10/16/2013 11:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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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