I just realised how ugly I am - HELP!!
November 14, 2012 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Recently I came to the realisation that I am a really plain, unattractive woman. There have been signs for a while, but I only recently put them all together and the realisation hit me - I"m ugly! How do I deal? I don't mean that I have poor self-esteem, but that I am objectively plain. Please don't tell me I need better self esteem - it's not about that!

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?
b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?
c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?
d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
There was a similar previous question; some of the answers there may be worth looking at.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

In reality, I find that very few people are inherently ugly, barring major facial asymmetry or whatnot.

Most of it comes down to how much effort a person is willing to put, into their haircut, clothing, makeup, fitness, etc. The rest is personal preference. Just because you think you're plain doesn't mean that everybody agrees.
posted by zug at 6:30 AM on November 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Dressing up, makeup, etc., can do a lot to enhance a person's looks. Have you ever seen candid pictures of Hollywood stars without makeup? Some people get a major bump in attractiveness. If you don't want to, you don't have to, of course. Most people don't care about your looks as much as you do- like, in general, people don't think, Hey, I'm going out, I should invite my ugly friend Anonymous. If you find yourself thinking other people are actively judging your looks all the time, it is possible you are projecting your feelings onto other people, which will be an obstacle in developing close relationships.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:31 AM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

a) I think "making an effort about your appearance" (whatever form that takes) is well-regarded and considered attractive, regardless of your actual physical attractiveness.
b) EVERYONE likes people who are way out of their league. Come on, the person laughing at you doesn't have some ridiculous celebrity crush? Also: that person is an ASSHOLE, call them on it and stop spending time with them if they don't stop.
c) Why would you *want* to know that you're being invited as "the ugly friend"? Assume you're going to have a great time, that you're going to meet interesting people, and that you have something to offer.
d) Depends on what form this favoritism takes.

But, taking you at your word that you are physically unattractive, ultimately I think you need to enhance and emphasize the things about you that ARE attractive, whether this be kindness, sense of humor, intelligence, professional competence, extreme wealth... whatever!
posted by mskyle at 6:32 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

a) Yes. Dress for yourself. Do what makes you feel good and attractive.
b) By never confiding anything with these assholes ever again
c) This will become less of an issue after my advice in B.
d) By being better than them. You can't argue with competence.

All this said, people are generally a bad judge of their own attractiveness. They usually very much underestimate it. And when you go into a situation where you believe you are not only not very attractive, but ugly, you project a lot of shit onto people. Things like "He can't possibly like me for my looks. I bet he wants something or he's out to trick me. I should be on my guard."
posted by inturnaround at 6:35 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Man...this is a really rough question, but I'll try to answer objectively and not in the "I need better self esteem" arena---but I do want you to reread A, B, and C and realize that there's maybe more here than just your objective lack of beauty.

As a straight male who hates, really HATES most of the commercialism of pop culture, I'll try to answer.

a) No, don't dress up to be more attractive, highlight what you have. For example, I work with a girl who is absolutely NOT my type in just about any way, but she does an excellent job of showing off her eyes, they are captivating. Do that. You have a beautiful, sexy something---accentuate it. Maybe it's your voice, your lips, your eyes, or something as silly as your bangs/forehead. Perhaps it's even an affectation, think Zooey Deschanel. (Bad example, but hopefully you get my point.) You don't want to carry yourself with an "I don't give a fuck about my appearance" air, you want to carry yourself with an "I am strong, independent and confident, and check out this ass" air. You know people who have given up---don't do that. Brush your hair, avoid makeup that does other than highlight (top lid eyeliner, very light lipstick and/or liner), etc. Just say no to eyeshadow, rouge, heavy foundation, etc.

b) That's fucked up and I have no answer. Tell them it's a shitty thing to say and they are shitty people.

c) You...I...is this a thing? I swear I feel like this has to be in your head, but I know ladies can be awful to each other. All I can suggest is that you develop a life outside of this circle of hateful people. Go out on your own to a local pub, for example. Have a pint and a burger and be friendly.

d)I've got nothing other than to document it and behave with confidence. If you feel like you've already dug a pit, then look for a new place to work and start there being who you think you want to be----I'll warn you that who you think you want to be and who you are may be two different people. Be the person your grandmother would be proud of.
posted by TomMelee at 6:35 AM on November 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

a) I agree with what's already been said-- stylish accessories, hair, clothes can take someone from average looking to interesting or cool looking for sure.

On the second point of question a, you don't have to explain it to anyone-- you don't owe it to anyone to be 'pretty', only do it if it's something you want to do. Good article here about this.

b) anyone that laughs at your romantic choice is a rude idiot. Don't hang out with them
c) you can't tell, and shouldn't worry about this. There's always someone better looking than just about anyone in the world, so assume you're invited because of your awesome personality and don't beat yourself up about it.
d) no suggestions, but try not to let yourself get too worked up about it. They probably spend a lot of time maintaining their looks and might be quite down on how much work it is-- when I see someone that's super thin I try to think about how crabby I'd be all the time if I didn't eat, and then I feel kind of sad for them.
posted by lettezilla at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2012

One traditional strategy is, if you can't look pretty look, interesting. If you don't conform to the standard pattern of attractiveness, you've got nothing to lose by being a bit bolder, a bit more idiosyncratic, a bit more outré - being striking and memorable may work surprisingly well even if you have a gigantic nose or whatever.
posted by Segundus at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2012 [33 favorites]

C) i have never heard of this in my life and wouldn't worry about it.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:37 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm fat. We all have issues.

I'm in the camp that it's good to work with what you have. I wear makeup, I have a good haircut, I dress for my body type. After that, it is what it is.

What's wrong with using make up and clothing to be "average". Average is better than ugly.

So I'll address your questions:

a. Yes, bother. You'll feel better and you'll project an aura of confidence and glamour, which will make people percieve you as attractive.

b. You should only mention crushes to your friends. Your friends won't laugh at you. If you mention a crush to someone who laughs at you, cut him or her off, as this person is not your friend.

c. Who does this? See B. Your friends like you/love you. If you're being invited it's because you're good company (aside from agonizing over your looks.)

d. Fact of life, pretty people have it easier. You can't change it. Deal with it by working at your job with the appropriate amount of zeal. Revel in your accomplishments. Don't look to external sources of approval. If you feel that you're not adequately rewarded, seek employment elsewhere.

You sound depressed and frankly a little body dysmorphic. There are very few ugly people in the world. There are plenty of plain people who make up for it by being awesome, confident, funny and interesting, to the point where you stop noticing their looks and just love them for themselves.

You are worthy of love and friendship.

Also, put it in perspective. You're not disfigured, you haven't suffered an accident, you're sound in limb.

At some point you just have to say, "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke".
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:40 AM on November 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Do you mean your face is plain-featured or are there are other ways in which you feel physically ill-favored? This would affect my answer in some ways. But in either case: absolutely dress in a way that pleases you. Not to "bother" to reach a certain level of conventional attractiveness, but if you enjoy having nice clothes that it makes you feel good to wear, let yourself have them. It's one thing to decide you don't want to make a huge effort with your clothes; it's another to decide you're not worth it. Don't do the latter.

