The Mayim Bialik Op-Ed – Are There Some Perks To Being The ‘Ugly’ Kid ?

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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #Metoo campaign, stories about sexual assault and harassment have been dominating both the media and social media feeds.  Generally speaking, there has been a consensus condemning the men behaving badly and in support of the women who’ve been compelled to take a stand. And then there was Mayim Bialik’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

In her article, Bialik talked about her experiences in Hollywood as ‘a prominent-nosed, awkward Jewish 11-year old’ and how not matching up to the industry standards of beauty teamed with her ‘conservative decisions’ afforded her certain advantages. To cut to the chase of why the article caused so much drama here is a quote : ‘And yet I have also experienced the upside of not being a “perfect ten.” As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms. Those of us in Hollywood who don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty have the “luxury” of being overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power unless we can make them money.’

It’s easy to understand why people were enraged by what they saw as victim blaming and she was pretty much forced to apologise for her opinion. And as much as what she said wasn’t all that clever considering the current sentiment around the issues when I first read the article I did resonate with parts of what she said.  I certainly don’t think being ‘ugly’ or ‘awkward-looking’ is any sort of protection from being raped, assaulted or cat-called in the streets. Perverts don’t necessarily adhere to Hollywood beauty standards when it comes to finding victims.

On the flipside though, I think if you read between the lines there is perhaps some value in what she is saying. So let’s just move away from the heavy topic of sexual assault for a moment and towards something more light and fluffy…the perks of  being the ‘ugly friend’. For most girls, somewhere along the line when you’re growing you develop this idea that you need to look a certain way to get the boys to like you or show you even just a little bit of attention. Being ‘ugly’, having wild curly hair, looking horsey and generally being one of those socially-awkward kids is never much fun and at the time your only wish in the whole entire world is to look ‘normal’ like one of the popular girls. Yes, everything is a lot more dramatic  when you’re a teenager but looking back now maybe being chubby, brace-faced loser with a crooked nose and a lazy eye wasn’t all that bad and here is why:

1. You get to fall under the radar

So what if you are not part of the cool popular crowd? Well, nobody really cares what you get up to. If you are lucky enough to date someone and things come to an abrupt end it goes unnoticed. You are not worth gossiping about. And when you are the kind of person that rather hide that brace face behind a book than deal with people, maybe living your ‘ugly years’ away from the limelight wasn’t such a bad thing after all?

2. You are forced to develop other aspects of your personality

The world is a superficial place and as much as you may not agree with the system you can’t live in isolation forever. At some point you need to make friends. This is arguably easier if you look and dress a certain way (did you notice how groups of friends back in high school were almost carbon copies of another) but if you can’t attract people with sparkling good looks you’ve got to find alternatives. Perhaps by being super nice to people or by embracing your quirks and being the funny girl. Either way you had to work on it.

3. You learn to laugh things off more easily (and develop a thick skin)

Maybe self-deprecating humour is just a Brit thing? But when you are not a popular kid then being able to laugh at yourself every time you do something idiotic like walk into a glass door is key to social survival. I mean if you can’t laugh at this kind of thing, then you’ll end up crying (and that’s not good). Sometimes being awkward, ugly, fat, etc leaves you open to mean remarks but overtime you develop a thick skin and learn to bounce back. This type of resilience serves you well later in life.

4.You become friends with the weird and wonderful (and that exposes you to lots of new perspectives)

They say beggars can’t be choosers. When you aren’t ‘pretty’ and popular you have to be nice to the people that are nice to you. This makes you open to forming friendships with an eclectic bunch of people. Some of the best friendships I have today aren’t conventional (and sometimes I even struggle to understand why they exist) but at least they keep life interesting.

5. By default you are a late bloomer (and being a kid for a little longer isn’t the worst thing in the world)

It’s hard when you are 15 and it seems like everyone and their one-eyed dog has a boyfriend. But seriously, relationships are tough – so why the rush to get coupled up? Of course, there are some people who marry their high-school sweetheart but not having a high-school sweetheart/crush/fuck-buddy is OK as well. Being a late bloomer gives you some figure out what makes you tick – read lots of books, travel the world, etc. I’m not saying people should never bloom (you know my views on 30-something virgins) but eventually you do catch up and realise you weren’t really missing all that much.

So, let’s end by going back to the beginning. Sure, Mayim Bialik’s NY Time’s piece was pretty poorly timed but I think there are somethings (very much unrelated to serious issues like sexual harassment and assault) that many of us awkward kids who grew up watching Blossom can relate to. When you are there, being what society doesn’t regard as pretty, life can be pretty bleak but once the dust settles (maybe a few decades down the line) I think your realise the hardships of those formative years weren’t all that bad. Being pretty and popular comes with it’s own set of issues. I think that’s what Bialik was getting at was that being that unpopular, unattractive, geeky kid isn’t the end of the world.

Rinsers, what did you think of Mayim Bialik’s piece? Were you the ‘ugly’ girl back in the day? Do you look back and think not being part of the ‘popular’ crowd was actually a bit of a blessing in disguise? Comment below. Please and thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. patriciamanning · October 20

    Ugg! I hate this… I wrote a really good response and then I can’t log into my account and it disappears.

