On Ugliness and Awkwardness…

I am ugly. And awkward.

Looking at the photo on the right, you might think, “Girl, you’re crazy.” But I’m not. I can’t tell you how many internet friends have met me in person, only to seem puzzled (and occasionally horrified), eventually asking the million dollar question(s): “How old are the pictures you post? Are they even you?” When I was in college, a friend of a friend wandered into the writing lab, where I worked, and he asked me if he could speak to Larissa. He didn’t even bother to disguise his shock when I told him I was Larissa. Later, I overheard him tell my friend, “Well, that was disappointing. You were right. She looks nothing like her photos.”

Except, I do. If you were to look at me close-up, or from above, I might seem attractive, provided my hair is professionally styled and I refrain from smiling. I am what we used to call a S.I.F.: a secret internet fattie. Unfortunately, unlike most fat girls, I don’t have pretty teeth, my skin is a mess, and my hair and nails are terrible. I know I’m ugly. I have no idea why I’m so photogenic. I sometimes joke it is my fairy tale curse: my “true form” is visible through a camera lens, instead of through a mirror. But that just makes me seem vain.

I have become increasingly awkward as a result. I’ve always been shy around people I don’t know, but when I was in high school, I’d had the same friends for years, and I was pretty and thin. I felt comfortable and confident. I began to gain weight my junior year, and it surprised me how cruel people became. One girl–whose Mean Girl name and personality I will never forget–approached me and said, “Do you remember me from French class? …Yes? Are you pregnant?” She cackled in my face, then she returned to her gaggle of giggling Mean Girl friends. I cried in the bathroom for hours. Still, I didn’t see myself as ugly. I suspected I was ugly, but what I saw in the mirror didn’t seem ugly–not for five years, anyway.

I once believed people were quick to bully me about my appearance because they felt as though I had lied to them, but then strangers began to treat me like garbage. This behavior has become so commonplace, I no longer believe losing weight will solve the problem. I think it will help–overweight women tend to stand out more–but I don’t think I will shed the pounds and become a swan maiden. I’m just gross.

By "liga-marta" over at deviantART...
Not me, but that’d be cool.

So, people terrify me. I have no idea what to say to anyone. I went from being shy, to being completely awkward in a social setting. What’s worse: I sometimes feel the need to apologize for my awkwardness or to explain my behavior (e.g. “I’m sorry if I seem awkward; I’m just really, really shy, and I need lots of alone time.”). I once thought I’d gradually become an introvert, because I do need time to “recharge”; however, people don’t make me feel drained. Worrying about whether or not I will alienate other people makes me feel drained.

I spend way too much time worrying about how I will be perceived. There is a huge difference between shyness and awkwardness. It seems awkwardness is a hipster thing to claim, but I have yet to meet even one hipster who fits that description. I worry people will dismiss me as mentally ill, mean, on drugs, or simple. I want to tell people that I’m worth getting to know, but I’m so very skittish, I put everyone off. I wish I could fix my personality.

On the plus side: I really am like a fairy tale character. On the other hand: this is real life. I’m not even sure why I wrote this entry. If anyone else knows what it is like to feel as though everyone will hate you because of the way you look and because you’re so shy, you seem to have a shit personality, you’re not alone. I feel your pain.

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6 Responses to On Ugliness and Awkwardness…

  1. Daisy says:

    Exactly how it is and I feel.

  2. Eh. says:

    I was reading xoJane when I came across your writing and I really liked it, and everything you write resonates quite a bit to me and others. It sounds a bit sappy but in a weird way thanks for being so honest, because so much of us get this feeling too, and it sorta feels like a collaborative of people now rather than just me. Whatever, this is already too sappy, but listen to Gotye (Save Me or In Your Light) and yeah. Thank you for expressing everything so well, when I can’t.

    • Larissa says:

      Thank you for your comment. <3 The response to my piece was so overwhelmingly negative (and lots of people were out for my blood), that I nearly regretted writing it. I can't say that it's a comforting thought feeling ugly and awkward resonates with anyone--I wish no one knew what it's like to feel this way--but the fact we're all in this together gives me hope one day everyone will be excellent to each other.

      I love those Gotye songs! Here is one for you: I can never win / with this body I live in. <---- Belly is part of the collaborative, too.

  3. Scarlet says:

    Hey Larissa,

    I read your post on XOJane about flying and being overweight. I came away from it feeling pretty sad, about your situation and most of all, about your mental state. I found your blog through twitter and this post and thought, wow, things shouldn’t be like this.

