I’ve got a crooked smile. And one eye that’s smaller than the other. Go ahead. Look at the picture. SEE?
I’ve been pretty self-conscious about my weird lack of facial symmetry. Over the years I’ve tried fighting it by parting my hair differently or tilting my head to compensate. Which is ridiculous because no one really cares or seems to notice it and, if they do, frankly, I’m thinking those aren’t people I’d want to hang out with anyway.
But it’s still a thing I fret over. When our family was all gathered around the table recently, for some reason taking pictures came up. I mentioned my discomfort with my lack of facial symmetry to my daughters. It was one of those moments where you want to gobble the words right back into your mouth before anyone hears them.
I know better than to say something like that. I know the last thing young women need to hear is their mom running down her appearance. After all, when you look at your mom, you are time traveling. If your mom says she finds herself looking ugly, it’s like she’s delivering a curse.
Which brings me to the Ugly Club. Yes, seriously. There is a small town in Italy where the entire population of 2,000 are members of the Ugly Club. And, over the years, they’ve had 28,000 people from around the world write in to join the club.
They’ve got a boar’s head over the door to their headquarters. They throw big parties to celebrate ugly every year. Their motto is “ugliness is a virtue; beauty is slavery,” which initially struck me as a little over the top. Then I started to think of all the people asking surgeons to carve up their faces in the pursuit of the perfect look, and I realized that these Ugly Club folks have a point.
Telesforo Iacobelli, who was president of the Ugly Club for many years, said he believed that because the people have to look beyond appearances, he and other members of the Ugly Club are “judged for what we are and not what we seem.”
They score themselves on various traits of ugliness, celebrating them on a scale from average to extraordinary. Iacobelli considered himself ugly because his nose was too small — after all, in Italy big noses are considered beautiful. I looked at pictures of the members of the Ugly Club and I found something interesting.
They all looked perfectly normal. A few people had something quirky about their faces, like me. Because it’s normal to have something quirky about your face.
So as we were sitting around the table and I was trying to delete what I had just said to my still impressionable daughters, I thought of the Ugly Club. I didn’t think they’d want to join, but I did think we should adopt the Club’s ideals, like accepting and valuing your quirks. Aging with grace and stopping yourself from inadvertently teaching your kids to fret about things that don’t matter. Creating a place where you are judged for who you are and not what you seem.
I know I’ll get another opportunity to say the right thing. And while I’m not going with “I’m ugly and it’s okay,” maybe just embracing my quirks will be enough.