Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing up ugly.

I was, from about the time that appearance mattered (about middle school) up until I got into the kink scene, an ugly kid. Not three-eyes-ugly, but there were some things going against me: I've been fat since I was a baby, I had no idea how to dress myself, I have really weird hair, I hit puberty relatively late, and I'd skipped so many grades I was three years younger than everyone in my class. So when I got to high school, everyone else was in hot pink belly shirts and long blond ponytails and had breasts, and I was in an XXL denim shirt with hair like a tumbleweed and two years away from even a trainer bra.

I didn't get laid in high school. (Admittedly I was fifteen when I graduated. But still, when you're twelve years old and people tell you that you're unfuckable, you don't have the perspective to go "duh, I'm a child." I was devastated.) I had a brief, clandestine, and extremely chaste thing with another girl at the absolute bottom of the social ladder and I graduated.

And now, with the gift of hindsight and the much larger gift of never having to relive those days, I'm kind of glad. Being an ugly kid taught me a lot. Things like:

I am horny.
Duh, right? But never really going through the "boys will want you now" phase means that I got to experience my own horniness as a thing completely separate from male desire. Being sexually frustrated for years on end is no fun, but it teaches you to appreciate the realness of your own sex drive like nothing else. How could I buy into crap about "girls only put out for money/emotional stuff/social status" when my own vagina was going nuts with the desire just to get some goddamn cock already?

I can make the first move.
I did eventually get laid, at age 15, which may not sound like "eventually" to you, but for me it was the culmination of an absolute lifetime of frustration. I didn't do it by sitting around looking pretty and waiting for a boy to approach me. I had a crush on a male friend and I came on to him pretty hard. Even after we were sexual, having intercourse was my decision and something that I planned. I bought the condoms and I started out on top of him. The fact that boys weren't showing up at my doorstep with Boyfriend Applications didn't mean I had to hide in a hole; I just had to bypass this whole bullshit "boys approach, girls consent" protocol and go out there to work out some handshake deals with some sexy boys.

I am more than my looks.
So I wasn't pretty, or even socially acceptable, in high school. That didn't mean that I didn't exist. I had friends--"loser" friends, sure, but friends I loved absolutely dearly--my academic achievements were frankly amazing, and I generally had a full life that I was reasonably successful at. I didn't spend my time not-getting-laid but had a hell of a lot else to occupy myself with. I spent a summer before I'd even been kissed planting trees in clearcuts in the Cascades. I had never touched a penis when I got a 1580 (out of 1600) on the SAT. While I did feel down about not being sexy, I had a self-worth that had nothing to do with sex.

Sexy has nothing to do with sex.
When I started having sex, I was not appreciably hotter than I'd been before. Puberty had left me with small mismatched breasts and that was about it; I still had the body of a very small refrigerator with an untrimmed bush on top. And the sex was fucking amazing. Turns out that I can come from vaginal penetration just the way they claim women can't. Maybe "can come" is understating it. I can come fast, hard, and loud, over and over again. I wasn't sexy and my boyfriend wasn't sexy, but the actual sex we had was fantastic. I don't know if the sex bikini models have is good or not, but I don't think it could be much better.

When people give you shit, it's not because you deserve it, it's because they're shit-givers.
In high school, I got bullied a lot. People would openly make fun of me in the hallways. They'd chuck stuff at me from their cars when I was walking home. I have vivid memories of two guys in my freshman math class loudly discussing the money they'd pay to fuck various girls, then ending it on "Holly? Twelve cents." (Realizing how many things are fucked-up about that story is like one of those "count the triangles" pictures.) People spit in my food, they Sharpied my clothes, they threw trash in my hair, and at one point a group of kids actually threatened to set me on fire.

Then I got to college, and the relief was amazing. People in general didn't necessarily like me, but they were decent. Being unpopular meant that you didn't get invited to parties, not that you got passed love notes with "ha ha just kidding you are an ugly pig" inside. I realized this wasn't because I was better-looking or more "confident" or whatever. It was because college students are adults and they don't do that shit.

I didn't report most of the things that happened to me in high school because I was embarrassed to. I felt like any adult I told would respond with some polite version of either "and you just let them do this and didn't say anything?" or "well, things like this are going to keep happening until you get some confidence and learn to fit in better." It was only when the bullying stopped that I realized it wasn't about me. It wasn't the universe at large meting out things I had earned. It was just a bunch of fucked-up little assholes.

Some of those same kids also shot several pet bunnies and cats in my neighborhood. I'm glad I at least had the perspective not to react with "wow, those bunnies must have really sucked."

It gets better.
This isn't the Ugly Duckling story. I have a little bit more style and social skills now, but I'm no swan. I never did grow nice tits. I never did lose the weight. I didn't even get my hair under control. But nonetheless I grew up. And although I don't think I got pretty, I got to feeling pretty. I became first unafraid to wear normal clothes (i.e., the correct size instead of XXL, colors and designs other than "please don't notice me"), then unafraid to be naked when the situation called for it. I stopped trying to hide my belly during sex. I stopped apologizing for my appearance. I started expecting people to treat me decently.

For the longest time, I had this fantasy that I'd be beautiful someday. That I was just in my "awkward stage" and then one of these years I'd really get my shit together and lose 80 pounds and my hair would be straight and long and blonde and my face would be all lips and eyelashes and cheekbones. I was just a weirdo right now, but around 25 I'd have lots of friends and be married and own a house and maybe be pregnant and I'd have a good job as vice-president of something.

