The Good, the Bad, and the mostly Ugly

I see faces.
All day long

On days I take the train (like today), I usually see a lot more faces than I care to.
Sitting on the Red Line amidst the groups of subterranean humanity, I sometimes am reminded of the masthead over at Inductivist . Except, the train crowd is a little more “earthy” than that academic, gentrified stick-up-the-ass look.

I see faces.

L.A. faces, all range of colors, all levels of attraction, levels of wealth or poverty, levels of putative lawlessness, levels of dementia and sociopathy. Man, the typical public commute to work is overwhelming. So many faces, so many expressions, so many…eyebrows.

I see eyes.
I see hair.
I see mouths. Lips.
Chins. Dimples.
Red, brown, green, gray, black, blonde, blue, hazel, tan, pale, oh god help me.

It’s too much. In order to cope, I partake in the common urban defense mechanism of self-annointed numbness. You shut off the sensory input, or turn it way down, because the mind cannot process all the shapes and shades and sizes and repulsions.

I see beautiful.
I see pretty. Cute.
Average, plain.
I see ugly.
I see butt-ugly.
I see shockingly dissolute.
I see nightmarish. I see shit you wouldn’t touch with his dick.

I’m part of that crowd.
Oh god.
How do they see me?

Is it normal to care? Is it normal to lose sleep or fixate on your appearance, on the impression you radiate on that train. So many eyes. Do you stare them back?

Do you study the looks, the amused and bored expressions, do you note the disgust, or is it intrigue, is it indifference?

How do people behold you?

You know, when I was in my teens and well into my 20’s, I was fixated on this bullshit.
I cared a whole lot about my appearance.
My face, to be exact.
I obsessed over my appearance and it caused me enormous stress and unhappiness.
So much.

It was ragingly unhealthy. My self-esteem in tatters. My self-esteem hinged entirely on my physical self-perception, which, about 97% of the time, sucked balls. I had the worst fucking self-perception. I felt ugly and insignificant and I nurtured this attitude with a hyperawareness of other’s reactions, especially women’s, and it turned into an obvious vicious circle. My coldly self-critical attitude manifested in facial expressions and body language which further elicited indifference or disgust.

Which of course made me feel worse.
And caused me to act the part of social miscreant.

Those were horrible times.
My self-esteem. It rode on the wings of my sense of physical attractiveness.
How fucked up is that?

Self-esteem is a broad trait whose foundation includes many individual self-appraisements ranging from the physical to the intellectual to the emotional. It’s the sum of the parts, the value you attach to each self-appraised sector which ultimately, when computed in your shaky little mind, is spit out as a broad self-esteem score.

If you place too much value on the physical and neglect the rest, you will have unidimensional self-esteem which is easily bolstered, but just as easily, shattered.

What I’ve described of my behavior is the archetypical case of unidimensional self-esteem. My self-esteem was physically-based only. My self-esteem derived little, if any, fuel from the fact that I was intelligent or thoughtful or hard-working or incredibly diligent…I placed little to no value on these characteristics, and hence, was barely aware of them in the context of favorable personal traits worthy of pride.

Nope.
It was about my appearance.
All I cared about was creating an aesthetic buzz around my presence.
Ha! Of course that wasn’t about to fucking happen anytime soon.

Self-delusion, the warper of minds.

College was terrible, I could never squeak out the physical adulation I craved. Clubs sucked because I was quick to sink into self-loathing funks if the chicks ignored me.

So I would just drink.
Drink and wallow in the lyrics of “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths.
Good times!

Where am I now?
Well I’ve overcome that.
I’m still concerned with my appearance but not with the precision or obsessiveness of my past days.
My hair no longer needs to be perfect or my face shaven.
I don’t care as much.

And I’ve reached the fortunate stage where the other wonderful elements of my personality are allowed to take up the slack for that which my appearance lacks.

I take great pride in a multitude of personal strengths now.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the standard ego boost as much as the next guy.
But if I don’t receive it, my day is not blown.

I like to think I have a healthy and realistic self-perception now and I try not to be more than I’m capable of.
And one thing I’ve been slow to realize is that looks are not a mandatory requirement for men looking to create attraction. Male attractiveness triggers reside inside and out. A man must keep himself clean and groomed and reasonably dressed, the items under his control; but fortunately for him, his attitude and personality have the ability to greatly compensate for his physical shortcomings.

Look, of course it’s obvious. Women love a handsome face and they will throw all caution to the wind under the influence of overpowering male facial attractiveness. But female perceptions are nuanced and pliable and greatly influenced by many under-the-skin traits which is more than we can say about ourselves, as men. Men have a universal requirement of feminine attractiveness and they don’t seem to give in to the magnetic electric personality at the expense of the exterior.

I used to wonder how questionably cool it would be if I could wander around with a “David cam” and show others the reactions I elicit in others. A verifiable display of my interactions with the world. The horror.

Oh no.

Not Chatroulette!
That’s as close as we can come to a personal “cam” in today’s world, isn’t it?
Chatroulette can be a brutal exercise is self-mockery if you’re not careful.
People, reduced to judging others by appearance alone.
If you’re sensitive or demure or fractionally unsure of yourself…Chatroulette is the perfect vehicle by which to hammer that final nail in the coffin of your emotional health.

How many times do you have to get “new gamed” before you begin to doubt yourself?

Hey, even though I’ve overcome many of my youthful physical insecurities, I still have those days.
They seem to visit in waves.
I go through periods where I’m unassailable. No one can touch me and copious amounts of gooey confidence ooze out my pores. I strut, I stare back, I don’t waver.

And then there are those down times.
The valleys of the wave…

I just can’t lift myself up.
Invisible, I can’t catch a favorable glance anywhere. As Billy Idol sang, “your empty eyes pass me by…” Do I look any different now than I did last week when I couldn’t help but draw attention and friendly glances? Do we exude an unseen force, a vibe, an energy perhaps, which captures the female imagination, the female intrigue, more often than others?

Do we have a similar cycle to women whose attractiveness has been shown to increase during ovulation?
How do I tap into this inner resource so I can pin my attractiveness level on High?

Today.
Average.
I came off a few days of low self-perceived attractiveness.
I had trouble standing out, claiming my stage.
That invisibility vibe which I hate so much.
I’d rather be disliked than not thought of.
I hate to be ignored.
Coming out of it. Today, was average.
Chatroulette, the ultimate test.

Putting my emotional state through the ringer.