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Welcome to !Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
I'm 25, just moved back to my hometown, and on three dating apps with no years of relationship experience under my belt. Papi, the truth is I'm beginning to think I'm...ugly. I feel I have a lot to give, but when it comes to getting a boyfriend, I'm scared I don't look the part. I know it might sound shallow, but it's all I can think about right now. What should I do, and will I ever find love?
I'm glad you came to me with this, because I've been clinically ugly for the past couple decades or so. I know it might sound hard to believe, given my luxurious, beautiful, intimidating exterior, but it's true. As a person with dysmorphia, a condition that distorts my perception of my body, not a day goes by that I don't feel "ugly."
That's sort of what "ugly" is, isn't it? A feeling? For me, it's an uncomfortable hunch that everyone is seeing the exact part of my body I'm most insecure about and placing the exact same value judgment on it that I am: that I am an unsightly troll whose physical features will either elicit laughter or pity.
But this "worst case scenario" raises a question: So what? What if some people do feel sorry for me, for my looks? What if they do laugh at me? Does that make them right? Does that reaction indeed make me an unlovable swamp creature destined to roam the world alone? Well, no. Those are leaps in logic based on scattershot evidence.
Now, I'm not saying there's no such thing as beauty standards, nor am I denying that people will treat you differently because of your appearances. As a former fat person, I can attest to just how cruel and exclusionary people can be based off nothing but your looks. And, well, how much scrolling do you have to do on one of those dating apps before you run into a profile that says "no Blacks"? Probably not a lot!
But what I am encouraging you to do is to think of beauty and attraction on different terms, with fewer absolutes. Beauty is more of a conversation than it is a fact of nature. We're finally getting to a place where more fat and non-white people, for example, are being upheld as beautiful. And I say that not because I think mainstream media or whatever should be the arbiters of who gets to be deemed attractive, but more because it indicates that the rules are made up and society changes its mind about who we're allowed to thirst over all the time. There's no reason not to take it into your own hands! You're allowed to feel beautiful right here and right now.
I certainly hope you find someone, Duckling. Of course I can't guarantee it, but I do know this internal dialogue you're having about being ugly isn't helping you get anywhere with others or yourself. Try to remember that, sometimes, beauty isn't about changing the way you look. Sometimes, it's about changing the language you use with yourself.