Well... I have lots of friends. Besides that, no, not so much. No conventionality, no perfect fitting in, not much conventional "success," and definitely no rapid settling-down into suburban placidity. I didn't get the life I wanted.

I got something way better.


  1. "I had a self-worth that had nothing to do with sex."

    This is one reason I hate whenever anyone says that the reason I don't have a boyfriend is because I 'have low self-esteem'.

    And I love your 'It gets better' paragraph-- that it's not all a big fairytale, mostly it just matters less.

  2. I felt like any adult I told would respond with some polite version of either "and you just let them do this and didn't say anything?" or "well, things like this are going to keep happening until you get some confidence and learn to fit in better."

    Hey, just be glad you weren't in Hawaii. It didn't take many iterations of "What did you expect, haole?" from my, y'know, teachers, to get me to give up on reporting anything to them.

    I dunno if it's better or worse to think that the adults won't care if you tell them, or to tell them and have it confirmed that they don't care.

  3. I did go to school in Hawaii! It was pretty okay though, because it was only kindergarten and first grade, so my classmates were more in the "running around pretending to be dinosaurs" stage, less in the "setting up a brutal social hierarchy" stage.

    Also the neighbors had a really nasty dog that they didn't leash, and when I tried to stay on the bus for another stop so I could walk a way that didn't go past the nasty dog's territory, the bus driver flipped out and screamed at me and made me stay on the bus for the entire route and get picked up from school and then my parents were mad too. But that's not really a systemic problem.

  4. I know we're just imaginary Intertubes pals, but you're one of the smartest and most interesting people I know. Posts like this one just solidify that fact.

  5. This story makes me sad, yet so happy for you at the same time. Its glad that you realized that you never deserved what those kids did. I was a dork growing up and I was an ugly kid. I was tall, skinny, with a flat butt and small boobs. My lips were too big, my hair wasn't "good." Once I grew up, I looked better. Much better. My story was pretty much the same (I guess mine is a bit more ugly duckling to swan), but I never made good grades. My grades were ok, but I was mostly invisible to other kids in high school.

    My teasing was mostly from grade 3-7. It was brutal, but it taught me something as well. Sometimes I still look at old pictures and go "No wonder they tormented me, jesus I was ugly." But you know what, fuck them. I never deserved that and you never deserved it either.

  6. Fun fact: I discovered this blog half a year ago, at about that same time that I left my small town and high school behind for post-secondary education in the big city.

    Holly, you express perfectly the things that I've started to recognize, and for that, I am so grateful. You've also had an immense effect on my body image. I know it's not what you set out to do, but posts like this have helped this ugly kid grow up.

  7. I also agree with the self worth not tied into sex. I once hooked up with a guy who I later found out had a partner, even tho he'd told me he didn't when I asked. When I confronted him, he turned around and said he thought I had a boyfriend, as no girl could be that confident and be single.
    I love your post, its so refreshingly honest and real.

  8. Oh, god, this is beautiful. Beautifully written and a beautiful idea.

  9. Ahhh, my name's Holly and I was deemed "unfuckable" in high school. Piece hit home- I really respect you for talking about something so many people ignore.

  10. Your blog, your entire blog, is opening up a new world for me.

    Thank you so much.

  11. "I am horny. Duh, right? But never really going through the "boys will want you now" phase means that I got to experience my own horniness as a thing completely separate from male desire. Being sexually frustrated for years on end is no fun, but it teaches you to appreciate the realness of your own sex drive like nothing else. How could I buy into crap about "girls only put out for money/emotional stuff/social status" when my own vagina was going nuts with the desire just to get some goddamn cock already?"

    So true! As a currently ugly kid, though I wish I could look nicer, I wouldn't trade it for the opportunity I have right now to figure out as much about my sexuality as I can on my own. Being on the peripheries of the social structure at school means I avoid pressure that could get me into situations and, in this case, mindsets that could be a hindrance to my full development as a being involved with sex.

    (Hello, first time reader and commenter :) )

  12. OMG thank you SO much for this !

    I don't think I was an ugly child, but I was a fucking ugly teen. And a VERY horny one (I let you imagine my relief when I finally got legal and bought myself a dildo)

    But in my case, being an ugly teen lead me to be a very stupid one, and to get into a very unhealthy and abusive relationship with a guy, during 3 years (and the sex was just so *lame* because...he was gay)

    Anyway, I admire you. At the point of turning 22, I still feel like the ugly teenager I used to be at 14.

  13. You are pure awesome. I think every way in which I was inadequate and not able to fit in as a teen actually saved me from becoming a really horrible, unhappy person now.

    Also, holy crap do people suck sometimes.

  14. How do people do that? Go through hell at school being told they're worthless, undesirable and in every way less than everyone else ... and then shake it off? Grow up? Get perspective?

    I haven't made it yet. Not sure I ever will. But then the things you had to be proud of beyond your body image, those were what I was made ashamed of.

    As always, Holly, you rock: I barely even wobble.

  15. I love the line "I still had the body of a very small refrigerator with an untrimmed bush on top" it's amazing and evocative. Also, my family once said that I'm built like "brick shithouse" so... square/rectangular people solidarity! (I may or may not currently be identified by others as brick shithouse shaped... but in spirit I am).

