Third grade. Waiting in line behind Susie Bosco at the water fountain. She takes a sip, wipes her mouth on her sleeve, looks at me and blurts: “YOU GOT BIG EARS,” and strolls away.
I actually prayed that my ears would get smaller. Sure enough, they did. Then my nose got big. God works in mysterious ways. Dick. Of course, since my entire family had similar schnozes, I never thought about it. Until it was brought to my attention. Over and over and over.
People let me know I had a large nose. Like it was their job. They were right…I did! What’s the big deal about a big nose? When you’re a girl-crazy pre-teen, it’s a pretty big fucking deal.
All that giggling told me one thing: that a big beak is unattractive. Therefore, I am unattractive. Two things.
It wasn’t just the girls, either. One summer, our neighbors made huge, chalk drawings of my entire family in front of our house. Larger-than-life cartoon profiles of us all, with noses big as Hondas. Accords, not Civics.
The advice I should’ve received was “own it,” not “ignore it.” Because you can’t ignore it. I’d walk down the school hallway and receive the random “Hey, big nose!" from girls at their lockers.
For some reason, however, I still tried to ask them out. Making sure my eyes were fixed square on their shoes, I’d ask this one to the dance, or that one to roller-skate, and I’d get scoffed at, blown off, and on several occasions: “YOU?!”
Two girls in high school convinced me that “Kristen” was, like, totally into me, and wanted me to ask her out, and I did, like a superchump. More laughter. More proof that I am, how you say, mucho feo.
So I began to shrink. I went from happy extrovert to sullen introvert. I would look at other guys like Charlie or Jimmy or Chris and wished I looked like them, with their adorable, little sniffers. I would look in the mirror with disgust…the way girls looked at me.
Oh yeah, just to the right and left and north and south of my hideous honker was a Clearisil commercial. The “before” photo.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall…I fu**ing hate you."
College wasn’t much better. Girls weren’t cruel anymore, but they were still finicky. I was allergic to confidence, so I was invisible. I began to settle into the fact that women just don’t dig me. I learned to live without.
Luckily, I had funny friends. Luckily, I also had a loving mother and a dad who adored and respected her. Otherwise, my self-pity may well have morphed into misogyny. Actual misogyny, not generic frustration. I never hated girls. I couldn’t. I just hated that I didn’t look like the guy they wanted.
My insecurity got a rocket boost when my “best friend” in college caught a peek at my freshman-15 as I bent over to get a sip of water. I could still hear his “Bleccch!" and see the distorted look of genuine repugnance on his face. (Sheesh, maybe the lesson here is to steer clear of water fountains.)
Shortly after, he said to me: “I was just like you in high school, and I hated myself."
We don’t talk anymore. But, to this day, I’ll skip meals or even fast if go up one belt notch. I would think, “My nose and complexion are repellant enough, I better stay slim to avoid a third nickname.”
Ever see a baseball cap with two front bills? It would look ridiculous, right?? So I never wore hats. I rarely smiled in photos because I hated my stupid, asymmetric face. I was often mistaken for arrogant or “full of myself,” when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was painfully timid and defensive. Later on in life, my comedy headshots would prompt my pals to say, “That doesn’t look like you." Exactly…that’s why I chose it.
When I read any one of the bazillion* Facebook posts about body image, and society’s seemingly-impossible standards for what a woman should look like, I always think to myself, “Hey, I hear ya louuud and clear." But I also wonder, do women think these issues are exclusive to them? Was my childhood any less horrifying than a pudgy girl’s? Bottom line: I was convinced that I was disgusting.
(*Before you judge me, do this. Apology accepted.)
A pretty girl knows she’s pretty because people tell her she’s pretty, ad nauseum. Sadly, that type of reinforcement works in reverse, too. While I no longer care about my nose, and think I look better than I used to, the damage was done. I would go on to sabotage potential relationships with women I thought were out of my league…women who liked me. I’m 42 and I still feel grateful when a woman lets me kiss her. Yes. Grateful. And yes, lets me. I don’t wait for a red light from women…I see yellow and I slam on the brakes.
I never hit on girls at a bar. Why bother? She’ll just say no. I turn heads…away from me. My nickname in college could’ve been Nice But…”I think you’re really nice, but…” And since society dictates that it’s the man’s job to ask women out, I’ve been perpetually single. Double standards exist for us guyses, too.
Furthermore, I’ve been nuts about girls since the second grade, and I liked who I liked. I wasn’t influenced by magazines or television. I was 7, for chrissakes! No one told me what type of girls are pretty, just like no one told them which boys were cute. They liked who they liked, and it wasn’t this guy. I’ll admit to now being a bit picky and critical, and I know it stems from always feeling “not good enough” for girls in my youth. I’m not proud of that, and I’m not mean to women, but telling me to “get over that shit” is just as helpful as me giving the same, lazy advice to a girl with anorexia or bulimia.
Now here’s the fugly truth: there were SOME girls who liked me…but not the ones I liked. And I can’t help but think about my female doppelgangers out there who feel the same way: like they deserve “better.” Is it shitty? Hell, yes. But it is NOT male-specific behavior.
There are plenty of men who find you attractive, regardless of societal conventions. Those men may be overweight or bald or pock-marked or Italian, but you can look past that, right? Surely you can see their inner beauty??
And if you’re of the belief that “It’s different for girls" I’d probably agree. But how can you measure self-loathing? Seriously, I’m asking. I used to give my reflection the finger, all Johnny Cash-style. If this blog entry seems pathetic to you, that may explain why men don’t typically publicize their insecurities too often. We come off as wimpy, passive whiners—another double standard—who will “never understand what it’s like to be a woman.” You’re absolutely correct. I never will. But I understand all too well what it’s like to be ostracized, mocked and unfairly judged on my appearance.
Do I want your pity? For the love of Bosco, FUCK. NO. Not even a little. Some empathy wouldn’t hurt, though. Despite what the Googles tell you, women do not own the rights to suffering from society’s standards of beauty. It took me 40 years to accept the way I look as a result of the subtle bullying that I endured from BOTH genders throughout my formative years.
Lastly, I realize that I’ve had better luck in my later years than a lot of guys. No more mean girls. No more flipping myself off. And I also know that things could be a LOT worse, as Louis C.K. so deftly explains.
So, ladies, I’m with you. Society does indeed carry a lofty, unrealistic yardstick to measure beauty. But look around you. Clearly, there are millions of people who don’t choose their partners based on those same, shallow ideals. Decent, mature, realistic adults who look past looks.
One day, I hope to be one of them.