During junior high and high school I was heckled in the hallways by the usual types: football players, wrestlers, and other popular boys who didn’t know what to make of frizzy hair, copious amounts of freckles, and a mouthful of braces. They would call me names, make vomiting noises, or bark like a dog at me. Super charming stuff. During weekend sleepovers my friends, who were much more glamorous and sophisticated, would open up their closets and makeup bags in the hopes of transforming me into something presentable, but it didn’t happen. Not until my twenties did I finally discover the necessary color schemes and hair styling products to bring out my inner doll.
If you, too, were an ugly girl, you probably spent many an evening staring at your reflection in the mirror and wondering why it didn’t resemble any of the beauties in fashion magazines or music videos. Reverse perms, relax perms, and straightening elixirs proved only to be sadly disappointing when humidity struck and those curls returned fifteen minutes later. Stuffing socks or cotton balls in bras didn’t really work, did they? It’s hard to grow up in a neighborhood where you’re the only teenage girl available to babysit on date nights. There were weeks, months, or maybe years where you didn’t think being an ugly girl was all that great. But here’s why it was:
Why Being an Ugly Girl Was Pretty Great
1. We had to cultivate a personality.
No one invited us to parties for our good looks, so we had to charm our way in. Not all ugly girls are wallflowers. Most of us can talk to anyone about anything. We’re full of ways to bring other people out of their shells, make them feel comfortable, and transform the mundane details of our silly human existence into fresh stories that keep everyone interested. Many ugly girls grow into leaders who organize events with ease and are champions at mingling. This is because we had to rely on something beyond our pretty eyes and an empty laugh. We are the life of that party now.
2. We got smart.
While pretty girls were busy with dates and dances, ugly girls were at home or in libraries reading books. We lost ourselves in poetry, classics, science, math, or history. We found inspiration in Jane Eyre, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Gloria Steinem, so hungry for role models who defined themselves beyond wife, mother, or prop. We used our alone time to be okay alone. We are well-versed in movies, art, literature, and popular culture because we had to do something while all our friends were getting laid.
3. We’re wicked funny.
Lots of ugly girls learned, by necessity, to find the funny in all of us. Misery may love company, but company responds better to women who have a great sense of humor. I can’t tell a joke to save my life, but I learned how to write one. Many of my fellow ugly girls discovered improv and standup and went on to share their experiences with leagues of women who laugh knowingly at all those embarrassing moments from our youth. That’s better than crying about it and way cheaper than therapy. They’re laughing with us, not at us.
4. We learned from other girls’ mistakes.
We helped our friends hook up with their own dream dates, and we helped them get over the inevitable heartaches. Ugly girls didn’t have to go through unwanted pregnancies, venereal diseases, or wake up feeling used and forgotten to understand what it felt like. For many of us, being there for our friends was bad enough, so we made different choices for ourselves. We got stronger and more independent as a result. And we tend to be a great judge of character.
5. Later, when we were ready, we became the full package.
They removed our braces and we found a pair of tweezers. We graduated from college, scored decent jobs, and could finally afford nice clothes. We started exercising and someone recommended a hair stylist who understood curls and frizz. And yet, underneath these new-found good looks lies the strongest of foundations. Because our sense of style and stunning cheekbones came later, we combined those outward qualities with what’s been inside for years: strength, personality, wit, and wisdom.