  16. Holly, you're fabulous! I just want to second Mr. Monster and say I'm amazed that you took all that bullshit and made awesomeness out of it. That's not just something that happened to you because you were considered ugly, that's something you did for yourself because you are great at life.

  17. "I didn't get the life I wanted. I got something way better."

    How well you've phrased that. You've managed to perfectly describe how I turned out as well.

  18. I remember facing constant torment through most of middle and high school for being "the fat kid." I was kind of terrified about my first day at college being more of the same.

    Imagine my surprise when my first class was filled with people of all ages and shapes/sizes who barely even noticed me.

  19. Hey Holly! I've been reading a long time, but this is my first time commenting. Just wanted to let you know that this post really hit home and I related to it quite a bit. I STILL struggle with not trying to hide myself when having sex with my boyfriend, so I definitely get that. This made me feel a lot better about myself in that respect though - I'm more than just my body, and I shouldn't be so hung up on it. :) Anyway, I doubt you were going for a life changing! Post with this, but it certainly helped me.

  20. Reading about this type of abuse just... appalls me. I don't know if I was just blind to the depths of cruelty, or if the bullying at my school didn't go beyond shouting "Caution: wide load!" to some people (that exact situation happened to my best friend, who was wearing a Hazard sign hoodie. She gave it to me after that incident).

    I always felt average in looks, and was incredibly insecure in my teens and early adulthood, but I never lacked for suitors (which always surprised me, as I wore oversized hoodies, rarely brushed my hair, and always looked like a sleep-deprived raccoon). I too had sex at 15 because I HAD TO RIGHT NOW THIS IS EVEN LATER THAN I WANTED, but it wasn't amazing like yours was :)

    I love any comment you make in relation to your body type - I myself am a self-described Grimace. I got great tits at 20, and then decided I'd rather have small ones. They're so overrated. This post maxes out my already ridiculously high level of respect for you, your life, your writing style, and your general awesomeness :D

  21. You just made my night
    this post is amazing
    isn't being a person of actual substance fun?

  22. Despite the adult language, and I suppose content, I believe this post should be read by every teen everywhere. To hearten those who are ugly or otherwise villified and to educate those who villify.

    I only wish I could have read it twenty-five years ago.

  23. But nonetheless I grew up. And although I don't think I got pretty, I got to feeling pretty. I became first unafraid to wear normal clothes (i.e., the correct size instead of XXL, colors and designs other than "please don't notice me"), then unafraid to be naked when the situation called for it. I stopped trying to hide my belly during sex. I stopped apologizing for my appearance. I started expecting people to treat me decently.

    I am still trying to get to this point in my emotional development. *sigh*

  24. Sometimes I feel like you skipped multiple grades in "Figuring Shit Out" as well because you're way ahead of the curve on that. The rest of the internet already said it: you're awesome. And I'm so happy that you're reaping the benefits of that on a daily basis.

    You're also adorable. Not that that's important or anything, but it can't suck too much.


    "I had never touched a penis when I got a 1580 (out of 1600) on the SAT."


  26. I too wear the shameful badge of high standardized test-scores fueled by the turbulent inner fires of the high-school virgin. Mine was a 33 ACT; I don't know how that compares, but I didn't graduate high school until I was 18.

    I fell in love with a pretty girl and ended up marrying her; we are deeply in love, but very different people. You've given me another way to look at that.

  27. The love note haha just kidding who'd want *you* is so...narcissistically cruel. That happened at my me, and later to one of the special needs girls who had expressed her love to one of the jocks.

    Good thing the joke's really on assholes like that, because who wants to date or fuck somebody that stuck up themselves anyway?

    Still, I wonder what those people think about themselves when they get perspective, later in life. I hope "gosh I was such a jerk" is one of the things.

  28. This is so very close to my own grade school experience. It's still a surprise to me sometimes that people aren't as cruel as they were in junior high. And yeah, adults were useless.

  29. How could I buy into crap about "girls only put out for money/emotional stuff/social status" when my own vagina was going nuts with the desire just to get some goddamn cock already?

    This is an excellent point. I went through the same thing, which is why it always baffled me when anyone acted like women don't experience desire.

    I'll even up the ante by one more level: before I hit puberty and started getting myself off every night to thoughts of David Bowie in his Goblin King outfit from Labyrinth, I experienced a drive for orgasms that was completely independent of sex (as much as orgasms can be, anyway).

    My first orgasms were nothing more than a physical response to stimulation; I'd get myself off thinking nothing in particular except "Hey, this feels good!" I was around ten at the time, and not having crushes on boys yet (nor any interest in girls either). I'd just get this semiregular energy buildup in my crotch that made me want to rub up against the edge of the bathroom counter for a while. So there's one more bit of proof that the female sex drive isn't a purely reactive thing or a product of the patriarchy.

    Like, news flash, Twisty Faster: maybe women (and all the other sexes) like to come because it feels good.


  30. Holly, this is wonderful. I was a pretty, attractive child and teenager and my self worth did end up revolving mostly around my sexiness and attractiveness, and I had really shitty self-esteem and got into all kinds of horrible and abusive relationships. It's taken me years, decades almost, to figure out what my own sexuality is about and what I actually want, independent of what other people want from me. I'm still figuring it out. So I admire you for going through such crap and misery and still learning some really important things from it.