Also, cultivate good posture and a good speaking voice. This doesn't sound like an answer to your items b-d, but it is. You deal with these things by not explaining, not apologizing for yourself and carrying yourself like none of these things are an issue.
posted by BibiRose at 6:42 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?
c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

No one is laughing at you, and no one is inviting you along because you're "the ugly friend." You seem to be equating physical attractiveness with social grace, or the lack thereof with the lack thereof. Even if we take you at your word that you are plain (which is not, by the way, ugly), there is no indication from your question that people do not like you for yourself. You should not put too much stock in physical attractiveness, as it really pales in comparison to an engaging personality. (Seriously, except for raw lust, physical attractiveness can get old kind of quickly.(

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

I don't know, you just deal with it. Attractive people of both genders, tall men (maybe tall women, I'm not sure), they get treated better. They make more money. It is how it is, and it isn't something that is your burden to carry alone.
posted by OmieWise at 6:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

a) Wear the clothes that you like. If you like dressing down, do that. If you like bright colours, high heels and thick eyelashes, do that. Either way, you don't need to explain it to anyone because it's none of their business.

b) By telling them to piss off and finding better friends. Seriously, who over the age of 16 does that?

c) Not an issue. You will not be invited to an event as 'the ugly friend.' I can only speak from my own experience (I'm at different ends of the conventionally-attractive spectrum depending on who I'm with), but really, no one invites a friend to an event for any other reason than 'I want them to come along.'

d) Is there favouritism shown toward the more conventionally attractive females? Attractive female friends of mine have experienced just as much sexism in the workplace as the less conventionally attractive ones. Sexism in all its myriad manifestations should be called out using the proper channels (i.e. reporting anonymously to HR, or the Board, or whoever is responsible for investigating sexism) - this will benefit both you and the more attractive females, so don't feel bad. Otherwise, keep professional and carry on.
posted by dumdidumdum at 6:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

How old are you?

What are your goals with regards to your appearance? I mean, you don't have to gussy up but your career may require you to look like you're putting in an effort.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:48 AM on November 14, 2012

I'm plain. I have often been "And her friend". But as I've got older, I've got better looking! I look after myself, dress well, have got fit and slim, and I compare well to people my age and get compliments. Of course, I am now the ancient age of 40, but I feel much more comfortable.

As others have said, dress well, present yourself well, ignore the beauty fascism because their star will fade as they age and yours won't. Take care of yourself for you. The right person will come along who does find you attractive and like your personality. I know that from experience!
posted by LyzzyBee at 6:52 AM on November 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

Plain is not the same as unattractive or ugly so which is it?

Plain + a good haircut/colour + makeup and stylish clothes = hot.

Some people are effortlessly beautiful - they just roll out of bed looking stunning but they are a tiny minority. Most "attractive" people have to work at it. Flattering haircuts, the right clothes and good makeup.

If you are objectively plain, that's a good thing. Plain is a great, versatile canvas.

Honestly, if you're a healthy weight (and if you're not then you can do something about it) and don't have any deformities (I'm guessing not since you've only just 'realised' this problem) then its highly unlikely that you're actually ugly.
posted by missmagenta at 6:58 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

"Brush your hair, avoid makeup that does other than highlight (top lid eyeliner, very light lipstick and/or liner), etc. Just say no to eyeshadow, rouge, heavy foundation, etc."

Or the other side of this - if you can't be pretty, be striking. You're not conventionally attractive. That gives you the freedom to paint your eyes bright pink if you want to. Stefani Germanotta is not a stereotypically attractive person, but as Lady Gaga she's fascinating. I loved this recent quote from her:

"Sit in front of the mirror with all of the paints and colours and wigs that you have at your disposal, and just have a real talk with yourself. “What do I not like about me?” And then, peer into the mirror – and just f*cking draw right over it because that’s what make-up is here for. We’re not all perfect – it’s meant to be fun so we can bond as women, and say, “You know, what? We don’t all feel perfect, but did you try that lipstick? It’s divine.”

You need to learn to do it right and you can't do it in a meeting or at your aunt's funeral, but pop culture is full of 'interesting-looking' or 'plain' men and women (Isabella Blow, Marc Almond, Antony Hegarty, Quentin Crisp) who realised that they'd never be able to look like models and decided to look like somethign more interesting instead.

I'm not stereotypically attractive, I'd look stupid with the fake tan, blonde highlights and gladiator shoes that is the current favoured look for women, I wear glasses, I'm not thin (an hourglass shape is not often designed for fashion trends) , I have flat hair, I'm very pale, I'm tall and clumsy and have huge feet. One of the best things I realised, after an adolescence of wondering why the boys didn't like me, was realising that a) I didn't really like them either b) not being the stereotypical girly girl meant I could decide what was 'pretty' for me, and I could dress how I liked, dye my hair bright pink if I wanted to, or decide what look suited me rather than what magazines thought should, and fuck anyone who thought it was wrong. There is a fine line between being idiosyncratic and being wacky, but if you're well groomed and stay appropriate, you'll be fine: wacky is the gift given to girls who grow up feeling less attractive.
posted by mippy at 7:01 AM on November 14, 2012 [31 favorites]

I just deleted my answer because LyzzyBee said it all so well.

I would second her comment about beauty fascism; makeup can be fun but it can also be a rabbit hole and in my opinion (as a straight male) less is more.

Also, as you get older, you'll probably get tired of going out with friends who want to hang out at meat-market types of clubs. It's soul-crushing for us average folk.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2012

Part of the problem seems to be self-image rather than anything objective, perhaps your opinion can't be trusted. Do you have any reliable close friends who could give an external opinion?

Few people are really ugly and few people are really attractive. The rest have to make an effort and few of us make the best of what we've got.

The thing about being good looking is it mainly impresses people who don't know you. People I know well are who they are, nothing more, nothing less. People who know each other well and are still focussed on each other's appearance can be excused if they are in showbiz or modelling or still of school age, otherwise they should be in therapy.
posted by epo at 7:11 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

Yes. I'm going to do you the favor of taking you at your valuation, because I know a lot of people will be along to reassure you on base attractiveness. Still bother to try to be more attractive. If you are objectively plain, reaching average is a big deal and will enable you to date more freely.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

Well, there's two parts to this. The first one is, people are going to notice the disconnect of "way out of your league" regardless of what you do. The second thing is, true friends shouldn't be making you feel bad about it. I have two friends who do this - are interested only in people who are way out of their league. I may think this is counterproductive and be really aware of it, but I would never, never make them feel bad about it.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

Some people are expressing shock that this is a thing. It is indeed a thing. But there are ways to check. Are you being invited along to things only as a tag-along to events where the person is trying to find dates? Are you being invited as an afterthought? Are you not being talked to when you are invited along? If not, you're probably fine.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

What do you mean here? Do you mean that it is frustrating and upsetting when other people receive preferential treatment, and you want to know how to handle those emotions? Or do you mean, how do I objectively change things?
posted by corb at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

This is the toughest question. But there is a lovely essay by the author Annie Lamot that I think addresses it perfectly - it's a reflection she had upon acceptance of her own appearance and even embracing it, and why dressing up even though you may not be runway-worthy is still a fine thing. (You're in luck - it's online.)

