An Ugly Index

by guest blogger Renee James, essayist and blogger

I thought I had reached my limit when I saw (and ignored) ads in my Facebook feed promoting “sexy eyebrows.” But then I read this: a headline for an article promising insight into what my belly button said about me. That may have actually pushed me to the edge. For the record, I never clicked on the article. I’ve chosen to live the rest of my days in defiance of whatever wisdom my navel is waiting to impart.

But both of these events paled when I read about a new beauty study. Turns out, not only do women have “fat” days and “bad hair” days, but we have “ugly” days as well. The Boomtown Rats, The Bangles, and The Mamas and the Papas had it right: Mondays are the cruelest day.

Leaving aside the fact that we now have an “ugly index” (not kidding)—a study quantifying how horrible we women feel about our looks—I was mainly saddened to read that we feel least attractive on Monday. Does that mean that feeling unattractive is our default position and that more of us feel that way on Monday? Or does that mean that out of those who feel unattractive, Monday is the high (or low) point for those feelings? Sunday runs a close second. Those wild weekends are tough.

You’ll also be interested to hear this bit of related research: It’s not enough that we’ve quantified our physical nadir as Mondays, but now we know exactly what time of day we feel most hideous—mornings. Almost 70 percent of the respondents feel repulsive between 5 and 9 a.m. At the other end of the day, more than half of us feel repellent after 10 p.m.

Why?  What’s going on here? Well, the research tells us that we feel least attractive when we’re:

  • Waking up
  • Sick
  • Sweating
  • Stressed
  • Crying
  • At the end of a long day

Rounding out the list of triggers that make us feel so unsightly: being depressed, angry, worried, or lonely.

So there you have it. One solution may be to stay in bed every Monday until 9:01 a.m., in a cool room, healthy and tear-free, without a care in the world, while calling a friend and then reading or watching something that makes you laugh. Admittedly, that may not be practical for at least a few of us.

Viewed another way, we could presume that when we’re going about our day and feel healthy, calm, and happy, with friends and loved ones sharing our lives, we feel more attractive. What a concept.

But take heart; there is good news. We seem to feel pretty darn positive about how we look between noon and 3 p.m. Personally, I’ve always believed in the miraculous power of candlelight, so this is somewhat surprising, but I’ll take it. Three hours of “I feel pretty” is three hours, no matter when it happens.

You won’t be surprised to hear this was all done in pursuit of commerce. Cosmetics companies want to know when we feel we’re at our most unappealing, so they can reach us with the right message about the right product to address the right problem at the right time. That’s just good marketing. I have no doubt they’ll make this research work for them and sell a lot more products.

I have no idea what my “personal attractiveness index” is, but I’d happily explore that further the day I read about a study of men that reveals when they feel most vulnerable about their appearance. Answer: never. They wouldn’t spend seven seconds answering a survey about their “triggers” for feeling unattractive. We’ve come a long way, baby.

You know what I love about my mother’s life and the lives of women of her generation? As young adult women, and then maybe as new moms and middle-aged moms, and then as older women, they didn’t spend 1/1000th of the time women today spend thinking (read: obsessing) about their abs or their thighs. Or their arms. Or their necks. Or their ankles. Or their back fat. Or their eyebrows. Or their navels (and what they were trying to say). I’ll bet they never filled out a survey about what day or time of day they felt the most “ugly.”

And I’ll bet they—and the men who loved them—were happier for it.

Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, PA, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations’: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. Her blog, It’s Not Me, It’s You, addresses topics that mystify her on a regular basis.


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8 Responses to An Ugly Index

  1. Margaret Poswistilo October 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Agree we as women spend way too much time obsessing over our flawed bodies. I do notice, however, that in the past decade men have joined this unhealthy bandwagon I constantly over hear men in elevators, during lunch rushes at the delis etc discussing their food choices, abs, gym routine etc. & men’s magazines now concentrate on this

    Also, our mother’s generation may have not spent as much time today obsessing, but they too were concerned.. Their gen created all kinds of crazy diets, weight loss programs, diet colas – remember TAB ? I think that’s one way how our gen picked up on all of this. Bottom line we all need to eat healthily, take care of ourselves and others and enjoy life & bod we have!

  2. Karen October 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    reality check—–thanks!

  3. Alice Green October 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Thanks, your writings always give me a good laugh. I only wish I knew all those women who take those surveys, I’d send your article on to them. In the hopes they will stop taking the surveys and not help those companies make more profit.

  4. Donna in Delaware October 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Sending bad messeages about body image to the young. We need to stop obessessing and move on. That doesn’t mean that we can’t take care, or better care of ourselves, just that we don’t have to “watch it” every waking moment. Nothing will get accomplished if we keep doing that! By the way, Renee, I’m also a BIG believer in candlelight! Ha, but I don’t need that all of the time. Daylight is good! You can’t hide from natural light.

  5. Renee October 13, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks for the sisterhood and the support everyone! I can’t thank you enough for the kind feedback on the piece.
    In my calmer, more rational moments, I know you’re right and creating a beautiful life is more satisfying then creating the perfect eyebrow curve.
    Then again, Margaret, I hear you! Not only do I remember Tab, I remember rum and Tab. Can you imagine drinking anything more vile?
    In my more thoughtful moments, though, I do wonder why we still seem to be stuck in this place. Why hasn’t an entire generation+ of “modern women” moved beyond something as specious as an “ugly poll?” Shouldn’t things like these be an anachronism we are bemused by?
    At times like this, I fall back on my standard question: WWGD? What would Gloria do? Not answer this poll, for one thing.
    Thanks again everyone.

  6. Donna in Delaware October 14, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Speaking of Tab, does anyone remember Like Soft Drink from the 60’s? That soda made “just for girls”. I think it was a diet off-shoot of 7Up! Does anyone even remember the commercial and that snappy song? This body obsessing goes way back.

    Sorry for misspelling obsessing everyone.

  7. Renee October 16, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    I don’t remember Like Soda – sorry. And anything made “just for girls” – other than tampax – is ridiculous. And just one more way to play on our insecurity.

  8. Donna in Delaware October 16, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    It’s no wonder few people remember it. It was very short lived, taken off of the market by the FDA because it contained a carcinogen. How many of us consumers knew, or even cared about such things at that time? Anyway, you may be able to find it on YouTube. Almost everything is located on that site.

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