  31. @Perversecowgirl-

    I'd been masturbating for as long as I could remember - first using the bathtub water spout. I have a very vivid memory of being about 4 or 5 when my dad walked in on me doing that and asked me if I knew what I was doing. I didn't, and I didn't for a long time, but I still vaguely related it to sex (I was introduced to porn at 7 or 8, and even though I didn't get the whole gist of what was going on, I got turned on and felt the need to masturbate then, too. Isn't that funny?), because I got that "urge" when watching certain scenes in my Disney movies or Edward Scissorhands. Haha!

    I had a girl in a few grades who was apparently never told about masturbation being a "private" thing, or about what it was at all. She had an addiction to it. In 4th and 5th grade, she'd cross her legs really tight and squeeze/rub until release, sometimes going as far as to grab a desk for leverage. This happened at least 1-2 times a day. She got made fun of a lot for it, because *she* got mad at *us* for staring. None of the teachers appear to have spoken to her or her parents about it, either.

  32. Leah: nobody ever told me masturbation was private, either! My first orgasms were brought about by rubbing up against things, and I used to go to our local playground and hump one of the big slanted poles that held up the swing set, in plain view of whoever happened to be around.

    In retrospect, I realize my mom totally knew what I was doing but never said anything. I guess her silence helped me to develop a good attitude toward masturbation...I probably would have interpreted "don't do that here" to mean "you're doing something bad and you should feel guilty".

    Still...I look back on the public spectacle I made of myself and I kinda wish I'd been gently redirected. Also, I'm skeeved out that my mom knows anything about my sexuality (even if it's just "Perversecowgirl has orgasms").


  33. Add me to the rest who were also ugly (or considered ugly) growing up but have not quite gotten to where you have, admire you for it.

    I was also bullied, mostly in the let's get together and laugh as a group about how unattractive I am and how ridiculous the idea that someone might want to date me is-way.

    I didn't have sex until I was 20 (and I didn't have intercourse, what I considered "real sex" at the time, until I was 22). To me it was confusing, besides being frustrating, to have overwhelming lust without someone to lust over, (it didn't help that I was bi and closeted to myself as well) and I love your point about how it is a good teacher of where your own desire ends and another's begins.

  34. I loved your post even though I wasn't an ugly teenager at all-I was gorgeous by all the patriarchal standards and I still am. But I felt ugly, and I was told I was ugly because high schoolers are cruel and jealous, and it's taken me a long time to be able to admit to myself that I'm not hideous and never was. But I grew up culturally ugly, and yes, I was told I was unfuckable and disgusting and I think that's helped me grow into a person confident in their own sexual desires. so, THANK YOU!

  35. @Writelhd

    "Still, I wonder what those people think about themselves when they get perspective, later in life. I hope "gosh I was such a jerk" is one of the things."

    I was bullied and tormented with regular frequency in junior and senior high, and as an adult I discovered that one of my dear friends had bullied some of her classmates.

    She never really thought about it as an adult until we discovered that about each other. She
    was not a cruel or aggressive adult. She was
    humbled by my pain, I think, when I let her know how much my adult life had been affected by childhood bullying. She was then distressed about how her bullying affected those she bullied.

    She was unable to give me any insight on why she had felt that bullying was acceptable or why she felt compelled to do it, unfortunately. We hear a lot - especially now - from people who have been bullied. I think we really need to learn why people bully in the first place. Why are smart children so often singled out by bulliers, if that oberservation is even accurate?

  36. Amii--

    I read a post somewhere--god knows where, actually--a while back, in which a former bullied child related being contacted as an adult by one of her former tormentors. She was really tortured by this girl, for what seemed like no reason. The woman found her on Facebook and emailed her a long apology, in which she said she also really never figured out why she was so awful, and she wished the adults in their lives had been there for both of them, because even as a bully she was just a twelve year old who didn't know what she was doing.

  37. I don't like the concept of "teenagers, not knowing, what they do". Of course, bullies only do what they do for cheap thrills, without thinking about it much. But the thrills they get are of a sadistic, tormenting nature. If people didn't react to their bullying, they wouldn't do it. I don't think, they fully understand it and have empathy for their victims, but still, they know, they do something wrong.
    It is one thing, to be a inconsiderate kid with no self esteem. But it is another thing to go and try to push your own ego by running someone down.
    Bullies should be held responsible for their behaviour, even when at young age. Bullying should be something thats considered cruel and disgusting, not something whole groups of people can do...

  38. Dear Holly,

    you describe a lot of my teenage. And I think, what kids in school need most, is that you and I and everyone else tell them stories like yours and mine truly as they were.

    I decided a few years ago to do that to every kid in school who feels bad about others being mean.

    The most amazing thing (besides getting laid for the first time :), that happened to me after finishing high school was how I met a former bully of mine, who said once »you’ll clean my dirt in the future!«.

    I wanted to pick up the car of my parents from the garage where it should be repaired. I asked if they changed the oil. The boss said no, but meant they could do it right now in a few minutes, if I wished so. I agreed on that and the boss yelled: »Nico*, get your ass over here and make the oil change for the car of Mr. Nicolai « And there was he, my bully, cleaning up my oil down to my knees and splattering some of the old oil over his body. At that day I decided to take this as a symbolic victory about all bullies, I decided to be never bullied again and to forgive all the poor idiots who bullied me.

    *Coincidental, we share both the same surname.