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

Depends - did you confide in them? If you did, I'd avoid doing that in future. If you didn't - I'd ask them what the fuck business is it of theirs. Because that's being dumb.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

I'm not sure, as I wouldn't be spending my time around people who do categorize friends that way. That's low class to even have someone in your social circle that you consider to be "the ugly one" like it's a fucking mascot or something. What, do they also have other token friends, like "the dumb friend" or "the poor friend" or whatever, where they only associate with them out of pity? Fuck that, you want people who think of other people as "the friend", period.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

Find another workplace.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

You should really think about what your aims are in life and how your attractiveness or lack thereof figures into it.

Let me tell you about myself. I'm 26. Through school and college I was overweight, even obese. I lost weight and am now a normal weight but I'm still far from the skinny standard. I have dark spots all over my face due to something called hyperpigmentation. I have unruly curly hair. And I definitely don't look like most of the women in magazines because I'm Indian not white.

It was definitely obvious to me in school and college that other women were much more attractive than I was. The things I did have going for me was my brain and my personality. I have never lacked for friends or boyfriends even when quite a bit overweight. I also researched the hell out of weight loss strategies, eventually stumbling upon low-carb diets. I lost a lot of weight using that. I found super strong makeup that could completely cover my hyperpigmentation in public or at least make me less conscious of it. I figured out what clothing suited me. I got a flattering haircut. I'm no knockout, but I think I'm reasonably attractive now. I definitely look a lot better than I did at 17. Figure out some simple ways to improve your appearance and do that. So that's one level of things you can try.

The other thing I want to emphasize is that a lot of this stuff matters less than you think. When you go to a bar and you get ignored while your prettier friend gets hit on, it may hurt, but what does it actually mean in material terms? You've just found that the kind of guy who hits on random women in bars prefers your friend to you. Big deal. There are better fish out there. In terms of long-term relationships, all you need is one person to be totally into you, your personality, your intelligence, and yes, your looks and for you to like him back the same way. Life is not a homecoming queen contest. If you have the kind of friends who act like it is, find other friends.
posted by peacheater at 7:26 AM on November 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

I can only help you with d. Become really good at your job. Really, really good. Outclass everyone around you. Yes, there is favouritism shown to the pretty (sometimes deliberate and conscious, sometimes subconsciously) so you need to be so much better than the folks around you that the choice is made for them by your sheer excellence.

By the time you're 50, the looks thing will begin to even out, and you'll be richer and have a better life than the pretty ones who fall apart when their looks start to go. Enjoy!
posted by zadcat at 7:29 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even a plain girl can look good if she dresses better/sexier. Makeup is also an obvious tool in a woman's arsenal.

Getting into good physical shape would be very advisable. You can't change what your face looks like, but you CAN change your body.

Attitude is also very important. As a man, when I go out, I see lots of pretty girls, but the ones that really get my attention are the ones where you can really see their personality.

I'd rather have a sexy girl than a pretty one, or an average looking girl with a great attitude rather than a good looking one with an average attitude.

So, in summary, work on the things you can change, and don't stress about what you can't change.
posted by eas98 at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Enjoy yourself. Be amazing. Go nuts. Live it up. Be the best. Date "up," whether that means better looking, richer, more successful, smarter, better at math, or whatEVER. This is the secret for all of us, fat and thin, chinless and gorgeous, weak or strong. It's time for us to stop giving a fuck about things that are supposed to hold us back. Step on anyone who discriminates against you or puts you down and break their neck.

I personally think you're fabulous, so let's start there.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2012 [14 favorites]

How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

I am never invited along as the ugly friend, although even in my young day I was plain, and now I'm butch and queer and of zero sexual interest to dudes. Why is this, you say? Because I have in this regard a pretty strong sense of my self worth, and because I talk a lot and take up space. On those occasions when I've been either invited as the plain one or else treated badly because I'm plain, I have left the event. Seriously, if you're worried about it, make sure you can get home on your own and give yourself the power to leave. Don't make a scene, just leave. I guarantee you that you'll feel much better when you know you have the strength of will to leave - it changes the whole dynamic of an evening when you say to yourself "these people are supposed to be fun, and if they're not fun they are not good enough and I am leaving".

Also, when people treat me badly because they don't want to fuck me, I stop talking to them, and I make fun of them to my friends. Because who is pathetic here? Me, or the person who assumes that the entire world revolves around them and their birthright of endless access to sexy nymphets and their total inability to have a conversation with a woman they don't want to fuck?

My suggestion in all of this? Get truculent about it. You have the choice of being abject ("I am a gender failure, and the world is correct to assess me as worthless because I am ugly, and dudes are correct to look down on me, and I have to carefully manage my sexual attractions...because women are supposed to be beautiful") or being monstrous (a woman who has self-regard, who thinks well of herself whether she is beautiful or ugly, is basically a monster in our society because she is not dependent on men for her sense of self and we can't be having with that).

Think of yourself as an agent - invite your friends places, go to bars (not pick-up bars, just bars) on your own to have a drink just because you want to. Ask yourself where you want to go and what you want to do. Ruthlessly evaluate men and think negative thoughts about the jerks. Admire attractive guys even if they're "out of your league", but don't restrict your dating goals to them and always remember that we live in a culture where ugly dudes can date attractive women, so it's just a piece of patriarchal crap that women are told to be really careful about "our league".

Seriously, every time I have started doing stuff on my own and simply cut off my habits of abjection, I have felt a million times better and become a stronger and more attractive person.

Also, yes, you should dress to look interesting rather than to attract people. I've found that since I gave up the "I should be a universal attractor that everyone finds good-looking, because that is the measure of women's worth" mindset and started thinking "I want to dress in a way that I find attractive and dapper", I have felt much better about myself...and every once in a while I hear a rumor that someone thinks I'm cute, so it's definitely raised my attractiveness success rate.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

One thing to remember: for every pretty girl who gets a promotion, there's a pretty girl who gets fired because she won't sleep with her boss or flirt/sleep with the clients. (And I know people that's happened to.) Pretty girl favoritism at work has a really ugly, gross underside - people aren't just being nice to those girls because they are pretty-like-tulips or whatever, they are being nice to those girls so that they can either pressure them into something sexual or leverage their beauty for business purposes. This ends up being gross and destructive for everyone.

I know it feels horrible to be rejected - god how I know that, I spent years feeling bad because I basically didn't get sexually harassed because I was too plain - but several friendships with unusually beautiful women and a brief stint working in a place where there was a very clear pretty/ugly division between the girl hires really changed my mind. In the long run, being beautiful at work is only good for you if you like the opportunity for ruthless sexual opportunism and are at ease in that environment. It hurts to feel that you are "not good enough" even when it's "not good enough for something unpleasant", I know.
posted by Frowner at 7:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [63 favorites]

Plain + a good haircut/colour + makeup and stylish clothes = hot.

missmagenta is spot on. In a crowd really take a look at people, look at all ages. People LEARN to work what they've got. And that is dead sexy, because sexiness is sharing the real you.

