Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
I am a twenty-one-year-old cisgendered, heterosexual woman, and I am not hot. I don’t mean that I am ugly, but I also don’t just need a makeover, and I don’t have low self-esteem; I just mean that I am not hot. A little fat, bad skin, a bit of a weak chin—that sort of thing. “Plain” might be the appropriate word for it, and honestly it generally doesn’t bother me. I am smart, I am nice, I am a good friend, and I have a lot of fun. These are the things that are important to me, and while I can be insecure about my appearance at times, mostly I don’t think about it.
My problem, though, is that I want a boyfriend, and I just don’t seem to be memorable enough to make an impression. Guys don’t remember me after having met me once, or even twice. I’d like to think it’s because they’re dicks, but honestly it’s incredibly common, and sometimes they figure it out and they’re absolutely mortified at their own inadvertent rudeness. This is all difficult to talk about, of course, because I have many well-meaning friends who insist upon trying to convince me that I am in fact hot, but I don’t want to “feel” hot. I just want something that hot girls get—male attention with what appears to be zero effort.
Barring plastic surgery, how does a Plain Jane get noticed by men?
Just Not Hot
Dear Not Hot,
First of all, congratulations on the mere lack of looks. If you’re starting from “average” or “unremarkable,” you’re actually working with a pretty versatile medium. There are all kinds of truly memorable deformities and afflictions that could make your situation much more difficult. It’s not just that people are shallow; it’s that they’re easily distracted, and something like say, third-degree burn scars on your face or a total lack of teeth tends to arouse the kind of curiosity that can make connection difficult for the average person. (There are exceptions, of course. For example, I knew the uncle of an ex for four years before I realized that his left arm was perhaps one-third the size of the right one. This does not mean I am not shallow; I am incredibly shallow. I’m just an oblivious idiot.)
But I digress.
Of course, “plain” presents a challenge very different from ugly. By its very nature, ugly is striking, and some people wear it quite well. Moreover, the comfort with which ugly people comport themselves can be quite intriguing and sexy. Plain, however, has a lower profile, making it more difficult to stand out.
Nonetheless, as someone who has routinely punched above my weight romantically, I generally prescribe four rules to all those who seek love, regardless of their beauty or lack thereof.
1) Be funny.
Once, in what I later learned was an attempt to “neg” me, a man waited until I made an extremely successful joke before saying in front of our small group of fellow bar-goers, “You’re funny. But you know, it’s impossible for a man to get an erection while he’s laughing.” He then smirked while everyone stared at him blankly, just before we all burst out laughing at his weak-ass comment.
We laughed, dear reader, because his statement was so patently false he couldn’t possibly be met with a serious response. Funny chicks get the d. Don’t be a ham or a try-hard, but develop your sense of humor, treat witty banter like a skill to be honed, and I assure you, laughs will get results.
2) Be stylish.
Fran Lebowitz said it best: “All God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable. The most common error made in matters of appearance is the belief that one should disdain the superficial and let the true beauty of one’s soul shine through. If there are places on your body where this is a possibility, you are not attractive—you are leaking.”
Like humor, style is something that can be executed poorly, and to disastrous effect. But dogged trial-and-error methods will yield a signature look that advertises your own personal je ne sais quoi, and draws admiration from potential suitors.
3) Be friendly.
This seems self-explanatory, but honest to god, a few subtle but genuine smiles can invite interest from the shy. Eye contact is also woefully undersold, as well as comfortable body language. How far do you stand from someone you’re talking to? Maybe scootch just a little bit closer. Ask people questions about themselves and listen—you know, be a person.
4) Go where you are wanted.
I received little to no attention from men in my podunk hometown, quite a bit more in a college town, and far more in NYC. Some of this, of course, may be due to factors related to the progression of time—I think I’m more attractive now than I was at nineteen, and I’m certainly better dressed and more comfortable in my own skin. But one cannot underestimate the cultural nature of beauty as an abstract. As I came of age in Indiana, I noticed that male appreciation was mostly reserved for the sorts of women you see in white-supremacist memes—blonde, buxom, perhaps owns a dirndl, looks comfortable holding sheaves of wheat, etc. The less provincial the town, the more options everyone has, and in New York there are just so many different tastes and different ways to be hot that my stock skyrocketed.
I’m not saying that you should move to a large urban center just to get laid. But you should certainly avoid any scene where the physical standards are rigid or uniform.
If I added a fifth rule, it would be “be confident,” but that’s terribly corny and uncool, which would violate rule number two. It’s also difficult to control, and advising someone to be confident can often come off as patronizing, like telling a sick person to “be healthy.”
Nonetheless, I do advise you to keep in mind the reality of beauty in our world, which is mostly full of unremarkable-looking people, and unremarkable-looking people manage to fall in love and live happily ever after all the time. And you will too.