  39. Holly - I just found your blog and am loving catching up on it. This really resonated with me - when I was a teen I was clueless about how I looked, I didn't know if I was ugly or not, but I never didn't have a boyfriend. I was also never pressured about sex, either. It wasn't until I was 18 that I lost my virginity and I thought "That sucked - people do this for fun?"

    I was confident - or maybe I just didn't care - enough to go down to B&N and buy a bunch of books on how to have sex. It's awesome that you were able to do that on your own - I never even masturbated until I was in my mid-20s (I didn't know how - hadn't even thought about trying) when my friend took me with her to replace her vibrator. After that - good times....

  40. Thinking back on my childhood, it seems to me that almost all kids were both bullied AND bullies. Not necessarily in anywhere near equal proportions, but everyone both gave it out and took it.

    The thing is, kids have no perspective. The slings and arrows they suffer, loom large in their minds. But the cruelties they inflict, are quickly forgotten. I think this is why everyone can tell stories of being bullied, but adults have this collective amnesia about their experience with being the bully.

    Also, the goal of bullying is not to make the victim feel bad - the victim is just "collateral damage". The bullies are focused on the audience. If you bullied, your memory isn't of hurting someone - it's a memory of the audience's eyes on you, and the points you thought you might score with them. But there are no points there, so the incident fades from your memory very quickly. But the memory stays with the victim, perhaps forever.

    I think that the way to educate kids out of bulling might be to make them understand that there aren't any points to be scored by doing it, that the points are scored elsewhere.

  41. "and you just let them do this and didn't say anything?" or "well, things like this are going to keep happening until you get some confidence and learn to fit in better."

    That was largely the reaction I got from adults as well. When I finally did say something, I ended up with detention. Thanks, adults.

    P.S. In my opinion, you are quite lovely and your hair is delightful. <3

  42. This is a fantastic essay, and I'm thankful I found your blog (via Britticisms). It is rare to see an exploration of beauty that doesn't fit into a neat little trajectory that we've seen before. Not every un-pretty girl who thrives in adulthood (and in adolescence, for that matter) is an ugly duckling. There are so many myths about and attachments to beauty that I think it can be difficult for people to find their truth in that realm--but in reading this it's clear that you have.

    I think I was a girl who was both pretty enough and conformist enough to escape bullying at this level. I'm thankful for it in that it made my adolescence easier, but there's also a part of me that knows I lost something by falling fairly neatly into a predictable storyline. Boys liked me and I fell into the "boys approach, girls consent" thing, which meant that it wasn't until much later that I learned how to pay attention to what I really wanted. I didn't go out with boys I didn't like on some level, but neither had I been forced to listen to my own desires, my own preferences, enough to figure out what I wanted. It made my life easier on the front end in many ways but not so much later on.

    In any case, thank you for writing this.

  43. Hi Holly, I've been reading your blog for a while and absolutely love the way you express yourself. But one thing really stuck out like a sore thumb in this blog post - the idea of a social ladder.

    Forgive me if I have misunderstood but I can only take your words at face value - to me it seems to suggest you believe there is such a thing as a social ladder. Do you? Because that would imply that although you have learnt a lot about self esteem you still seem to believe there is a hierarchy in place which suggests that some people ARE worth more than others.

    The only other way to interpret what you said is that you saw the girl you had a fling with as being at the absolute bottom of the social ladder that others have assumed exists.

    What do you think?

  44. I was a fat kid in school and was harassed for it.....and then I found sports and gained a bunch of confidence (and lost some weight), but was never quite able to shake the feeling of being a fat kid....even now as an adult.

    I read this right before I spent the night with my new lover and it made me realize that when he reached for me and said "mmmmm, you're so soft" in the most contented voice I have ever heard that it wasn't about my weight. it was about him wanting to be where he was and him loving all of my matter how "misplaced" (and that I can't assign my meaning to his words!) thank you for putting this out into the world and making us all realize that we are far more beautiful than we realize.

  45. FYI I write a feminist-oriented blog that focuses on beauty and how we treat it, and I included this post in my weekly roundup. Thank you again for such an insightful essay.

  46. Wow, this is an awesome, insightful piece. I had the same experience of being unpopular and an ugly duckling during high school and trying to draw self-confidence from other things, but I only had the experience of "it gets better" in connection with growing into the stereotypical swan and being externally validated through that - such that, in my mind, self-worth remained very much connected to outward attractiveness. Which is something I continue to struggle with to this day. I guess I can learn lots from you. Thanks.

  47. You are so damn amazing. Love EVERYTHING! about this post.

  48. Not very many guys reacting. But my story seems the same. A weird boy, very smart, ugly as hell. Bullied to the point of cuts, scrapes and nosebleeds. I wanted sex from age 13, but understood little about closeness or intimacy. I didn't help that I couldn't decide between boys or girls. The 'friends' I had during study only needed my expertise. I am with my current GF for 11 years now. We are an unlikely pair, have great sex. Even greater intimacy. It took some years to get there, and I think nobody will suspect our horny escapades. But many tell us that we belong together. For which I am truly gratefull.

  49. I just found this post linked from Ryan North's Tumblr and stumbled into the discussion on bullying; I feel like I can contribute. I have been on both sides of the bully/victim divide at school.

    I was a 'mostly' unpopular boy. 90% of the class would torment and bully me. They used to call me names, laugh at me, attack me, steal my shit. They told me I would never get a girlfriend. I believed them, and I felt wretched and out of place. I still do, a bit (I'm 25 now).

