. You should come to the San Fransisco of the South. It's pretty bad. BTW we just had a topless rally yesterday. That's how "progressive" this place is.

    1. Jim, I probably came to this thread too late to receive an answer, but what city/area is the 'San Francisco of the South?' I'm guessing New Orleans.

  3. I am surprised at how much facial piercing has caught on even among young Christian women. When we dropped our daughters off at a Christian summer camp for a week this summer, I was startled by how many of the nice 18-24 year-old Christian female counselors had not only nose rings but also eye brow and lip rings, sometimes multiple ones. It's so unattractive.

  4. I couldn't agree more. It's one thing to experiment with wild hair, makeup, clothes, etc. Those things aren't permanent. But permanent self-scarring like piercings and tattoos--not attractive at 15, even less so at 45.

  5. I must be old and curmudgeonly as well, because when I see the above mentioned, I say to my husband, " at least in the 1980s, we wanted to be prettier, not uglier" We may have failed, but we tried...Even sadder, We live in a major metropolitan area, where this kind of thing is normal, but we also have a mountain home in a remote area several hours away, and I see it out there too. I want to say to these have such a small window of time to be young and beautiful, enjoy every second if it, because its gone before you know it. Sigh....

  6. There is a good book called simply "Spent". It is written by a psychologist interested in marketing and why people spend and buy on the things they do.

    Anyway, he does point out that there is always a deeper reason for behaviours. The unconscious acts out in mysterious ways to advertise oneself as a potential mate.

    Now, for a young person with low self-esteem who thinks they have been continually rejected as mating material, what can they do? The unconsious figures out a way. I will mutlilate myself (cutting, tatooing, piercing) and then heal. This shows that I have enough personal energy and thus I am am actually worthy to reproduce!

  7. The rational, straightforward way of taking care of your attractiveness would simply be to take care of health, proper grooming, and picking out nice, simple clothes that complement your natural features. Perhaps anything other than that has its roots in the unconscious.

    For example, I learned that for many girls, gaining weight is actually a defense against the shame they feel from sexual attention. Usually, something happened during their childhood, it could have been just a comment, or a single look that rubbed them the wrong way, and now they associate sexual attention with shame, and get fat to avoid sexual attention.

  8. Did you ever think that maybe these people find colorful hair and fun tattoos to be beautiful and want to attract other people who also find it to be beautiful? You might think it's "ugly", but not everyone sees things the way you do.