Every decade of life different people stand out as attractive, some are hot in their twenties some in their fifties. Yes, there are those perfect people that are few and far between that are always perfect. You have to own who you are. And I have always found that good quality stylish clothes go a looonnnggg way.
posted by readery at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

“The mark of a truly beautiful woman is that from one angle she looks so stunningly lovely you feel you will die if you cannot have her; yet, from another, she is ugly, repulsive, you are afraid of her.” – Picasso

Which is to say, I want to very strongly third what Segundus and mippy said about aiming for looking interesting, bold - striking.

Thinking about things that way really helped me out a lot. I learned to love my body the year I stopped shaving my armpits, because it helped me realize I could look like a successful attempt at a very different form of beauty, rather than like a failed attempt at the more usual kind of prettiness.
posted by 168 at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

How do you know you are plain or ugly? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You said it's something you "just realized" - if so, doesn't that prove that it's subjective in any case? It can be easy to get down on yourself sometimes just as a general rule of life, but to be honest, this DOES sound like a self-confidence issue. Especially where you mention that you are self-conscious about being taken somewhere as "the ugly friend." Unless someone specifically told you that (which is terrible if they did, and why would you want to continue being friends with them anyway?), why would you assume that that was their motivation?

I know plenty of "plain" people who come across as appealing and attractive because they are kind, generous people.

Do people really laugh at you for liking a handsome guy? If that's really true, then it sounds like the solution is to find new friends.
posted by mermily at 7:50 AM on November 14, 2012

I think it is important to keep in mind that you really don't know what other people are attracted to. You sometimes don't even know what you yourself are attracted to until you find yourself attracted to it.
posted by srboisvert at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive
What's your goal? Dress to be attractive if you want to attract people. Lots of regular looking people look a lot better with terrific clothes, makeup and presentation. Some quite attractive people look boring because they wear ill-fitting clothes, have bad posture, bad haircut, etc.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy
Such rude behavior deserves a harsh stare.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?
I would hate being around people who regarded me that way. But in some circumstances, I'd go if it was an event I wanted to attend. Be really cautious about the assumption that this is happening. They probably like you and want you to come along and have fun.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?
Be competent, document your achievement, find a mentor.

I suspect that your looks are not as much of an issue as you think. Self-assurance based on intelligence, kindness, achievement, interest, humor, good listening, and fun is really attractive.
posted by theora55 at 7:57 AM on November 14, 2012

I usually feel like I'm in bizarro world when I read the responses to these sorts of threads, but I will add this: self-acceptance and self-improvement are both good things and they're not mutually exclusive. Regardless of the hand we're dealt, we can all stand to improve ourselves both mentally and physically, and loving yourself as you are while still striving to become better is a valid goal. Play up what you've got, improve the things you can change -- bodies are highly malleable, despite what anybody says -- and don't waste time worrying about the rest. Attractiveness is not purely subjective, but it is relative -- everybody is beautiful to somebody.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:58 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I personally think there is a bell curve on attractiveness.

Given no bias the vast majority of people are "decent looking" so most of the time it all comes down to preferences and not objective attractiveness.

If you draw the attractive line on the "Model Side" side most everyone is ugly.
If you draw the attractive line on the "Badly Asymmetrical" side most everyone is good looking.

A) Clean Presentable clothes, some light make up or skin care, good hygiene, well kept (clean/trimmed) nails and hair go a long way. Those things project health which makes people's lizard brains like you and be comfortable in your presence. Beyond that it's mostly taste and personal preference.

B) C) D) Look at what these three save you from. It's pretty great really. A and B, those are terrible people. If anyone displays that behavior you have evidence of their terribleness that some people may not have. D also has silver linings. You wouldn't have to worry that your success is based on someone's hornyness/harassment instead of your merits.

This stuff is all super abstract. How do we even define romantic success? Marriage? Because a huge percentage of people get married, something like 90% of women get married at least once in their life. I'm sure a lot of those people were not super attractive in their own estimation.

Think about this though. You and other people likely do not agree on who is attractive or how attractive those people are. Some people think Cristina Hendricks from Mad Men is hatchet faced and fat. Others voted Jenifer Aniston the sexiest woman alive. I profoundly disagree with both assessments.

The point is that you are likely not your type. That doesn't mean you are nobody's type.
posted by French Fry at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Realize: Part of this is socially imposed crap. Ask how many men feel ugly or plain - does it even hit the double digits in %?

Embrace it - do whatever makes you feel good. Try different looks, go bold. Once you find the right style, you will radiate with happiness. And happy people look pretty!

The league concept is weird at best. People mix all the time. There is no rule that handsome guys procreate only with pretty girls. There are far more things that make or break relationships than beauty. Don't waste your time with trying to live up to other peoples alleged standards - use the time to work on all the other fantastic traits you have!

Work can be a bit different though, depending on the field/job. Observe what successful people in your field have to offer and do to create success. Is it really that superficial? Your work persona: dress smart, act smart, invest in education. Kick their asses.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

If it is important to you to look more attractive than when you roll out of bed, then dress up. Everyone, no matter how objectively attractive or not, looks more attractive when they are dressed well than when they are not.

That said, dress to flatter your face and body -- don't just blindly wear what is fashionable. Given my body type, I look less attractive when I try to be fashionable, because fashionable clothes are cut for someone who weighs about 80lbs less than I do.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my league?

Cruel people will always find a way to laugh. I would avoid those people.

But again -- you don't get to define your own league. Whether a guy is in "your league" or not is a matter of his taste; unless you are psychic, don't automatically assume that you know how attractive someone else does or does not find you. Some people might rate my SO as "out of my league"; others might rate me as out of his.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep your own mind open to interest from someone who you may not have noticed. How many really nice men to whom you could be attracted have you discounted on a quick judgement?

Attraction is fluid, and for many people, how physically attracted you are to someone is a function not just of appearance but also of other physical traits (smell, voice, etc) and especially emotional experiences. There are many very conventionally attractive people whom I have not been attracted to due to personality; there are many conventionally unattractive people whom I have had been attracted to. Moreover, I find that my level of attraction to people has shifted over time, so it's obviously not a simple physical thing.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

I find it hard to imagine anyone so cruel and selfish -- if you know someone who might do this, don't spend time with them.

If you are being invited somewhere, it is probably because that person wants to spend time with you and thinks that you are fun to be with. Unless they are attracted to you, they are probably not thinking of your appearance at all.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

If it is egregious and documentable, report it to Human Resources.
posted by jb at 8:23 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to a woman's group. Politically active femininist women don't typically seem to buy into the Revlon Junkie culture that tries to shoehorn all women into various standard catagories. This doesn't mean that intelligent women never use makeup or aren't stylish. It means that they don't buy the bullshit mentality that drives women to buy so-called beauty aids compulsively.

In my view, beauty really is a part of a person's demeanor, not an artiface. It may be that you don't pick clothes that represent who you think you are. But then, if you've bought into the version of yourself that those assholes have tried to sell you (that you are ugly), then of course your dress would reflect that. Please be receptive to the idea that it's really possible that their characterization isn't true in an objective sense. In another sense, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and ugly goes to the bone. Think about whether those jerks are describing you or their internal landscape.