    One or two boys in the class were even more unloved than me, and those, I would bully. I'm not sure why. Looking back, I think I was a very angry teenager, although I didn't know that at the time and nobody ever said it. I would just randomly, maybe once every three or four months, perform some act of violence for no reason. I remember one time my friends and I were playfighting with another group of kids and throwing balls of wadded-up paper at each other: I thought it would be funny to put hoofing great rocks in mine. Then my friends said no, what's wrong with you, and I felt stupid and childish. I honestly didn't see what was wrong with it.

    There was one boy I used to physically assault occasionally. On one occasion I kicked him hard in the stomach because he said something. Another time I hit him in the head so hard that he cried. Worse, he was ostensibly my friend. He hung out with me despite my awful behaviour. I feel so wretched and terrible about it now, I honestly wonder if I was a fucking psychopath. I'm the most gentle and non-agressive guy now, I'm terrified of hurting people physically or emotionally. I just... I just couldn't see what was wrong with behaving like that. Maybe AFTERWARDS, when I'd see him crying, I would think, "oh shit, you really should not have done that, why did you do that?" But before? I can't say. I just wanted to hit him, I guess. And I couldn't see why not.

    I don't think I ever got reprimanded by my teachers or my parents for fighting. Maybe that's why it went on so long.

    At 18 I started taking martial arts to learn self control and to get a peaceful outlet for my fighting urges. The last time I ever flipped out, I was 19. I was with my first ever girlfriend in her room, we were making out, and her little brother burst in. I saw red and I just wanted to hurt the little fucker. I tried to kick him. And afterwards I found that I was crying, and I couldn't even look at my girlfriend's face. I knew, then, that something had to change. I realised that I hadn't even known why I wanted to do that. Something in me just snapped.

    Seven years of growing up, martial arts and self discovery later, and I feel completely different. It hasn't happened since. But I can remember every terrible thing I did with crystal clarity, and they haunt me.

  50. I've read this through twice now, I love it.

  51. <3
    "When people give you shit, it's not because you deserve it, it's because they're shit-givers."
    "I don't know if the sex bikini models have is good or not, but I don't think it could be much better."

    Thank you.

    (When you wrote about the shit you got at high school, I felt like I was ticking off a list of things that happened to me - of course some of the details were different, but yes. Yes.)

  52. It's kindof ridiculous how much of this I can relate to. I mean, I wasn't fat but I sure was ugly an unpopular. And instead of someone saying they'd pay $.12 to fuck me it was literally that fucking me would be PUNISHMENT. Years later that still sticks with me. I mean, I have empirical evidence that I am not unfuckable. Lots of it. And I can even deal with rejection and not have it send me back into that place. Unless that rejection feels like MOCKERY and then I go right back there. I kinda flipped out at someone recently when I felt like my advances were being not just rejected but mocked. I found out later he totally didn't mean it that way, but at the time I just wanted to curl up and hide in a box.


  54. Who said to feel bad for me?

  55. As someone who was formerly one of the assholes in high school, I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies. I got lucky and had a young, brilliant girl smack me upside the head with the truth before it got too bad.

    I'll be forever grateful to her and to anyone with the brilliance and the courage to stomach the hell of it all and come out unstoppable on the other side. I can say with some certainty that the contentment you know now is better by miles than anything the high school bullies will ever have the pleasure of understanding.

  56. High school for me was just sort of a roller coaster with no dips or turns or loop-de-loops or any of those things...

    I got okay grades, had a group of loser friends, didn't really get picked on, didn't have any sexual or even romantic encounters.

    I found out my senior year that most kids thought I was going to be that guy that would go bat-shit and shoot up the whole school, which I thought was pretty disturbing, but worked out for me. Explains why the one guy who tried to bully me backed off when I got mad about it... Mostly I kept to myself and everyone just let me do it...

    Like you though, I was able to understand that I am horny as shit.

  57. I just found this blog and I must say I already love you. You have perfectly described my entire educational experience pre-college. The first time I got suspended, it was for punching a kid who constantly tormented me. My father was 59 when I was born. He incessantly would shout across the school yard that my father would not walk me down the aisle at my wedding because 1) he was too old and 2) I was too ugly to find anyone to marry me. My father will be walking me down the aisle in october. I mailed my wedding invitations today. I made sure to invite my tormentor.

  58. You are so right. I'm in the college phase right now and I'm very glad I was the ugly kid all through puberty and most of adolescence, it saved me lots of trouble with grades and sex! Lovely article, thank you!

  59. I found this post through Twitter. All I can say, Holly, is thank you. I was really moved by reading this. My struggles in high school were so very similar to what you described, and reading this has really helped in ways I can't even explain.
    Thank you so much.

  60. "I got something way better."

    Ain't it the truth? The real possibilities are so much better than the fairytale futures we dream up as kids. No rules.

  61. Saw this post on Twitter and it just flipped my whole world around on its head. I, too, went through so much of what you described, and I just never found a way to look at it so positively. I've found ways to have confidence despite this or that, but until reading this post I didn't realize the good things that can come from growing up "unfuckable." Your paragraph about experiencing my own sexuality as completely separate from male desire - as someone who started fucking girls long before she fucked boys, that's always been true for me, but I just didn't realize how fucking *amazing* (and rare!) that is.

    This post made me feel confident and powerful and awesome for things that have nothing do with looks. Thank you.

