When a woman sought advice from other women on how to deal with “not being pretty”, she never expected this man’s surprising response.
The internet is dark and full of terrors – but sometimes, just sometimes, something genuinely lovely happens out there in the depths of cyberspace. Take, for instance, this #AskWomen thread on Reddit.
Taking to the forum, a woman has (in a since deleted post) sought advice from her fellow females on how to deal with feeling ugly in today’s world of impossible beauty standards.
“I am not pretty, and I never will be,” she wrote.
“I can wear make up, do my hair, wear a lovely dress and heels and I’ll never look like a 9/10. I know it shouldn’t bother me but it does – I want to be beautiful, and I get so jealous that these other girls are born pretty.”
The anonymous writer finished off her post by asking how other women felt about this. “How do you deal with not being attractive to most men?” she wrote. “How do you accept how you look and learn to love yourself regardless?”
Naturally, the post caught the attention of a lot of people, and has generated hundreds of comments in the years since it was shared online.
However, one reply stands out more than the others – primarily because it was penned by a man (this is the #AskWomen thread after all).
Styling himself as ‘SavageHenry0311’, the user quickly proved himself to be far less scathing than his Reddit handle suggested.
“I’m not ‘mansplaining’ or trying to discount how you feel,” Henry began, clearly wary of the fact he’s venturing into unknown territory, “but believe me, I know what it’s like to dislike your body. I got zapped in Iraq and I’ve got some unsightly scars, and I sometimes struggle to accept that I’ll never be as physically capable as I used to be. F**king sucks sometimes.”
Henry continued: “Anyway… I wish I could let you into a man’s head as he’s falling in love with a woman. It’s a process that’s so alien, so strange, that I’m afraid you’ve got to experience it to believe it. But it’s as real as death and taxes….
“Sometimes, a guy will meet a gal and think nothing of it. Maybe she’s a co-worker, classmate, or his buddy’s friend. She gets mentally categorised as ‘female, acquaintance, feelings neutral’. Then, he gets to know her better. If they mesh personality-wise, something fascinating happens in the man’s mind. He starts to notice things about her appearance – pleasant things. It starts small. For example, one day he realises he likes looking at the curve of her nose, or where her ear lobe meets her face.”
Warming to his theme, Henry went on to say that this feeling is “nothing he can put his finger on or describe” – just that, shortly thereafter, “the guy realises that whenever he looks at this woman, he feels good”.
“He likes her lines, her curves, her sounds and smells,” Henry adds. “It’s like she’s gradually turned from a black-and-white photo into a 3D colour movie with surround-sound. He starts wondering what he can do to keep her around, to make her happy. He realises that he likes looking at her more than any other human being in the world.
“To him, she is perfect and beautiful.”
Henry finished by saying: “A man in love doesn’t see his partner objectively. There is a filter there, or some kind of participatory illusion. He does not see who you see in the mirror. He is seeing someone beautiful and perfect and sublime, and it’s one of the most powerful things in his life.
“Go watch a happy old couple that’s been married for decades. Watch the man’s eyes. Sure, he may appreciate some young woman’s ass in yoga pants or whatever… but watch his eyes when he’s looking at his spouse.
“Because, if you’re paying close enough attention, you can almost see the filter click on when his gaze settles on her. In that moment, he’s not seeing the same frumpy empty-nester that you or I see – he’s seeing something wonderful.”
SavageHenry’s post may be four years old, but it continues to touch a nerve with people even now.
Since it was posted in 2014, it has generated almost 4,000 comments now, and recently was brought back to the attention of the general public when someone shared it on Twitter alongside the #goals hashtag.
And, for anyone interested, it seems as if Henry’s musings on love are well and truly backed up by science. Indeed, according to research, being in love increases blood flow to the brain’s pleasure centre, the nucleus accumbens. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans show this region lights up when people are in love. The surge in blood flow usually happens during the attraction phase, when partners become fixated on each other – and lowers levels of the brain chemical serotonin, a common attribute of obsessive-compulsive disorders. The serotonin drop could explain why lovers display such single-minded concentration on the object of their affection. These feelings can also cause lovers to be blind to their partner’s undesirable traits in the early stages of a relationship, choosing to focus only on their partner’s good qualities.
However, after people have been in love for some time, the body develops a tolerance to the pleasurable chemicals. The attraction phase gives way to the attachment phase, when the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin permeate the brain and create feelings of wellbeing and security.