Flawed Beauty

Have you ever gone out with someone who has horrible taste in the opposite sex and yet finds you attractive? It really does a number on the self-esteem.

One night, I jokingly asked my date —we'll call him Horton—if the bruises on my legs (which I got from being clumsy, not from what you're thinking, Mr. Pervypants) made me look sexy. “Well, see,” Horton began, “I like flawed beauty.”

I'm familiar with this notion of flawed beauty. Cindy Crawford's mole. Jewel's crooked Alaskan teeth. Kate Hudson's overly wide-set eyes. Christie Brinkley's marriage to Billy Joel. This is what men usually mean when they say they like “flawed beauty.”

“Yeah, flaws that aren't really flaws,” said a co-worker matter-of-factly.

But Horton meant something different.

“I like girls in digital watches,” he offered one night on the phone, as I eyed with dismay my shiny, silver, clunky, bracelet-link, girly, analog watch. “I like lazy eyes. I like prosthetic limbs,” he continued. My stomach flipped in many-limbed non-digital-watch-wearing horror.

Digital watches? Lazy eyes? Prosthetic limbs? And he likes me? I'm supposed to feel good about this?

Perv Boy has been trying to backpedal ever since. “No, but I didn't mean,” he'll begin; or “Yeah, but you don't understand,” he'll try; or “But wait, what I meant was . . .” But it's of no use. His words begin to blend together into an indecipherable buzzing drone, and all I can think about is that I feel inadequate because I have too many limbs. What I hear is this: “But wait, I'D LIKE YOU BETTER IF YOU HAD FEWER ARMS” and “No, but I didn't mean I'D LIKE YOU BETTER IF YOU HAD A CLEVELAND EYE, YOU KNOW, ONE EYE LOOKING AT ME AND ONE EYE LOOKING AT CLEVELAND.” And “But wait, what I meant was YOU HAVE TOO MANY LIMBS.”

Not too many limbs like more than is normal, which would probably turn him on, but too many like the regular amount. Would it have been too much to ask for my mom to have had German measles?

It's inescapable. No matter which way I look, there they are: both my arms, both my legs, all 10 fingers and 10 toes. It's all there. My symmetry mocks me.

“Come, love, let's frolic atop this combine,” I fully expect him to say someday, as I try in vain to stuff my arm into my shirtsleeve. “Come, dear, another bottle of cough syrup for the road?” I curse thee, right leg, keeper of balance, impediment to true love!

“But that's not how I meant it. You don't understand. It's that I . . .” he begins to say—again—and again I tune out because it's going in one normal ear and out the other normal ear. Damn these normal ears!

“That's not flawed beauty! That's mangled beauty!” shouted an incredulous friend when I told him the situation.

“Oh, fiddlesticks! You're just jealous,” I told him dreamily, as I absent-mindedly scribbled, “Alison + Horton 4-ever and ever” all over my spiral notebook and then cut off my thumb.

Now that some time has passed, I've learned to have fun with dear Horton's unbelievably horrible taste. It's like a game.

“Okay, do you like it better when a girl has long or short nails?” I ask, already sure of the answer.

“Short,” he says.

“Painted or not?”

“I like short, painted nails,” he says. “But you know what I like better than short, painted nails?”

“Let me guess,” I say. “Short, painted nails that are chipped?”

“Um . . . yeah,” he says, dumbfounded. “How did you—oh, wait, because that's what you have?”

“No,” I say as I run my fingernails along a cheese grater. “It's just obvious.”

The other night, my roommate told me I looked like shit. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” I squealed, hugging her and quickly racing over to Horton's house before I started looking good again.

It was all for naught, though.

“You look nice,” Horton said as I walked through the door.

“What?” I demanded.

“You look . . . um . . . nice?” he said again, beginning to twitch.

“Nice?” I thundered. “Nice! That bitch—she told me I looked like shit!”

Horton stared at me like I was crazy. Of course, for him, that was a turn-on.

I think I'm going to have to call it off, though. I just don't have the time. You think it's easy to look this bad?

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