Please talk with some sensible women about this before you continue to think of yourself this way.

[I hope you can appreciate that I've left off a couple dozen paragraphs of rant describing those fools, since they are not actually who you wanted to know about.]
posted by mule98J at 8:25 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since you specified that you don't want to be told that you have poor self-esteem, I won't tell you that - although it is something you should consider. I strongly believe that "good-looking" is avery subjective term. I have dated models and non-models, and often the women who don't model are far more attractive to me because I go more for the "girl next door" look.

Anyway, to address your question, I will tell you that when I was younger I used to be unattractive, and it was really hard for me to get a date. I had to practice very hard to develop enough charisma to get women to even consider dating me. It was sad.

Eventually, I accepted to myself that I was not happy with my looks, and got cosmetic surgery. It was convenient to do at the time, since I was having a deviated septum fixed anyway, so combining that surgery with some cosmetic rhinoplasty was relatively easy. Today I get referred to as "handsome" on occasion (though I think that people may be reacting more to my personality, which often subconsciously influences people's perception).

And I'll be honest with you - ever since I had the operation, life is good. I'm finally playing on a (relatively) equal level with those entitled douchebags who grew up with good looks and don't know what it's like to have to struggle against people's perceptions. Furthermore, they often lack charisma because they never had to rely on their personalities, whereas I've always held onto the lessons I learned from my time on the ugly side.

Just so we're clear, I don't recommend extensive cosmetic surgery - a lot of people fall into the perfectionist trap and always want to do "just one more change" until they end up looking like freaks. But one cosmetic surgery to address the things you're most unhappy about? Totally go for it. Just make sure you research your doctors thoroughly.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2012

a) Dress the way you feel happiest and most comfortable/confident.

b) You stop being friends with those people (or understand in your heart that they're not your friends)

c) By what kinds of comments the other folks along make about your body and what you are wearing. If there's condescension, or backhandedness, you're being treated as the ugly friend.... which says more about them then you, honestly.

d) Work hard and self promote, while at the same time not assuming their looks are what's responsible for their success.
posted by spunweb at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2012

C) isn't a thing. I have a friend who is extremely unattractive. I have never thought of her as "my ugly friend", never invited her out so I seemed hotter. I go out with her bc I love her, she's smart and fun, and I like spending time with her. If your friends do this, they are assholes. Get better friends.

Everyone except celebrities-after-airbrushing is ugly. Take care of yourself mentally and physically, regular bathing and basic grooming, find a style YOU like and go with it. Then live your life and you're good.
posted by peacrow at 8:34 AM on November 14, 2012

In my experience, most people don't notice these things as much as one would think.

To answer your questions directly.

A. I would say that you should strive to be well put together, but overall you should do what makes you feel comfortable. You probably can't afford to be one of those people who wears sandals with socks and never cuts their hair and is all like, "Oh, whatever, this is the REAL ME, and if they don't like it, they can shove it!" But then most people shouldn't be like that, so whatever.

B. Fuck 'em. Haters gonna hate. Seriously, you should not give one iota of thought to what others think about who you're attracted to. If your "friends" are expressing this to you, get new friends, because the ones you have are not your friends.

C. Ditto. If you know for a fact that you have friends who think this way, they are REALLY not your friends.

D. I think the workplace thing is something that might be true on a statistical level, but probably is meaningless on an individual level. I know plenty of rather plain people who have achieved career success. The only way I can think of that this could affect you is if you have a career where you're required to trade on your looks, charisma, and first impressions (sales, maybe?), or if you work in a field where a lot of women use their sexuality as a tool to get what they want. But in the latter case, I think it's relatively easy NOT to go that way. I mean, there are zillions of people who don't flirt their way into business deals, and those people are doing fine. You don't have to be like that to get ahead, and women who do get ahead that way are often not seeing the big picture of having that as the only tool in their kits.
posted by Sara C. at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my coworkers is STUNNINGLY attractive. Except that she's not really. She has an extraordinarily week chin and several other major physical failings. BUT, she always has her hair cut/styled, she wears subtle and attractive make up everyday, she accessorizes and dresses fashionably and confidently and she always greats people with a loud and happy greeting and smile.

It is insanely hard to look past all of that to realize that she has some major physical imperfections. If you want to put the effort in you can totally overcome "plain".

Which leads me to D. If you are putting the work in, nobody at work actually cares how attractive you are. If you are the fashion plate people will buy it.

If you don't want to put the effort in, don't. But you need to do a cost/benefit analysis for YOU as to why it's not worth putting the effort in.

FWIW, I've been extremely large for 16 years, and I honestly thought it didn't affect my self esteem, however, now that I've taken steps to remedy this problem I've been able to see that I made many choices (from how I dressed to what guys I thought it was "acceptable" for me to admit to liking) that were informed by where I felt I sat in the social "caste". So while I believe you that your perception is not a self esteem issue, it is worth asking yourself how choosing NOT to maximize your assets, whatever they may be, may affect your choices/self esteem down the line.
posted by dadici at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that your looks aren't stuck on one point on one scale. Sometimes I look reasonably attractive, and sometimes I bear an uncanny resemblance to Lady Elaine Fairchilde. It depends on a million things: my clothes and hair, how I'm carrying myself, my physical health, my mood, the lighting, and probably mostly the beholder.

Most of us are biased against ourselves when it comes to beauty. We have a tendency to judge our own looks based on our weakest features and moments, even if we think we're being objective, even if we don't feel bad about ourselves.

You can always nudge your looks toward the good end of the continuum with a little bit of grooming: flattering clothes, regular haircuts, good posture. You can opt out of all this, certainly, but a very small amount of effort can pay off without stressing you out. And if you feel well-groomed, you'll feel more confident, and that confidence will come through and you'll look even better.

Recently, I started wearing nicer outfits, jewelry, and a small amount of makeup to work, and I swear, strangers I passed in the halls started saying hi instead of ignoring me. Not because I was prettier, but probably because I was more pulled together and seemed more comfortable in the world. People pick up on how you're feeling about yourself, and they respond to that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to interviews I've read, Meryl Streep was very plain in high school. She decided she no longer wanted to be that way and attacked the problem in a very strategic way. She studied all the latest fashion magazines to get an idea of what the latest styles were and what clothes looked best on what body types. She had her hair professionally styled and colored. She concentrated on her posture and manner of speaking. On Sunday nights she planned out every outfit she was going to wear to school in the coming week. Bing-bang-boom during her senior year she was a cheerleader, and sought out by the "popular" crowd.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you want to present yourself as well as possible, pick up a copy of "David Kibbe's Metamorphosis". It can help you dress better and pick flattering hairstyles.

You can crush on handsome guys. Just don't share it with catty people.

True story: I once joked at work about dating a much younger, gorgeous guy on my team. He wasn't much older than my kids and I was kind of a middle aged fatty who really didn't look too good (no make up or jewelry, didn't dress that well, etc). I only made the joke because the idea of him going out with me struck me as ridiculous and something clearly no one would take seriously.

He was breathlessly at my desk so fast he must have used a teleporter. I spent weeks trying to delicately back out of it without it ending up in HR. I never made a joke like that again.

