Ugly is the New Pretty | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Ugly is the New Pretty

The irony of ugly. I knew it well. Back in Mississippi, I once got my hair cut into a style JFP co-workers said looked like I had mange (hint: I had stripes shaved around my head with a rat tail and makeshift-mohawk). My clothes almost never matched. My socks didn't match until this last fall. My earrings still don't.

But in Portland, the irony of being ugly reigns supreme. Last night, I saw a girl actually wearing a top made out of various '80s windbreakers sewn together in one big puff. Topping the outfit off were a pair of plaid hotpants and some tights.

From the back of the concert, I spotted a girl -- overweight in a mis-cut dress made of material that could have been curtains we were embarrassed to have as poor kids in the early '90s. Most of her head was shaved except for one long piece on the side. She danced with authority. Flirted with the people around her. Here, ugly rules, and the curtain dress is racking up sexy points. In an alternate universe (the world's 'normal universe'), she'd be ugly. She wouldn't get dates. She might have a great personality, but would likely secretly lament.

"I don't want to really live in either of those universes," my girlfriend told me this morning, when I recounted my night to her.

"Me either," I said.

I used to hate being hit on in clubs. Why should people tell me I'm cute, compliment some accident mash-up of DNA that is beyond my control? I never worked to be skinny, to form dimples in my cheeks.

That's why I was excited when that show "Ugly Betty" came out (though even it really makes America Ferrarra, who is really beautiful, as ugly as possible) with an ugly heroine and a campaign -- BE UGLY -- to bolster it. Why shouldn't we all eschew DNA and just be sexy together?

But, I have to say, the fashion of ironic ugly is way beyond my comprehension. I suspect they'll look back at pictures of themselves and grimace -- just a little -- the way I do when I peep pictures of my 'mange' 'do. But, I always think, too, I'm glad I did that. Just to see.

Previous Comments

ID
110528
Comment

I've been an ugly woman in the normal universe for most of my life, and I don't know what to think of this article. I see your point, Casey, but I can't get past the idea of what I know to be true. #1: Even if I was allowed to date or dance, no one would have asked me to. High School, for that reason alone, was hell. #2: No matter how fashionable my clothes could have been, I still would have heard, "Oh, you'd look so good, if you did this..." #3: Imagine living with a man for over 7 years who constantly said, "You're lucky to have me... no one else would want you." I still don't believe that I'm worth all that much, and I don't believe I deserve the wonderful man I'm married to now. #4: Imagine having a job where your bosses stick you in a back corner and forget about you because they don't want you to be the face of the company. Ugly is not a fashion statement. Ugly is a horrible thing that affects you for the rest of your life. I wish I could find this alternate universe you speak of. It would be nice to fit in: to be accepted for who you are. But that has never happened for me, and it never will.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-02T15:04:40-06:00
ID
110529
Comment

I like your writing, Casey, but I also have to sympathize with Lady Havoc. I have a friend who believes he's ugly, and ugliness for him isn't a fun fashion that thumbs its nose at conventional standards of beauty. It's very painful for the kinds of reasons Havoc mentions. Having seen his suffering, I actually get frustrated by the pseudo-ugliness of hipsters in hotpants who believe they're mocking conventional standards of beauty. They're not. They're just adopting a different fashion that is as equally superficial and facile as the one it's reacting against.

Author
Brent Cox
Date
2007-03-02T16:38:36-06:00
ID
110530
Comment

I'm probably being overly sensitive, but... Comments left on a blog can sometimes seem terse. I hope my critique of an idea isn't read as a criticism of the thinker. As I said, I like your writing, but I think the idea of ironic ugliness is only a popular illusion. Real irony is a polemic with a target. Ironic ugliness pretends to target conventional beauty, but really it reinforces convention--just a newer convention--for the reasons I mention.

Author
Brent Cox
Date
2007-03-02T16:52:14-06:00
ID
110531
Comment

I love Casey's writing, too: I'm jealous that my writing skills have deteriorated in the past years.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-02T19:39:16-06:00
ID
110532
Comment

Brent/Lady, I absolutely agree with both of you. I was trying to find a way to write this without seeming too mean about the hipster kids, but it is really very strange (and I think you make the point best, Brett, that in thumbing their nose at rules of beauty, they've created a new one). I do, still, think there is something very interesting about Portland (at least in the lesbian scene) where DNA ugly/beauty don't matter. But Lady, I really really really want to knock that guy out who told you you were lucky to have him. For what it's worth, not a lot of guys wanted to take me to dances in high school either. I was a bad fright, with hair so ruined by sun-in that I really think I might cry to see old pictures of it. It was bronze on bottom, brown on top (from roots growing in). I never could figure out clothes, and my mom fixed my hair until I was at least 14. I never have figured out makeup. For clairification purposes, I didn't cut my hair into the mange 'do to be ugly. I thought it was cool. Brent, do you hipsters know they're being ugly? Or would it be a more punk creed of the F - you to the establishment? But those reasons you mentioned, Lady -- the bosses, the boyfriends -- are what piss me off when 'good looking' people get pushed to the front, get asked out, etc. It hurts.

Author
casey
Date
2007-03-02T23:06:33-06:00
ID
110533
Comment

Just reminding you that Grunge came from Portland. No wonder.

Author
jasp
Date
2007-03-02T23:30:26-06:00
ID
110534
Comment

I think true hipsters know how finely they're tuning their ugliness. But I do think there's that F-you style that you mention that tends to be attractive because beauty is subjective, and someone with a big F-you in his heart will be drawn to that person more than s/he would to the person in an Aberzombie T-shirt. Interesting that you point out that many Portland lesbians seem to disregard beauty. What about gay men? I've been hoping to move to Portland one day (or Eugene) and find gay men who care more about politics and philosophy than the size of their pecs.

Author
Brent Cox
Date
2007-03-03T09:56:31-06:00
ID
110535
Comment

you know, my experience of gay men here is that they're all very different. I've found a lot of hippie gay men or punk gay men, etc. Coming from places where those types exist less, I'm often surprised when I meet some guy with dreads who uses patchouli rather a shower and find out he's guy.

Author
casey
Date
2007-03-03T11:07:33-06:00
ID
110536
Comment

Thank you, Casey. That's why he's an ex. I learned my lesson about controlling men, and it helped make me who I am now. Some good came out of, but there's a lot more hurt that will not heal.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-03T18:12:37-06:00
ID
110537
Comment

Oh, as an update: it was published in the hometown paper that my ex is divorced. Again. That makes three divorces and at least one long-term relationship. I've been married for almost 10 years, and still as much in love as ever. Look who's ugly now, mister. :)

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-05T21:36:52-06:00

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