“You’ve got to work with what you got, Ryan!” my father tells me while driving to get his haircut at the one posh salon in town. I am ten years old. “Dating is strictly a numbers game.”
When I was eight, my parents divorced and subsequently lost their minds. My mom, who had never exercised a day in her life, promptly joined a gym and became friends with a WaCky sIngLE forty-something woman named Jen. Together, they would tear up the hot nightlife scene of Ventura, California, and schmooze with younger guys. They even went to get tattoos. Twice.
Meanwhile, my father started placing personal ads in the local Jewish Woman Journal. Barring the woman he eventually married, my father exclusively dated Jewish girls because he liked their “spunk.” He also, for the first time in his life, started to pay attention to his appearance.
“Let’s face it, I’m a 5. Maybe a 6.” He said woefully. “I have to play to my strengths, Ryan. That’s how dating works. You mask your flaws and enhance the best parts of yourself.”
I was shocked that my father was going to Yamaguchi’s, the one chi chi salon in my sleepy beach town because normally he was very cheap. He bought all his clothes at Costco and wouldn’t even let us add cheese to our hamburgers when we’d go to to McDonald’s. Now he was paying 90 dollars for a haircut? WTF?
At the time, none of my parents’ behavior made a lick of sense. I completely understand it now, though. The path of a “5” or “6” is exhausting and expensive. It involves many gym memberships, skin creams, carefully-curated outfits and overpriced haircuts.
It’s a full-time job when you’re dating and completely average looking.
I will never be hot. Maybe with my glasses off and under the right Instagram filter, I can be, but it requires a lot of energy on my part. Whatever ounce of good looks I have has nothing to do with great bone structure or a beautiful set of eyes. It’s because I’m still young. I have youth on my side and, like my father said, I know how to work with what I have. If you’re in your twenties and know how to dress your body, it’s difficult to be unattractive. Still, I wonder what will happen when I get older. I don’t have a strong foundation that can survive getting older. I’m not going to age like a fine wine, like George Clooney. I’d be lucky if I don’t develop mold and make someone sick!
I resent beautiful people. Everywhere I look, they’re getting fucked up haircuts and wearing burlap sacks, and you want to know why? BECAUSE THEY CAN. Being an “8”, “9” or “10” means you can get your haircut by a blind person and still walk away looking fantastic. Seriously, you can just be all “LOL” with your face and body, doing all kinds of weird things to it, because you’ll always look good. Meanwhile, average looking people are over here, screaming at their hairstylists and looking for the right shirt that hides their problem areas. The other night, I was picking out an outfit to go to dinner with some friends. My first ensemble made me look approximately 400 pounds (the shirt was too tight and when I wear things that are fitted, shit can get real weird). My second outfit, on the other hand, made me look fun, flirty, and fabulous! I couldn’t believe that my body could go from Anne Ramsey in Don’t Throw Momma From The Train to “Okay, we can have sex with the lights on” in a single outfit.
I blame being gay for my issues. Say what you want, I think the gay community is very, very focused on looks. I lived in New York City for almost six years and never felt like I measured up. I’d go to a gay bar and immediately see ten guys who looked exactly like me but cuter. And with apps like Grindr and Scruff, dating and hooking up has become more centered on physical appearance than ever before. I joined Grindr two days ago to see what the fuss was all about. I had heard from my gay friends about all the messages you receive from guys (“It’s a constant barrage of harassment!”) and was excited to potentially receive some validation. Unfortunately, I’ve barely gotten any. I’ve been sent three messages, two of which belonged to the same guy and the other was a spam bot. The verdict is in: I am not hot enough to be used purely for sex.
There is a silver lining to being a “5 or a 6” though. Since I wasn’t born with the luxury of resting on my looks (there is NOTHING to rest on, besides maybe a jagged rock), I’ve had to develop good conversation skills. (Remember: Average looking people can’t have average brains!) So when I see someone I like, I know the only chance I have of being with them is if they get to know me and like my personality. So I work hard, I put my best foot forward, and I watch them slowly come around. It doesn’t always happen, of course. Some guys aren’t bendable and don’t gel with the things coming out of my brain. In which case, I’m shit out of luck. But when you do find the person who doesn’t write you off and the two of you are able to start a playful banter, it’s amazing. Because you know that they’re liking you for you, not your nonexistent 6 pack abs. Once a “5” or “6” is in, THEY’RE IN. They mate for life.
I just hope I’m in before I have to start paying $90 for haircuts. (JK, I already am!)