Moral of the story: Even handsome men have needs that go beyond hanging a bauble off their arm. If you like him, let him know. Don't say "no" for him.
posted by Michele in California at 10:04 AM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

Some thoughts:

"B" and "C": Lose these asshats. Right now. You need these "friends" like you need your brain pierced. Friends should be your cheerleaders and have your back. Anyone who laughs at you for "dating out of your league" or regards you as "the ugly friend" or treats you like a mascot or court jester needs to be jettisoned. Find friends who are true friends. No matter what you decide to do about makeup, fashion and your appearance in general, having nice people who like you in your corner is priceless. Life is too short to call mean, petty assholes "friends."

"D." Consider your workplace and your career field. Are you in a glamour industry or one that is youth-oriented? Those kind of workplaces are more likely to blatantly prefer attractive women (and men) than less sexy exciting fields. And I have found that it's not so much the actual field or industry that makes a job a good job - it's having a short commute, reasonable work hours, a boss who treats you well, decent pay, and a generally non-toxic work environment. Plus, a good boss and functional work culture usually translates into much less appearance focus. Find yourself a good job with good people and you will be much happier no matter what you look like.

Where do you live? A shallow city, or a more down-to-earth one? Some cities (I won't name names) are much more youth-and-beauty-focused and hyper-competitive than others; if your city is a place where size 8 is considered "huge" then it's hard for even the most beautiful to have any sort of self-worth. A mid-sized city with a wide range of industries would probably be your best bet both for working and dating.

And - if you want plastic surgery and can afford it, that's up to you. I don't think of plastic surgery as Teh Ebil and something only those with low self-esteem have done. Obviously, expectations are the key - you aren't going to look like someone completely different, just you-but-better. If you want it, can afford it, and have realistic expectations, then by all means go for plastic surgery. Ditto a complete fashion makeover. Don't feel pushed into any of this or like it's something you have to do to be "more attractive" or whatever. I just feel like it is an option and it is not shallow to have work done or a wardrobe overhaul.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2012

Taking you at your word here, my guess is that you're not what would be considered "conventionally attractive". Welcome to the club! I'm not conventionally attractive either, but I've learned to work pretty well with what I've got, and it has not taken inordinate amounts of effort or energy. IMO, it doesn't make sense for you to waste energy trying to "pass" as conventionally attractive if you're not, but it does make sense to find things you like about yourself and "turn the volume up" on them.

Thus, regarding your item (a), no, I wouldn't say you need to exhaust yourself obsessing over your appearance. Just experiment with some little things, see how they make you feel, and then if you decide you don't care about adjusting those variables, move on to something else. If you wear glasses, for instance, finding a flattering pair of frames can draw attention to your eyes and generally have a balancing effect on your facial proportions.

It should also go without saying, but hygiene is a HUGE, HUGE thing. I've encountered plenty of people who would easily be considered "conventionally attractive" from a looks standpoint, but who *stink* like you wouldn't believe. I have never in my life been actively repulsed by anyone on the sheer basis of looks, but I've been repulsed to the point of "okay, must get as far away from this person as possible now" because of how they've smelled.

So if you're going to put effort into anything, "not smelling bad" is a great thing to prioritize. Additionally, make sure your clothes are clean, and if you're a klutz like me who can't afford to keep replacing everything that gets stained, avoid buying pastel clothes and stick to darker colors.

As for item (b), seriously, whoever is doing that to you IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. I'd deal with people laughing at me for such things by writing them off as the jerks they obviously are.

As for (c), if you have actual decent friends, you will never need to worry about being "used" in this manner. If you have any inkling your supposed "friends" are doing this to you...it's time to find some new friends.

As for (d), presuming you have actual evidence of this favouritism at work, you can either call the offenders out on their bias and hope they get a clue, or you can try and find a job in a less toxic environment. My guess is that the latter is probably your best bet, and I can guarantee you that there ARE jobs where looks are not figured into how your performance is judged.
posted by aecorwin at 10:22 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

As I said in the other thread, some of the world's most fashionable style icons were considered "plain", from Wallis, Duchess of Windsor to Diana Vreeland.

Dress to express your personality and your artistic sensibility, not to look like you stepped out of a catalogue. We remember Frida Kahlo's look, not the look of the hundreds of starlets and models who were her contemporaries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know how you normally dress, but I do believe a little work on clothes/haircut/makeup can go a long, long way. My GF watches a lot of 'what not to wear' style shows, and sometimes the results truly are spectacular.

Self confidence is so, so so key!!!! If you carry yourself like a movie star, people will start to treat you like one.

As for guys: pursue one. If the signs are clearly "NO" then back off. If he is oblivious or interested, go for it! In my (nerdy, nerdy) circles, most of the ladies pursued the men to some extent or another, and it worked well for them.
posted by Jacen at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2012

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

If you want to, yes. Dressing up is fun and creative. It can build your confidence and lead you into interesting adventures. Also, you don't have to explain your choice not to bother if that is what you choose.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

Kill them with fire.

Sorry, that was flippant. It stings, it sucks, the best thing you can do is be kind to yourself if this happens. Tell them they're being incredibly rude and stop hanging out with them. Then go and do something nice for yourself. Spoil yourself a little.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

This... is a really nasty way to think of people who are being thoughtful enough to invite you to anything. It's also a pretty nasty way of thinking about yourself. The world might see you as "the ugly friend", but do you have to agree with them? I would suggest that you not try to identify when this is happening, at all. It sounds like a recipe for making sure you trust no one enough to become friends with them.

Most people do not have time or energy to put into inviting people along out of pity or the need to have "an ugly friend" to make them all look better. If the former, well, it's an invite and you might make a good friend at the gathering. If the latter, well, I don't think I need to tell you that they're not worth your time.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

Treat it like a pass to do your own thing. The pretty women are now caught in the cycle of always trying to earn that favoritism by maintaining their prettiness. You are not part of that game. You don't have to follow its rules. It's hard, you didn't choose this, but you can either look for ways to make it work for you or you can waste your time resenting the hell out of the women who are prettier. It's also worth remembering that being spoiled rarely benefits the person being spoiled. While you are out there learning to do things the hard way, the prettier women are missing opportunities to learn.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:55 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

If someone is genuinely laughing in your face about this stuff, that person is a huge jerk.

I may be totally off-base here, but is your type very handsome guys? I have a friend who is not particularly good-looking and she is only interested in guys who are, like, unemployed-actor-hot. Like, had an arc on a CW show, used to model, is one of the most attractive people you've ever seen . . . hot. And she can like whoever she likes, but sometimes I want to shake a little sense into her when she complains that there are no good guys out there, yadda yadda yadda. So, my apologies if I'm totally off-base, but if you are always, and not sometimes, "batting out of your league" or whatever slightly horrifying thing people say about these things, maybe readjust what you're looking for in a man?

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

I'm very pretty, and I've been "the ugly friend" in that I felt invisible when out with another friend of mine. (My best friend growing up was absolutely beautiful). But I don't think anyone who is not genuinely an asshole befriends or invites someone along in order to look better in comparison. If your friends are good people, trust that fact.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:24 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Without make up most people wouldn't give me the time of day - I grew up thinking I was the ugly one.

