Give me ugly over beauty, any day

Noah, my son on a recent road trip.

‘He’s mine!!!’

It was both thunderous roar and plaintive yell; a piteous scream from an unconscious bursting with violent feeling.

We aren’t even Jewish for God’s sake!

Poor Helen, a diminutive, entirely innocent waif the object of my mother’s furious obsession with me, her son.

Beauty is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I had it once. I don’t have it now, and I am glad to shed it; I couldn’t slough it off soon enough.

As KD Lang sang: ’It held you in far too long.’

If I could rewind, time travel, shave off 30 years and cast them to the ground, I would. Perhaps I could enjoy it now.

For I didn’t enjoy my beautiful youth: it cursed me, an unwanted inheritance, forever yoking me to my doppelganger — the father who had disappeared.

I passed the baton to my kids: my son has a modeling contract in London. I wish him well.

But I prefer middle age, my unwanted pounds, anonymity in a crowd. Heads are no longer turning round when they once did.

Good looks blight relationships. Most of the women I dated imagined, wrongly, I was going to leave them and so they left me.

Mostly, they projected a fantasy my way and never actually saw me, beyond their image. The reality of my humanness and vulnerability entirely superseded.

The therapist, the writer, the looker. It has acted as a kind of Holy Trinity, but was really a triumvirate of trouble: I was asked to carry their burden, make up for the dad who had let them down.

Just as my mother had done all those years before. My father had let her down, us down, and somehow I found myself walking in his shoes.

I remember once, at 21, walking down the street in Stratford, Shakespeare’s town, and being encircled by a gaggle of French students, who held hands, and me hostage.

That was more innocent yet I was too shy to bask in their attentions.

At school, I was the one everyone wanted to look like. Parents would approach my mother to say they wished their child looked like me.

And she would delight in the telling of it, hoisting me higher, ready for the inevitable fall.

I realised aged ten, when my stepfather dealt me a hefty blow to the stomach, that being the golden child would do me no favour.

Other men have their own problems with handsomeness. Unlike women, they don’t project their fantasy, but their insecurity.

With men, it’s more basic, primitive, an envy, entirely unconscious, born of sibling rivalry and an innate need to compete.

Envious attack is common in the workplace, part of the daily grind, but looks add another dimension, a more personal one.

Rather than an all-out attack, more devious men would sidle up to say how much they ‘admire you’.

Envy is often thinly veiled, the need to take what you have, to bring you down instead of simply lifting themselves up.

Objectification is a word we associate with women but I recall the female boss with her hand on my knee, and the one who could only call me by my surname, thus distancing herself from unmanageable feelings.

I say none of this as eulogy to self. Despite all, I have escaped the worst of Narcissus. I am not concerned with how I look.

My body, without my conscious consent, has collected pounds for protection, camouflaged me, respected my shyness and wish to be alone.

Whenever I think of dropping down, something in me holds ground.

I prefer my life this way.

© simon heathcote




Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor.

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Simon Heathcote

Simon Heathcote

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor.

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