Photo: Sarah B. McCann

What It’s Like To Be Ugly in St Andrews

Pretty terrible, if you want to know the truth.

I’m ugly.

Plain and simple, I am an ugly girl. I don’t know if it’s my weight, my face, my hair, or my voice. Whatever the reason may be, I am not the kind of girl who a boy would proudly hold hands with. I’m not the kind of girl who would be whistled at on the street, or taken out for a dinner date, or bought a drink at the bar. These things shouldn’t be expected, of course; but when they happen to almost everyone else, you can’t help but feel a little sad.

I was in Ma Bells last year when the Society Room opened during Freshers’ Week. While I queued at the bar with two of my friends, we were approached by a member of a fashion show committee. “We’re having model auditions here next week,” he said, offering one of my friends a business card. “You should come.” He moved along to my other friend. “You should come, too!” And he handed her a card. His eyes passed over me briefly, he smiled, and then… nothing. He vanished into the crowd.

Well, thanks.

A few weeks later, I went on an academic family pub crawl. We had all been adopted randomly throughout Freshers’, so this was the big introduction night. I made it to Club 601 with two sisters and a brother, and my brother quickly ran into a group of his rugby mates. He spun around to introduce us.

“Check out my academic family!” he exclaimed, gesturing to us girls. “Check out my sisters! She’s hot!” He pointed at my sister. “And she’s hot!” He pointed at my other sister. “And she’s -” He started to point at me, but he stopped. His smiled grew tight, and he gave a weird sort of shrug. Then he wrapped his arms around his teammates and shouted that we should all go to the bar.

The entire interaction lasted less than ten seconds, and his final hesitation lasted less than two. It was dark and loud in Club 601, and for all I know I was the only one who noticed the gaff. But it stung. God, did it sting. I felt embarrassed and worthless and unwanted, and even a year later my face still grows red if I think about that night.

That wasn’t the only time I felt worthless in the Union. Farther into first semester, I ventured to the Beacon Bar with one of my new friends. She and I sat at a table in the corner, sipping Cosmos and discussing uni life. We were mid-conversation when, suddenly, my view of her was obstructed by someone’s back.

A random boy had decided to introduce himself to my friend. He inserted himself in between us, his back practically touching my nose, and began talking to her as though she were alone. “You do Econ, right?” he asked. “How did you find the test?”

I sat awkwardly sipping my drink, trying not to bump the glass against the boy. That’s how close I was to my friend, and that’s how close he was standing to me. That’s how obvious it was that two people were sat there, having a conversation, when he rudely barged in between us.

Once again, thanks.

Flash forward to Christmas Ball, this year. I was chatting to a friend near the marquee bar when a boy appeared. He swaggered over to us and reminded her that they had been in halls together in first year. She nodded, with some vague recollection, and introduced him to me.

“Cool,” he said, his eyes flickering briefly in my direction. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“Yeah, sure,” said my friend. “Shots for all of us?”

“No, I want to buy you a drink,” he clarified. “I came over here because you’re hot.”

I wish I had said something. I wish I had thrown a drink at him, or made some witty comment, or done anything but what I did, which was nothing. It was a micro-aggression, and I didn’t want to overreact and embarrass myself. So I quietly slinked away, tail between my legs, to buy myself a drink.

While I waited to be served at Kinkell, I remembered another bar queue, one at the Vic during Freshers’ 2016. I had waited at the bar with a male friend for almost fifteen minutes before giving up and migrating towards the Social Club, thinking we could get faster service there. On our way, we ran into a mutual friend. “Why aren’t you guys drinking?” she demanded, playfully nudging me. “Come on, I can get you served in like ten seconds.”

“Do you know the bartender?” I asked.

“No!” She laughed and started pushing us back towards the Main Bar. “But I’m a hot girl! I can get served anywhere.”

As opposed to me, apparently, who can’t get served anywhere. Hell, even when I’m the one serving I end up with the short end of the stick: I was a bartender, and at the end of the night my attractive coworkers would have over £40 in tips, while I’d be lucky to find 50p on the floor.

I could tell you more. I could tell you about nights when we would dance in groups and boys would try to remove me from the circle. I could tell you about the one night stands who avoid eye contact with me in public, mortified by such a shameful hookup. I could tell you about all the conversations I have been shut out of, the parties I haven’t been invited to, the boys who have ignored me and the girls who have laughed at me. People don’t want to be seen with me. I’m the girl who boys dare each other to speak to. I’m the friend who needs to be distracted, the bullet to be taken.

This is life in St Andrews for an ugly girl. This is my lot in life, and I’ve made my peace with it. But please, St Andrews, don’t be cruel. You don’t have to buy me a drink or ask me on a date, but maybe talk to me. Maybe see what I have to say. I’d like to be visible.



14 thoughts on “What It’s Like To Be Ugly in St Andrews

  1. Holy… I couldn’t stop reading this article, it was so compelling but sad! I’d like to say it sounds like you’ve only met the nastier boys and the most narcissistic girls but I appreciate that each of those interactions was pretty harrowing… brilliantly written article nevertheless!

  2. I sympathise with this article so much. I’ve struggled a lot with my image over the years and not just in St Andrews. What I think is so important to remember though, is that the culture that we have here around body image is often incredibly shallow in my experience. If you are looking to feel attractive and valued it is often unlikely to happen in the Union or the Vic. That’s not to say that anyone should put you down in the way they have, or that what you’ve experienced isnt incredibly hurtful, but also that there are people and places out there where your beauty is so much more than how you look on a packed dance floor clutching a vodka coke. I truly hope you are able to find both and come realise your own beauty.

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