  62. Vanessa Emma GoldmanApril 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    wow, Holly, i can so identify with this article. my situation was different in a lot of ways, but also similar in many others. i am a transgendered woman who has only recently (like in the last five or six years or so) even been able to partially come out as such. i was born in 1964 and grew up in what was then a VERY conservative, primarily Roman Catholic suburb of Detroit in the 1970s and 80s. Even being a cisgendered (that is, not transgendered) lesbian or gay guy was not something anyone admitted to, being trans was even less something to even think about telling anyone about. and in general, the conformity and narrowmindedness of the community and especially other teenagers was totally off the charts. at the same time that i was told bullshit like "just be yourself and people will like you" and so on...yeah, friggin right! so i tried my best to be a "normal boy" because admitting that i was really a girl would probably have gotten me severely teased and picked on at best (and i was ALREADY getting picked on more than i could stand) and perhaps even seriously maimed or killed. played football even though i was a horrible athlete, hung out with the heavy metal listening, hard partying bad boys even though i was really a sensitive girl deep down, anything to maybe make things a bit less horrible than they already were, and/or avoid making things much worse.

    things started getting better in college, where as you say people tend to be at least a bit more mature. also i found that there was a wider variety of things to do and "niches" to fit into. no longer did i have to try and play sports, or act like a bad ass. i got involved in the campus peace movement and other progressive activist stuff and felt much more happy and accepted. of course i still was not really able to come out as trans, as at the time there were basically (cis, not trans) lesbians and gay men with no real place for trans or really even bisexuals let alone anyone else like genderqueer people or whatever. things continuned to get better over time and, while there is still things that could be better, i think your last two lines hold true for me too..."i didn't get the life i wanted. i got something way better!" i am currently a faculty librarian at The University of Michigan, and have many wonderful friends and family who i love and who love me. thanks so much for posting this!

  63. Vanessa Emma GoldmanApril 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    some have mentioned being both bullied and a bully and that kind of applied to me. it is not something i am proud of by any means, in fact i feel horrible about it. but at the time it seemed like a reasonable coping mechanism. i was being picked on both verbally and physically. at the same time, because the issue of bullying was not, well, considered an issue as it is today, there was a general vibe of "kids will be kids" and more specifically "boys will be boys." and so this discouraged me from telling teachers or other authority figures, out of fear that this would just make me a "crybaby," a "tattletale," a "whiner," or whatever. so i found others who seemed more out of it socially than me and made fun of them. again, not something i am happy about in retrospect but at the time it seemed like a way for me to feel like a bit less of a loser who should just go commit suicide or something.

  64. You kind of just wrote my biography. Except for the part where you got laid and I still haven't. :( This is a really great post... and it's nice to know I'm not the only one who's gone through this shit. Thanks.

  65. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing. Your story really spoke to me.

    See, the thing is, I'm 22 and I've never kissed a boy. I don't think I'm ugly but I'm overweight, short, don't put on makeup and my idea of an outfit is T-shirt and jeans. While I occasionally wish I have a boy/girlfriend, I'm mostly okay with being single. I have a satisfying fantasy life and erotica and porn make up the rest of it. What I'm tired of is the feeling that other people felt sorry for me for this - like I have a condition. Some trotted out the, "It's okay, you still have time." line if I ever mentioned it in the course of conversation. It's worse when I was with people in the states (I'm asian, went to the states for college) - I get that shocked look. I despise the movie, "40-year-old virgin" that makes a mockery out of something that should be a very personal choice (I've never watched it).

    What I got out from your post was the fact that I'm waiting for Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet when I could be proactive. Yet, I still have no idea how I should do it and as yet, there's no one I wanted to approach.

  66. I'm 16, Im so fucking glad i read this.

  67. wooooooooowwwwwww that... was... AMAZING!! :) lol... i loved this this is real life!!!!!!!! i hate watching movies about the ugly duckling and how he/she grows up and they get everything and they get revenge and shit.. no ways this is for reals.. thanks for writing this.

  68. what a great post, new to your blog from a comment on "yes and yes". I feel bad to say this, but your line "But still, when you're twelve years old and people tell you that you're unfuckable, you don't have the perspective to go "duh, I'm a child." " made me laugh out loud because it's true. also your line about "those bunnies must suck."
    I was also teased about my looks in junior high through early college and see it now as having been a blessing in disguise.

  69. Fantastic, realistic and humorous: The best way to be inspiring. Really glad you posted this - thank you!

  70. Thank you so much.

  71. I also got tormented on my looks growing up. Fat and ugly is mostly what I heard and I am in my 40s and still resent those bastards and bitches.

    I did, however, became hot by means of liposuction and body contouring. Ironically, talking about sex, I became a sex object for many men in the last few years. I had and am having a lot of fun. It "makes up" for being made fun of but it still doesn't take the painful past away.

    Like a previous post said by Mr. Monster, I don't think I'll ever truly get over what I went through either. It gets so instilled in our soul. People don't realize how much damage it can cause.

    I also heard "oh they were just kids" "it's such a long time ago" "get over it already." Such heartless words from people who don't understand. They don't realize that ANY trauma that a child or young teen growing up goes through gets stuck in the developing mind, emotions and spirit. It's the fact that they are so young and learning and what's learned is there forever! It sticks like 2+2=4. It will never get unstuck unless you get Alzheimer's...God forbid.

