Unregard Me, Sir!

Given that women generally possess an insatiable appetite for being found attractive, why are they so often indignant when ugly men approach their candle-flames? Just as in the US “driving while black” is a notorious felony, so too is “fancying women while being unattractive” an offence against social mores; though disguised under the name of “treating women as sexual objects”.

One might be forgiven for thinking that the more validation, the merrier; for women are by no means obliged to respond to such attraction, but can in theory merely enjoy it at a distance. In a social vacuum, this might well be true; but a woman’s every action sends a signal to the market. For most people have some notion of their place in the hierarchy, and address their attentions to potential partners on more or less the same level. Women often complain about the big exception to this, the man with an inflated sense of entitlement who only approaches supermodel types; and yet the fact that they are complaining only serves to prove the point. That a man makes a sexual approach to a woman means that he – rightly or wrongly – considers himself of equivalent market value.

If a good-looking woman finds herself pursued by a profoundly unattractive man, therefore, other things being equal, one of two things must be happening: either he is conceitedly unrealistic about his own status, or else he considers her to be his own equivalent in the pecking-order, that is, he perceives her as equally unattractive. If she accepts his court in public, therefore, she is agreeing with this valuation, and thus consenting to a drastic lowering of her market value; she is not being flattered or validated, but alarmingly disparaged. The possibility that he considers her his match is so seriously offensive that she must signal to her surroundings – with the greatest possible dispatch, vigour and ruthlessness – that the man is a repulsive fool. This is why women act as if they are insulted by being desired by unattractive men; for they are in fact being insulted. In a paradox worthy of a Chesterton, their desirability is impugned by desire.

Individual women vary in how much indignation, anger, scorn and mockery they find themselves obliged to heap on the offender’s impudent head. For safety’s sake many will deny his manhood altogether, informing him not only that he should find himself a lower branch on the tree, but that he has no business anywhere near its trunk. A very common line is that no woman in her right mind would look twice at him. Whether all this works exactly the same the other way round I cannot say.

An ugly man with a beautiful female friend or acquaintance is therefore in a Catch-22 situation: he is often required to reassure the woman that she is beautiful, but at the same time he must take great care not to give any public impression that he desires her, much less that she consents to being so desired by him. One common consequence of this continual reassurance of non-desire is self-deceit. That is, he may fool himself into believing that he does not desire her. No doubt he will not succeed in fooling anyone else.

Posted on October 13, 2010 at 14:03 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Love Among The Uglies

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