    If you ever want to talk, shoot me an email. I spent years overweight (morbidly obese, actually) as a result of high dose immunotherapy, corticosteroids, and prednisone, which the doctors put me on for years when I was a teenager because of severe medical conditions. I had a fat face, puffed out cheeks, and a huge body. I hated myself.

    After awhile, my health condition changed. I developed ulcerative colitis and some other chronic digestive illnesses that caused me to lose weight- very rapidly. (This was not at all eating disordered behavior, nor self-induced). But at first, I didn’t fight it, or even try very hard to figure out what was happening. At first I felt as any fat girl would feel, “great, free weight loss, and I don’t even have to try” but of course, the downside was that I wasn’t controlling it, and after I lost tons and tons of weight, I was in serious trouble and had to be hospitalized while they tried to figure out what to do. I’m now thin and have been thin for… 7 years. Yeah, I think it’s been a little over 7 years now since I achieved normal BMI; 3 years ago I was critically underweight and repeatedly hospitalized to gain weight, and began receiving some special medication (infusions of blood product) to allow my digestive tract to heal.

    What I realized falling down this rabbit hole is that yes, you’re right, people treat you so drastically differently due to weight. Even doctors. ESPECIALLY doctors. When you’re thin, nothing is your fault. When you’re obese and ill, everything is your fault.

    It’s a completely unfair system, and I’m sorry you’re trapped at the “extremely unfair” side. It’s cruel, and you’re not wrong to want to scream at the system. You are completely logical for wanting to do so. I wanted to reach out and tell you that you are justified because when I was on that side, being judged and sneered at by strangers, I used to wonder if I was crazy… but now from this side, I know I’m not. It’s the system that is.

    Listen, if you’d ever like to talk, email me. I’m the same person I was back then, I have just been on both sides of the mirror and I see the illusion now. But I have seen that some of my still overweight friends are reluctant to trust me; they look at me and they’re intimidated, if they met me in the past 7 years. They see a “pretty girl” and not who I am, which is a girl who knows both sides of the system.

    My self-esteem did improve when I lost the weight but ironically I became very jaded about appearance; I tend to trust overweight people much more and I find thin people very shallow. I often wonder that if my condition were to reverse and the weight were to come back, how quickly it all would change. I often judge people’s first reactions to me and look them in the eye and think “I wonder how you’d have seen me 8 years ago” and I know that it would have been radically different. I’m walking around in a suit of thin privilege and I know it.

    You are unique and creative and a beautiful writer. And if I may say so, a beautiful person that many people cannot see truly because the world has hypnotized them into judging people by a bizarre cultural blindness. I wish I could take those blinders off for you but I know the process for me was a long, bizarre, crazy journey. And the truth is, whether fat or thin, you deserved to be valued for who you are, and I hate that this world doesn’t do that. I hate that we live in a society that won’t do that. I hate that I’m one of the few people who can see through it. It shouldn’t be like this.

    • Larissa says:

      Hey Scarlet!

      I feel awful about not replying to your comment in a timely manner–I just saw it. (I should cave and install Disqus, so I’ll receive notifications.) Alas, I don’t see an e-mail address for you. I hope you see my response!

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is especially distressing to me that people aren’t kind to someone who gains weight from illness. We’re taught to look down on anyone who is overweight, no matter the cause. I appreciate you reaching out to me. A thin person’s past isn’t apparent, whereas a fat body conceals nothing. I admit: I presume anyone thin will treat me like shit. In early January, I flew on a tiny jet, from San Fran to Portland, and the man sitting next to me offered to put the armrest up. He was so sympathetic and kind, and I was so taken aback by the fact he was actually nice to me that I’m afraid I seemed a bit curt. He tried to make conversation, but I had no idea what to say, and I stumbled over my words. Eventually, he turned to his book, and I went to sleep. It’s possible he was fat once, or he has a fat relative, or he’s simply a nice person. I was just as shocked by his kindness as I am by your comment. It’s sad that I expect rudeness from people. Sometimes, I think I deserve it.

      That said, thank you for saying I’m creative and a beautiful writer. Thank you for saying I’m a beautiful person. I feel worthless most days. I often feel I don’t deserve to leave the house. There are people in my life who think I’m jealous of every thin, beautiful girl. I’m not–at least, not in the raging hippo hose beast way they mean. I’m an artist, and I admire beauty. I might even feel beautiful myself, if I were to lose the weight. I felt beautiful as a teenager. I’m 33 now, so I mostly feel old. I’m sad I’ve never had a boyfriend, and I’m sad I’ve been “the ugly one” for most of my life.

      I’m s0 happy you are well now. Health is what is most important; it’s more important than what is on the surface. Your story gives me some perspective. Thank you; thank you. <3

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