Did you see the New York Times article about Being Dishonest About Ugliness? Here’s an awesome excerpt:
The Australian author Robert Hoge, who describes himself as “the ugliest person you’ve never met,” thinks we get it all wrong when we tell children looks don’t matter: “They know perfectly well they do.”
A former speechwriter, he has written a book for children, based on his own life story, called “Ugly.” He finds children are relieved when a grown person talks to them candidly about living with flawed features in a world of facial inequality. It’s important they know that it’s just one thing in life, one characteristic among others.
That appearance, in other words, means something but it doesn’t mean everything.
Mr. Hoge was born with a tumor on his face, and deformed legs.
So how is a child to grapple with the savage social hierarchy of “lookism” that usually begins in the playground, if adults are so clumsy about it? The advantage of beauty has been long established in social science; we know now that it’s not just employers, teachers, lovers and voters who favor the aesthetically gifted, but parents, too.
We talk about body shape, size and weight, but rarely about distorted features. And we talk about plainness, but not faces that would make a surgeon’s fingers itch.
Even in children’s literature, we imply ugliness is either transient or deserved. Hans Christian Andersen wrestled with rejection from his peers as a child, most probably because of his large nose, effeminate ways, beautiful singing voice and love of theater; “The Ugly Duckling” is widely assumed to be the story of his own life. But the moral of that story was that a swan would emerge from the body of an outcast, and that you could not repress the nobility of a swan in a crowd of common ducks.
What if you just stay a duck?
Then we got this email from Offbeat Homie Kari:
I have NO professional connection whatsoever with this story, but I read it and thought it seemed like something I’d see on Offbeat Home. It’s a fascinating article about how we talk about looks, “ugliness,” and image, and what we teach our kids. I thought it would be a great topic for Offbeat Home’s typical audience, where I’ve seen so many great discussions about image and weight and celebrating those of us who are perhaps less conventionally beautiful.
You’re right Kari! Everyone, go read this article, then come back and let’s have one of those classic Offbeat Empire discussions on good looks, ugliness, and what we’re really teaching our kids.
How do you frame, or re-frame looks for yourself and your kids?