You Don't Have to be Beautiful to be Boring, But Science Says it Helps

A guy friend of mine once compared me to Myrtle from "The Great Gatsby" -- homely, but endearing. Better than the alternative, I guess.

Oct 30, 2012 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

 

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You can tell I'm WACKY because of those Ms. Frizzle earrings!

My senior year in college, I lived with two wonderful straight boys and my platonic lifemate TOK. Along with all the peanut butter fights and Mario Kart playing, much of my and TOK’s time was spent fussing in front of the mirror while the boys lay on the disgusting carpet and despaired of ever making it out of the house.

One night, as I sighed and yanked off the beginnings of yet another outfit, Scott sat up and peered at me. “Your boobs look excitable,” he said accusingly.

 “Well, I’m glad something does,” I said, gloomily poking at one.

“You know,” he said, “you kind of have the Myrtle effect.”

“What.”

“The Myrtle effect! You know, from 'The Great Gatsby.'” When I kept staring at him, he sighed. “You know, Myrtle! She’s kind of scary and homely, but she has a really great personality.”

“Uh,” I said. “Thanks?”

“It was a compliment!” Scott assured me as our other (more emotionally savvy) dude roommate gave him a horrified look. “All the dudes want Myrtle anyway!”

Boys.

Perhaps unexpectedly, until our other roommates started yelling at him, Scott’s remark didn’t actually didn’t strike me as much of an insult. I’d known him for four years at that point, so I was used to the two of us regarding each other physically with the sort of vague disgust normally reserved for relatives and strangers covered in mayonnaise. And frankly, if I relied on the approval of a straight boy from Boston to get me through the afternoon, I’d never leave the house in anything but a Red Sox cap and see-through underwear.

So aside from exacting revenge on Scott by “accidentally” leaving my spare Diva Cup on his floor, I didn’t really shore up any hard feelings. Because, honestly, I thought he wasn’t all that wrong.

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In fairness to Scott, this was the kind of thing I got up to in that apartment.

Recently, self-proclaimed Hot Lady Samantha Brick went toe-to-toe with a Less Hot Lady about whether being pretty means you’re less likely to be interesting. Naturally, they both fell clutching many a stereotype to their respective bosoms, including such gems as, “if you're lucky enough to be endowed with a symmetric face, fabulous figure and straight white teeth, then don't you dare try to claim you've got a great personality, too,” and, conversely, “Far from making us boring, beauty actually makes us more appealing to others.”


It’s kind of a train wreck waiting to happen, but Less Hot Lady Shona Sibary's argument does hinge on an interesting study from Psychology Today that states beautiful people are more likely to be focused on self-promotion and general jerkwaddery than on independence and tolerance. I feel like a Nice Guy even writing this, but apparently, more beautiful women are far more likely to spend an evening on the town Instagramming photos of their own face and eschewing any conversation that doesn't revolve around them.

Even as someone who’s not exactly conventionally attractive, I think that this is kind of bullshit. This is a little tricky for me to even contemplate, since I genuinely believe that almost all of my friends are hot like burning. But my friends who are pursuing careers in things like modeling aren’t necessarily less interesting for it. 


I’ll agree that they tend to be a little bit more self-involved than, say, the med students. But if you’ve built a career out of your own appearance -– and even if you’re not a model or an actress, it’s apparently easier than you think -– wouldn’t you expend a slightly disproportionate amount of energy on it? And, for the record, the hotties are certainly not more self-involved than any of the writers in my friendship crowd, present company (me) not excepted. 


I will point out, however, that these Conventionally Hot Friends, though fascinating people themselves, tend to attract guys and girls who are, shall we say, not the buzziest.


My good friend Lana, for example, who’s a personal trainer and drop-dead gorgeous, used to have an unfortunate habit of letting dudes pick her up at the gym based solely on the definition of their pecs. They then would take her home, feed her a lovely dinner, and stare blankly at her face every time she steered the conversation away from lat pull-downs. 

Every time we go to stupid giant dancey clubs, she’s the one who gets yanked away by some bro wearing a tank top, the guy who will later tell us that “he doesn’t vote because the system is so capitalistic, dawg.” 

I do not envy her these interactions. Although Lana is a fully impressive human being (she’s a vet tech, Stanford alumna and a national champion horseback rider, too), people (okay, usually men) expect her strengths to be solely centered around her physical attractiveness. And when they find out how much of an amazing weirdo she actually is, they hit the ground running.

I, on the other hand, am unlikely to be reduced solely to my physical attractiveness by anyone in a non-catcalling situation. I mean, I know I’m not that conventionally pretty. I have the Conway Giant Face and huge thick eyebrows and a tendency to make awkward hair decisions, along with about a frillion other strange body issues that essentially combine to make me look like a lumberjack who’s storing up kale pancakes on my hips for winter. I will probably never be considered beautiful -– at best, I can manage cute on most days and hot on a select few (for a certain audience and with some elaborately crafted scaffolding in the belly/ass region).

This is not a half-assed compliment fish, I promise. Though I go back and forth about how I feel about my body, I’ve mostly accepted it as unlikely to drastically change much on me for at least the next decade. I still occasionally succumb to the old Naked Mirror Brain Berate, but it’s mostly just easier to work with what I’ve got when it comes to dating: my personality.

I also don't think that I’m particularly fascinating or whatever. In a city obsessed with having hobbies, mine are mostly “Eating sriracha sauce” and “Listening to podcasts while staring intently at a statuette of a raccoon in an antique store on Valencia.” Most of my wooing-strength comes from the ability to monologue at people until they succumb to exhaustion and forget that I’m actually kind of irritating to be around.

This gets even worse when I’m nervous, which explains why I often sound like Kathleen Turner by the end of first dates. 

But I’m also pretty passionate about progressive political issues, enjoy going to a good Frightened Rabbit show now and again, and have read more Terry Pratchett books than most people see in airports in their whole lifetime. If you’re a dude or lady who’s into that, chances are we’ll get along pretty well. 

And, honestly, this method has served me fine thus far. Just the other night, one of my dates told me that though I was “cute,” he wouldn’t date me if I weren’t such a bizarre human being. It was a pretty nice compliment.

Would I be capable of having a killer personality if I were Jennifer Lawrence hot? Yes, of course, and a certain subset of hipster nerds would probably explode from boners. I certainly don’t think beautiful people are intrinsically boring. I do think, however, they can get away with being a little dull (if they want to) when it comes to the first three or four dates.  

By contrast, if I looked like I do now and was as boring as a piece of toast? My social calendar would probably include even more friend- and romance-dates with one Mr. Gary Netflix.

In the long term, I think it all kind of evens out. When it comes down to it, most people I’d want to date would take a hot-ass personality over Emma Stone looks almost any day of the week. (Thank God, too, or I’d probably never get laid again.)

Kate has a face for radio at @katchatters.