The “looks” theme generated quite a few responses, including one from an earnest Swedish boy — “Are Americans that obsessed with looks?”– who somehow thought that all my columns, every week, and all my letters, were all about this theme. I took a moment away from “House of Style” to gently set him straight.
Next, here’s a pic of the Bride of Wildenstein (thanks, Kathleen and Linda). Breakup Girl is unable to write a joke about it at this time because she is hiding under her chair.
And speaking of plastic surgery, remember Mole Boy (as in, one of last week’s letter writers, not as in, “Mulder, do you mean to tell me that this young man with no eyes has learned to survive by burrowing underground and eating only insects?”)? He evidently felt some sort of cosmic/cosmetological link to Sunkissed, the young woman wondering if a face lift would boost her prospects with boys, and here is what he wrote about it. Everyone who’s ever wondered “what’s missing?” (from your face, your weekend, your soul) should read carefully; everyone else (like, both of you), should enjoy the lovely ride.
Dear Breakup Girl,
It’s Writer Boy / Nothing Like The Sun again. We can stick with Writer Boy. [This repeat-writer is a man of many aliases. -- BG] I was so pleased that you did several questions on the looks issue. I actually was a little worried about asking the mole question because I knew it raised some serious self-image issues, but the answer in one case is not necessarily the same in another. A haircut that makes you feel fabulous is a healthy self-image adjustment, but not so much for massive plastic surgery in most cases. Anyway, seeing everything in a larger context was very cool.
Oddly enough, I was more struck by Sunkissed’s issue than your admittedly spot-on advice about my own (If you had advised the other way, I guess it would have been “spot-off”, hehe.) Suddenly I remembered what it was like to be me at 15 and discovered that in the past decade I’ve already made the most important self-adjustment I could make–transforming from shy, neurotic Antisocial Boy into Very-Much-OK-With-Himself Boy. [More aliases! -- BG]
So, I have a shout-out snippet of advice of my own, for Sunkissed (and anyone else who’s recently been Dumped or Slumped for that matter). Dancing is my personal prescription panacea for relationship woes.) I’m cribbing a little from your notes to her, but consider my plagiarism a mildly devious form of flattery.
Take heart. At 15, you have had more boyfriends than I had had girlfriends by age 21. In fact, Writer Boy remained un-kissed until he had notched off two decades on his belt and just begun his third. But that same Writer Boy is now mostly happy, well-adjusted, and can find no bigger relationship problem in his life than a silly mole (which I am pleased to say I am keeping!).
Now, Writer Boy is going to add his own completely unprofessional opinion to what BG told you. Keep in mind that WB has not even written a book on relationships, nor does he have a webpage whence he dispenses regular advice. What he does have is a certain amount of empathy for your situation, so listen well but keep a big grain of salt handy.
Her Superness Breakup Girl says (very wisely): “Here’s what to do: find something to do in or outside of school that you love. [...] This is not dumb grownup “find a hobby!” advice. The experience of activity and discovery will affect how you look, it will.” Writer Boy agrees wholeheartedly. Nothing did more to turn Writer Boy from a mild-mannered Clark Kent into a charming, rhyming-couplet-spewing hunka-hunka-burning-boy than a little lifestylesurgery in the form of new activities and interests. When you’ve just been dumped or haven’t had a date in ages, the last thing you want to do is go out and do something alone but trust me, it does wonders for the psyche. Writer Boy started reading his poetry in public, took up acting, joined an astronomy club and took up cycling, and in the process he discovered that People Who Have Interests are actually the most Interesting.
And recently Writer Boy discovered the best form of lifestyle surgery there is: Dancing! Specifically, Writer Boy is a swing dancing fool. Dance classes are ideal for the single person, be it ballroom, country-western, swing, salsa, or tango. The reason why: it’s partner dancing. When you show up for a class, you, the single vixen, are matched up with a male partner (maybe single but sometimes not–most classes are about half couples and half single folk), upon which you introduce yourselves and for a few minutes you dance. Then you rotate around the circle, meet a new partner, and begin again. In the course of a night, you may meet 20 fellas without ever once feeling awkward, at least above the ankles. Your feet may be a little awkward at first, but be patient.
The best part of dancing is that people have fun at it, they smile, they laugh. Even the few who are more shy or frustrated at first are just as exuberant as everyone else by their third or fourth lesson. This is not a small thing–Writer Boy will tell you his secret: I have never seen anyone on a dance floor who I would call unattractive. People are so happy and comfortable in their own skins, they all transform magically into the most beautiful versions of themselves. The reason why? They are so busy concentrating on the dance that they forget to be self-conscious about their appearance. Writer Boy has never had so many crushes since he was in junior high school.
Once you learn the steps, you can start dancing outside of class and pick your own partner. Oh where, oh where, is that tall, dark hottie from intermediate swing class? Will he ask you to dance? Who cares!? You are such a righteous dance diva that you are gonna march right up\ and and ask him to dance! Heck, don’t even ask, just take his arm and pull him onto the floor with your utmost “you’re mine for 5 minutes” attitude. He will dig it completely.
Here’s where it gets really good–partner dancing provides personal reinforcement through touching with preestablished limits. In other words, you can spend all night with Mr. Studly’s arms wrapped warmly around your waist and yet never worry about them straying to places you’d rather they not be. You can (and will) swoon into his arms as he dips you, but you can also expect to be treated with politeness and respect. You can also expect to look fabulous, because his whole job on the dance floor is to make you look good. All of which is guaranteed to do wonders for your self-image–you’ll start to feel as good as I’m sure you already look, and it will show.
The one caveat: you are young, and many classes are in 21-and-over clubs, or you also may not be lucky enough to live in a town that has a dance studio or regular classes anywhere. Surprise! That means you are now president of the local young persons’ dance club. Enlist some friends and hire an instructor or buy some instructional videos, and make your own scene. Learn tango, swing, two-step, or whatever. Even if all you have is girls, don’t worry–once the guys figure out that’s where the girls are, they will come.
Make it your goal to be the hottest dancer in your whole school by the time fall rolls around. When it’s time for that first fall dance, I want you to march in there and tell that DJ it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and then dance up a storm. Everyone else, still doing the generic two-foot sway-and-shuffle because it’s all they know to do, will be in utter awe of you. Jaws will drop. And your dance card will fill up faster than the Titanic filled with water.
Consider it the first stop on your campaign trail for homecoming queen. I’m serious. Just be sure to mention me when you’re accepting the crown.
P.S. If dancing isn’t your thing, that’s cool, but the main point of what I said still applies: nothing is more enticing to a guy than a girl who is kick-ass at something. Skateboarding, snowskiing, sculpture, chess, or whatever–someone out there will dig you completely for it, and you yourself will be too busy being Miss Kick-Ass to even take a second to worry about your appearance, and therefore you will be utterly gorgeous.
This column was originally published June 29, 1998.