This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Madeline Ducharme discuss a Prudie letter: “Ugly Duckling”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: OK, so you told me you had some nice thoughts and some not-so-nice ones about this. Please share!
Madeline Ducharme: Can do! Let’s start with some of the less nice thoughts: I absolutely agree with your assessment that it’s very possible that the LW is actually much better looking than she thinks she is and her boyfriend isn’t quite as stunningly handsome as she thinks he is.
That being said, I do think she could benefit from the reminder that no person on planet Earth is paying as much attention to her and her relationship as she is. It’s genuinely liberating to remember that most people are so consumed with their own lives that they simply do not care.
Jenée: Oh totally, the thing all of our parents told us when we were self-conscious teens: Nobody’s looking at you that hard!
Madeline: Yes! But I almost want to take it a step further. Not only is no one looking at you that hard, they just DON’T CARE.
Madeline: Like, at all.
Jenée: I’m very nosy and LOVE people-watching, and I honestly can’t remember ever being like, “HOLY SHIT! OH, NO! ATTRACTIVENESS MISMATCH!” and not being able to control my face.
Madeline: Right! I mean, I love gossiping with my friends about strangers we see in public as much as the next person, but I would bet that one out of every thousand people we discuss or comment on in public will be able to adequately read my and my friends’ lips to discern what we’re saying. I realize that that now seems to contradict what I said above about no one caring! But I think these things go hand in hand. Our thoughts and comments about strangers are so fleeting! I can’t even remember something I said to my girlfriend last weekend at a restaurant.
It makes no sense to restructure your life (or pursue some kind of weight loss) based on the random assumptions made by people like me in passing!
Have you ever noticed someone noticing you/your partner in public?
Jenée: No, but I’m incredibly oblivious. Like I grew up biracial with a white mother in a white community, and she says people stared at us alllll the time and still do and I have never noticed at all. I do kind of think if you are looking for people to be staring at you, you are staring at them, and eventually you’re going to catch each other.
Another thought I had: I wonder if LW is actually just uncomfortable BEING in this relationship, but is making it about strangers’ reactions because that’s an easier target to get upset about, compared to “I feel undeserving of this love and uneasy.”
Madeline: That’s a good point about accidentally catching someone’s eye. I do think my girlfriend and I have had that happen to us because we really enjoy seeing other queer couples out and about in the city. The LW shouldn’t assume all those stares are negative!
Jenée: True, if she’s as plain as she says, the looks could really just be “wow, hot guy!!!” and people aren’t even reacting to her lol.
Madeline: And the point you made about feeling uneasy in the relationship and projecting those feelings onto the strangers you happen to pass by! I definitely agree that that could be a big part of what’s happening here. But speaking as someone with a very, very beautiful girlfriend (have I mentioned my girlfriend enough in this chat?), I would want to encourage her to see that as a compliment of her taste in men!
Jenée: Totally, there is a positive spin on this that’s available. And if this amazing-looking man who stops traffic chose her, that says something about her attractiveness on the whole (personality + character + humor + how she carries herself + how she smells + whatever else may go into it).
Madeline: PRECISELY! It feels great to be chosen by the hottest person in the room! She should relish that. Also, I do think that being romantically involved with a hot person in public almost certainly makes you seem hotter, not uglier.
Jenée: hmmm, interesting! I can totally see that.
Madeline: If we want to use the flimsy anecdotal evidence of random men commenting on me on the street as a measure of attractiveness (which I don’t think anyone should but here we go), I definitely get more comments from strangers when I’m out with my gf than when I’m by myself. You get to ride the uber-hot coattails, basically.
Jenée: Haha “ride the uber-hot coattails” I love that, that should be the letter writer’s new mantra.
Madeline: Yes! That, and “no one cares about you.”
Jenée: Perfect. I hope these words of wisdom (like we warned, some are nicer than others) are helpful.
Madeline: Oh, I haven’t mentioned my nicer thoughts yet! My nicer advice for this LW is that it seems like she could really use a nice new shirt or bag or dress or something. So I’m giving her permission to buy something expensive and gorgeous so she can start assuming that the stares are at the beautiful item she’s wearing, not about the relationship.
Jenée: Great advice.