Once I learned how to dress myself, put effort into my make up suddenly I became this swan. I did modelling, had men all over me - I finally became the hot girl.

Now it sickens me. I feel like people don't even know what my face actually looks like under the make up and the hair. On weekends I'm a completely different person with my family. I mean, it's easy to say it's just make up, it doesn't change who you are, but I hate that I have to feel compelled to "gussy" myself up to interact with society. Some food for thought to nosh on.
posted by Danithegirl at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nthing makeup, hair, clothes, accessories, and being as fit, healthy, and happy as you can, accentuate your best features, etc.

When I'm around people, their objective attractiveness has little to do with whether I am attracted to them. If I'm happy, having fun, feeling engaged, and I like someone, they appear more attractive to me. If I dislike someone, they become ugly to me. This is something that most people experience to a greater or lesser degree. Develop a charming personality and present yourself well, and people will forget about your looks because they'll be focused on you.

Not all features that are theoretically bad actually harm your appearance. Some features that seem like a liability can be an asset because they suit you or because you own it. Plus, the features that you dislike, others might be drawn to. (For example, I have a thing for big noses. I think they're cute, even though they theoretically are not). Although there is a universal standard of "beauty" that most people could agree is pleasant to look at, this is not what people are drawn to. Don't you have beautiful or handsome friends that you would never want romance with?

People are drawn to engagement, interest, warmth, wit, fascination, and a million other things. People are also drawn to positivity; don't be cranky or negative if you can help it. Be a pleasure to be around, and people won't notice that you're not a supermodel.

Always smell good but not overpowering. Always have fresh breath and if you have bad teeth, get them fixed. Do whatever you can to eliminate acne, oil, scarring, etc. Don't wear ratty clothes. Keep your eyebrows neatly waxed or plucked and never have undesirable facial hair; this makes a huge difference. Make sure that you wear the right colours for your skin tone. Keep your skin soft and moisturized. Cultivate a pleasant speaking voice and a pleasant, yet authentic, laugh. Learn to move gracefully. Make sure your hair and brows are neither too dark nor too light for your colouring. Wear a shoe with a tiny bit of a heel so you look more alluring when you walk, and develop a "one line walk" to accentuate your femaleness. Wear a little jewellery, but not too much.

Become more aware of your body. Develop your sensuality. This will radiate from you. Be comfortable in your own skin and people will be attracted to you.

Use bright colours here and there to draw attention. Drink lots of water. Wear shapewear/ foundation garments, even if you're thin. Wear clothes that fit properly. No ratty shoes.

Don't worry about being the "ugly friend", just don't be friends with people who think or behave that way. You don't need catty people in your life. Don't you be catty, either- it makes you ugly.

Don't feel bad for being attracted to people who are "out of your league". I won't pretend that it doesn't matter at all- it does- but we're neither teenagers nor in a teen movie, and I know lots of women whose husbands or boyfriends are significantly more attractive, objectively, than them. They are happy. They like each other. They have good chemistry, they are attractive to each other. Granted, it doesn't always happen that way, but you shouldn't feel bad for being drawn to good-looking people. Nor should you assume you have no chance with them.

If you don't feel like putting the work in, you aren't obligated to explain or justify that to anybody. Ever. There are millions of people who are way uglier than "plain", who don't do anything about it, and who are happy and in relationships and have great lives. Seriously. Besides, pretty fades.

But, the most important advice is true for everyone;

Smile. You're beautiful when you smile.
posted by windykites at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

There is no measure of objective looks. this is not physics. Some people will be into you. Some will not.

Dress great, I love it.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:07 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

With all kindness, let me suggest that if you only recently realized this, you probably look much better (or at least much more average) than you think. Those of us who got truly whacked with the ugly stick (or whatever your fourth-grade insult of choice) figured it out in early childhood, and if we didn't, all of school from age 3 to 21 was there to tell us.

That said.

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

Yes. Because dress, styling, hygiene, etc. makes everyone look better. Its not about getting to a certain level of improvement or competing, it's just looking as good as you personally can. The exception would be if your personality is very much anti-this stuff. E.g. if you are a hippie nature woman who is opposed to mirrors or vanity of any sort (or whatever) and if anything beyond being clean feels false or as if it goes against your beliefs. If that's the case, by all means don't do it. Just tell people you don't like it, or don't want to waste the time.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

Don't be around such people. Or, if you must be around them, learn to get mean/snarky right back at them.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

As you get older and have more experience with different friends and different kinds of people, you'll learn to recognize when someone is shallow enough to do this. Friends who are really self-centered, like all the time, and who say patronizing things to you a lot, are probably not really friends.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

Work harder than them, be better than them, and other than that, just accept it. Life sucks sometimes. There is also favoritism shown to the scions of famous political families, and to billionaires, and to people who went to certain schools, and to family friends of the boss, etc, etc. This is like that. There's nothing you can do about it. Except if you mean there is a particular icky climate at your actual current workplace. Pretty women will always be rewarded in life over unpretty ones, unfair as it is, but you do not have to always have a skeezy boss who only promotes them and not you. If that's what you're dealing with, start looking for another job.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Style is at least 7/10 of everything. People with amazing style "present" higher up on the beauty scale.

Involve friends - and, since we're discussing attractiveness instead of professionalism (or some other presentation issue), give priority to the opinion of friends who are in the desired gender/orientation group - straight men, if you are a hetero woman.

Ask advice at the Ultra counter, or some other high-choice, well-heeled makeup store.

Go play-shopping: go into trendy or pricey stores, and tell the clerks you're looking to upgrade or change your look. Something prettier/sexier, but not trampy. Let them show you their stuff, try it on, and ultimately tell them you want to shop around a bit more. If they aren't busy, at least you're providing some distraction for them, and costing the store nothing, so don't feel rude! And, of course, buy anything that's "right" and in your $ range.

Go shoe-shopping. Find shoes that are good-looking AND comfortable to you. They exist. Don't shop at Payless; go into the higher-end stores again. Just looking is OK; you'll find looks you want on your feet, and then you can find something similar cheaper elsewhere.

Finally, don't ever, ever let your "lack of attractiveness" stop you from flirting. Flirtless people only have their looks. Flirty ones have more. Besides, to a surprising number of guys, being the right "type" for them AND being fun is more attractive than being beautiful - whether or not they'll admit it to their beer buddies.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:28 PM on November 14, 2012

Great advice above, but I'll add one more thing"

There's an episode of the TV show Franklin and Bash that addressed something like this. In "Jennifer of Troy", a demonstrably plain woman is fired from her high-profile position at a magazine company. She believes it's because she's so attractive that other women feel threatened, so she hires Franklin and Bash to sue.

What was excellent about that episode what that it showed that she was attractive. But not at all because of her looks. She was sexy to men because of the way she treated them. She took a sincere interest in them. She noticed little things about them that made them feel special. But most of all, she was CONFIDENT. She walked through this world knowing that she was beautiful, so other people knew it too.