    Gist of it:

    1. I did not get the sense that Mayim was blaming women for sexual predators in Hollywood, but rather calling out the superficial asshats. I do think that she got her character in the Big Bang Theory wrong though. The entire show is misogyny joke after misogyny joke. It has a lot of problems especially in terms of sexual objectification, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

    2. I am frustrated with the idea that she puts forth for not getting negative, unwanted sexual attention, which this article plays into – namely that she is “not attractive.” She is not giving her beauty the props it deserves. I am annoyed by this, and by no means is Mayim alone. So many women constantly put themselves down; like certain bloggers (cough cough). When women are constantly using self-deprecating language and now hashtags, doesn’t it give men the impression that they can do the same? Same as jokes that are racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. – they are a way to share negative views/beliefs/feelings that (a) make the subject matter seem okay and (b) desensitise those who are hearing them. I used to always repeat a dumb blonde joke – “How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The answer I learned was, “None. They only screw in the back of cars.” I used to justify me repeating the joke because I am blonde, but it really gave people more incentive to treat blonde haired women as dumb and sluts.

    3. Isn’t part of the #metoo campaign is to stop “laughing things off” ?? Self-deprecating humour is not being able to laugh at yourself. It is pretty much bullying yourself first before someone else has the chance. By all means, laugh at your mistakes and quirks! I laugh at myself on a daily basis. Humour is good. Crying is also cathartic. But I would caution about wanting to develop a “thick skin” and “laughing things off.” A thick skin may mean you do not stand up for yourself when some idiot is being a dick (female or male or cis – no gender is immune to not being a dick). When your boss, coworker, or “friend” makes a comment that causes you to feel uncomfortable it is important to be able to voice this. Admit it affects you and it is not okay. Otherwise it will happen again, and maybe it will make you feel less confident, less attractive, less worthy.

    The same goes for “laughing it off.” This always makes me think of the “boys will be boys” attitude. Same thing really – dismissive and not stopping the problem at the route. Five years ago I was at a party and these assholes thought it would be funny and make them feel like powerful men to pull down my top and try to take a photo of my breasts. They claimed that it was to determine if my breasts were real or fake. I laughed off the first attempt. Asked for help from other guy friends on the second and third attempts (they laughed it off then). Then I lost my shit on the fourth attempt and started screaming at them and the male “friends” of mine, in the street. What I should have done was call the police and press charges for sexual harassment and assault. I didn’t do that because I was taught I should have a thick skin; that boys will be boys; that I should laugh it off; and ultimately, I felt that I should have stopped it before it happened. I did not value myself and the fuckheads didn’t either.

    Okay, so I may be judging your post more on the harsh side. This may be a long way of telling you and everyone who thinks they are/were unattractive to stop putting yourselves down. You are freaking beautiful, intelligent, and way more powerful than you give yourselves credit for.

    Like

  2. EnglishRosiee · October 23

    Pat !!!! Thanks for your epic comment.

    First, I am not really familiar with her character in the Big Bang Theory, I only know her as Blossom – who I actually thought was cool when I was a kid (see it’s all relative!)

    When you say people don’t give themselves credit for being ‘beautiful’ and are too critical. But it’s all a relative thing I guess it takes some people longer than others to feel comfortable in their skin. I definitely felt my 20s were harder than my 30s. Sometimes you have to accept your features. When I was a kid I always said I would get a nose job as soon as I was a grown up but then I grew up and the moment passed – I learnt to accept my crooked nose and found better things to spend my money on. At the same time, I agree with what you are saying – confidence counts for a lot. I have a friend who isn’t the traditional idea of pretty but she has a really positive energy and probably considers herself as hot as a supermodel. e.g. I would never have the guts to approach a guy I consider ‘out of my league’, but she doesn’t consider there to be a hierarchy. She’ll approach anyone and if they want to be rude or mean she simply moves onto the next, without too much stress over it. As much as i get what your saying about people having more confidence and not beating themselves up the whole time, but it’s easier said than done…I guess your experiences as a kid and through life has it’s impact on building up/wearing down your confidence.

    Ugh, I honestly don’t think self-deprecating humor isn’t a bad thing. And I don’t agree it’s the same thing as the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude. It’s up to each individual how they react to incidents…there are people that brush everything off and move on and then others who feel the need to take action. As I said in last weeks post, there is a lot of nastiness going around and there a times in my life I let it slide and realise it’s a person that isn’t worth your energy and other times when you feel the need to retaliate and say/do something against that person – either just out of some sort of revenge (yes, we are all human!) or because you see the bigger picture and want to stop something happening again. I guess we all have our own standards…I guess self-deprecating humor is also a bit of a defence/protection mechanism as well. Basically, saying showing the world that you can laugh at mean things people say/do and get on with your life without it having to much effect on you. Maybe it’s not the right approach but I think for some people the comments come so often that it’s exhausting fighting it the whole time, so we choose to minimize it.

    I’m sorry about that incident with those guys. People can be real jerks. But the fact that everyone ‘let it slide’ and even your male ‘friends’ didn’t say anything was wrong with what happens perhaps just shows that people are getting to immune to this now. That’s horrible. I defo think you having the guts to make a scene about it was a good thing. Even if there were no hard legal action taken against those guys – a little bit of public humiliation would have hopefully made them think twice about doing it again.

    Like

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