    Sometimes, I think having a selective memory or somehow taking out bad memories would help but that's not going to happen. It shouldn't have to happen. People need to be more nicer because we are responsible for each other. We create criminals if you think about. That's a bit extreme but the way you treat others will come back and haunt you in some way and even sometimes, innocent people get hurt by it too.

    I may not be a fat ass anymore but it still stings. I'm still sensitive about it. To some people, I might still be fat just because of how they think. Size 0 or else. I am a size 6/8. To some, that is fat. I still wear a bikini during the summer. I get hit on by young men and men my own age so I must be "fuckable" obviously. still stings. It never goes away. I am also in therapy about it.

  72. Wow! You sound like me (including the sex!) 30 years ago. I didn't get any until I was 17, but I could come like mad from a guy inside me like they all say is impossible :P I went through much of that crap in high school too: I tell people I was Meg Griffin growing up, and while I still don't look like Lois, I'm much happier, both with my life and myself.

    And yeah, mine still haunts me, too. I go through days where I'm convinced I'm hideous and that my partner must be blind for wanting me and I think she's far prettier than I'll ever be (she thinks the same of me too).

  73. Thank you! This is the story of my life (also except for the having been laid part). I'm at the point in my life where I'm waiting for the universe to come good on the other side of the equation: Bullied to within an inch of her sanity in school = Obviously will be a raging success later in life. I'm 34 and can honestly say I've worked hard to bring about my big break even to the point of trying different careers and moving to different countries. Years of effort and heartache. The result is I'm single, unemployed, overweight, living with my parents and miserable. All the bullies who made me hate myself for decades are now married with great jobs, homes and kids. I feel like I've been cheated. I'm pretty smart but Life is the hardest damn test I've ever taken and I feel like I've done nothing but fail every question since I was born. I LOVE these Woe is me moments! Thanks for letting me get this off my chest!

  74. Hah, this was me! I had good grades, strong friendships, and I was pretty active in the theater department. And I was ugly. Nobody picked on me after elementary school, but they never let me forget it, either.
    I liked what you said about the Ugly Duckling thing – ugly kids don’t necessarily grow up to be pretty. They just stop thinking their looks matter.
    I don’t know that I experienced my sexuality separately from male desire. Certainly, there weren’t any boys in my life who wanted to fuck me, and I recognized the bull my Catholic high school sold me when I saw it, but I think I was still very affected by the objectifying gaze – I would dream about being not just beautiful, but more beautiful than anyone else. And as a queer woman, most of my sexual development centered on learning to not think of my sexuality as an extension of my ugliness – she’s got zits, her hair sucks, she has scoliosis, she has a cleft palate, and she’s a raging lesbo – and wading through the bullshit about sexuality that I was taught (including “men desire, women accept”).
    That being said, a lot of my fantasies included someone desiring me. Not infrequently, that someone was a man. And I really bought into that stuff about prettiness, including the idea that women are only desirable for a certain time…Unless you mean “okay, time to feel horny/time to shut off your clit”?
    I still haven’t gotten to the point where I can approach someone. I believed --and still, to an extent, do--that the odds of someone wanting to fuck me are so low that I’d better not get my feelings hurt (and disgust the person I want) by reaching for the impossible; that, if someone wants me, they will be the one to make the move. I am slowly moving past that. Thank you, and thank everyone who commented, for helping me.

  75. Thank you for writing about this! I related a lot to this blog post. I was particularly struck by the first item on the list of things you learned growing up ugly, "I am horny." What you described happened to me too to an extent, but I never consciously thought about it before, at least not in those terms.

    I mean, I'm not sure that I experienced my sex drive as something completely separate from male sexual desire. I certainly remember not just desiring, but wanting to be desired as well. But I still think there's something to be said for having been horny without actually ever having been desired, and feeling and knowing that sex drive so fully.

    But yeah! I never thought about it before reading your blog post today. And I found it quite thought-provoking. So thank you!

  76. Honestly, half the reason I'm afraid to have children is all the ways they could internalize K-12 public school bullying. I got out of it okay as soon as I hit college as well, but it could be hell all the way up to that point. I feel like your article should be distributed to all the kids on the fringes. Because we were right all along about how society should actually work.

  77. This reminds me of some of the lessons teen girls who were slut-shamed learned, as described in the aptly named book, Slut! It also clarified for me a lot of what I learned through being in the same position--though I was mystified by the fact that being thin and blond and horny as hell didn't lead to *some* amount of sex, despite my other shortcomings in the looks department. (I didn't get my first kiss until I was almost 18, lol, and I had to come onto a guy pretty damn hard for three days straight just to make that much happen.)

    "I wasn't sexy and my boyfriend wasn't sexy, but the actual sex we had was fantastic." -- I had occasion to look up Ursula's song in The Little Mermaid recently, and it made me remember why I hated that movie so much, even as a kid. She conjures up two conventionally unattractive people over her cauldron, explaining they're sad because they're unattractive and they can't hook up. She makes them attractive and then they can hook up after all. What. I mean, it's one thing to be all, "Unattractive people can't get the attention of hot people!" even though that's bull, too. It's thing another to be like, "People are incapable of having sex (or romantic embraces, as seen through the Disney lens) unless they're attractive!" It's such a bizarre litmus test to be like, "Y/N: This would make good porn" as a means of determining whether a relationship can possibly exist. Okay, end rant now, lol.