Nothing--and I mean NOTHING, not brains, not physical beauty, not anything--is sexier than confidence. If you go through this world with your head held high, acting like you're every bit as pretty as Gisele friggin' Bundchen, people will respond to that.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive?

Should you bother to breathe in mostly oxygen and breathe out mostly CO2 twelve to sixteen times a minute?

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy?

By asking these people how they cope with having such crooked, misshapen noses, and when they open their mouths to protest that they don't have crooked, misshapen noses, fixing that for them with a right hook.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

Who the fuck is doing all this stuff to you? That's what I want to know. Has this happened or are you projecting this onto other people? Because if this has happened, you fucking cut these people out of your life. They are not friend material. I know that gets said too easily or flippantly sometimes, but I'm not kidding.

Sure would be funny if you got brought along as the Less Attractive Friend so that someone else could pull Handsome Guy, and Handsome Guy only had eyes for you, you stylish thing. Because that could be a reason for going along. Not that you would engage in such sophomoric one-upmanship. I'm just saying.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?

Seconding the advice to "Be competent, document your achievement, find a mentor."

I see a whole bunch of self-loathing projected outward, but at the same time, many of us have had these things run through our minds. Society - patriarchy et al - WANTS you to hate yourself and will try every trick in the book to make that happen. Don't fall for it.
posted by tel3path at 2:12 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?

Maybe you meant this to refer to the situation that happens when you and a friend carpool, and your friend meets a stranger who would like to take them for dinner or drinks after the event is over? They are just asking you along to make it even possible for your friend to go without abandoning you or getting a ride with a stranger.

It has nothing to do with how you look, your age, sexual orientation, gender, or species -- the term you are looking for is "the third (or fifth) wheel".
posted by yohko at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2012

Hey! Me too! Not pretty. And i have a gorgeous skinny 20 year old daughter (with no idea how gorgeous she is) who I take clothes shopping and watch her look perfectly pretty in a dress I will never fit into, and then I catch my grotesque (slight exaggeration) reflection in a mirror.

a) Should I bother to dress up and try to be more attractive, knowing I"ll probably still be lucky to reach average? How do I explain it if I don't want to bother?

If you want. It's an expression of creativity. I like to wear lots of flowers in my hair. It's ridiculously mutton as lamb. I'm 45. I don't give a shit. I like flowers. And in fact, sometimes the flowers in my hair have given some other people some pleasure - one random taxi driver for a start. Sometimes I dress up as a jungle explorer. Sometimes, without appropriating someone else's culture, I wear clothes that remind me of that culture, and nice things about it. I don't feel the need to explain it - whether I dress up or not. Fuck 'em. It's my business unless I'm breaking the law or being offensive.

b) How do I deal with people laughing that I like a handsome guy because I should know he is way out of my leauge?

Fuck 'em. They're arseholes. And guess what - I've actually had awesome flings with hot guys. No, really, actually totally hornbags. Because I'm smart, I'm funny, I'm adventurous, I'm sexy, I'm challenging. In fact, I'm having an awesome fling with a guy who's ripped, right now (okay, not while I'm typing - but I saw him on Monday, and we shagged for hours all over his flat). However, there is a caveat. I would not say to anyone - see that hot dude over there - I'm totally going to marry him. In fact, I wouldn't say either - see that totally desperate lonely dude over there - I'm totally going to marry him. Because I can't predict the future. Also I'm not going to get married again. So, if someone laughs because you give a hot guy the once over, or invite him on a date - look them up and look them down and look them in the eye, and say, "Excuse me? Do you have a problem" Because that's it, they have the problem. They're rude arseholes.

c) How do I tell when I'm being invited along as "the ugly friend"?
When you're with arseholes. I've never (to my knowledge) been invited along as the "ugly friend". I didn't even realise there was such a role. Don't hang with arseholes.

d) How do I deal with the favouritism shown to pretty women at my work?
This sucks, but favouritism goes to pretty women, pretty men, and people of a privileged background, or of a similar culture/religion to the boss or a million other things. I survived this by becoming pretty damn good at my job. Some people think I enjoy favouritism. I know better. Ultimately, get yourself a good education (not necessarily formal), be the best you can be, and only stay in jobs where it's fair.
posted by b33j at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm in the same boat, but as I acquire more experiences and so on, I've come to realize that beauty is only one part of the equation. I know some extremely unattractive people that come across very attractive because they have great charm.

a. Yes, do dress nicely, put on makeup, etc., but don't do it for others. Do it for yourself! When I dress like a bum, I feel like one. When I dress to impress, I feel like I'm impressing.

b. I feel this sometimes, but I really think it's just my own insecurities talking. I don't think anyone actually does that and if they do, they are messed up, downright evil, and you really shouldn't care what they think anyway. Also, you shouldn't ever feel like someone is out of your league. What they have in beauty, you probably make up for somewhere else (athletic abilities, intelligence and so on).

c. I also feel like this sometimes, but again, I think I'm just thinking too much into it, and you probably are too. If your friends actually do this and tell it to your face, you need new friends.

d. This is unavoidable but take it as motivation to do better in your work. I don't work with people, but I take classes. I know that sometimes, prettier girls get a lot more attention from the TAs or profs but you can't control how you look. I would focus on the things you can control, like how well you do in your work and so on.
posted by cyml at 5:48 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

As far as clothes go, I cannot overstate the importance of a properly fitting bra. Without that, nothing you wear is going to look right.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:54 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

From all accounts, Cleopatra was physically unattractive. I've been attracted to a lot of women who aren't classically attractive.

What kind of woman would you be if your mate was blind?

(One thing I find devastatingly attractive is non-judgmental self awareness.... kind of along the lines of "Hey, I think I'm not attractive but it's not a character flaw." By these standards, you are one hot babe. Chill. Just look for dudes/people who get it. )
posted by FauxScot at 2:44 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

d) Remember that being pretty has pros and cons too -- my more-conventionally-attractive friends report being hit on inappropriately a lot more, and often being given a lot of attention but not always taken seriously as actual humans ("if she's so pretty, she can't be that smart but maybe she will have sex with me!").

I feel lucky that I don't get harassed (on the street/in bars/at work/everywhere) as much as many other women do.
posted by oranger at 7:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

avoid makeup that does other than highlight (top lid eyeliner, very light lipstick and/or liner), etc. Just say no to eyeshadow, rouge, heavy foundation, etc

I strongly disagree with this. You don't get to wear fun colors because you're plain? Fuck all of that noise, you get to wear whatever you want because you just do.
posted by miskatonic at 11:40 AM on November 15, 2012

I think it's still possible to improve your appearance. Even good-looking people try to do that, as far as I can tell. Whether you should or not is, of course, up to you.

As for guys, you see good-looking women with plain guys. Why can't the reverse be true?
posted by darwesh at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with Miskatonic - have fun with your makeup! Except for one thing: heavy obviously spackle-y foundation does no-one any favors, no matter how conventionally attractive (or not) one is. A light foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB cream looks much better on most people.

(I've discovered the wonderful world of authentic Korean BB creams and won't go back to regular foundation. I get Missha M Perfect Cover from Seoulbeauty via Amazon - it costs about the same as Revlon, and it absolutely makes me glow and takes ten years off my visible age.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2012

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