Are ugly people at a disadvantage?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 1996, 12:00am

YES YOU'RE on a blind date. You have arranged to meet at a bar and you have spoken to your date on the phone and she sounds OK. There is a hint of gravel to her voice that indicates dusky looks and Lauren Bacall lines. You arrive at eight and scan the bar for the person wearing the blue dress.

And there she is. A moose of the first order. A hound. Thighs like slaughtered swine. Breasts that sleep under her armpits. Eyes like a leering rabbit and a mouth so drawn and taught with tension that you can envisage a lifetime of nagging before you've even spoken to her. Stained and crooked teeth are wrapped around a whisky and Coke while particles of make-up float on the surface of this awful concoction. Lauren Bacall? She makes Humphrey Bogart look like Kate Moss.

But it's OK - the innocents tell us - she has a nice personality. Well, bully for her, but the fact is, she is a Baskerville and before you know it, you are slinking out of the bar and hitting the nearest pub for a restorative triple, nervously listening for the baying as she comes after you.

Does this make me an awful person? If your answer is yes, chances are you are ugly. Look, some of my friends are ugly; it's just that I don't like them as much as the good-looking ones.

I don't want to end up on a drinking session at three in the morning gazing into the face of some sweating troglodyte. In the same way that I wouldn't surround myself with paintings of little kittens playing with a toilet roll if I could look at a Chagall, I find it easier on the eyes and brain to ensure a certain standard of looks among my friends.

Isn't it natural? Think back to school. Didn't the good-lookers hang out together? Think back to college. Wasn't there always a group of bright and beautiful young things forming their own clique? Similarly, didn't the uglies hang around together, sweeping into the bar like a herd of misfits.

It's simply the workings of evolution. Procreation is the driving-force of the human race and good looks make us more sexually attractive. It is natural to select the best-looking person available because it increases the chances of your offspring finding mates and continuing the species. Good looks are nature's way of hedging your bets.

The thing is, you can't fight instinct. There are notable cases of supremely good-looking people marrying utter shockers, but isn't you're first reaction: 'What on earth is he doing with her?' Careers can be ruined by an ugly spouse; social lives can be dessimated by an unwise partner decision. Having ugly friends is just too risky these days.

So, you're probably thinking, he reckons he's good-looking, does he? Well, yeah, I do. But then we all do, don't we? Even ugly people.

NO Journalism is a great way to see beauty up close. Years ago, I had to interview Britt Ekland in London. She'd just written a fitness book, and hordes of people had turned up at Selfridges ostensibly to buy a copy but really to see the flaw-show. We were ushered into a backroom whereupon Britt produced a mirror and started making lipsticked moues of disgust into it. 'Ach,' she said, in her Swedish way, 'I look so mottled, such a wreck.' No, no, I protested (creepily), you're lovely. It was no good. She spent the next hour unhappily tweaking and pouting and aching at herself. That's when I realised that beauty carries its own curse.

People who are, let's say, aesthetically challenged learn early on to make an effort beyond their own reflection. And so, naturally, they're going to be nicer, better read and an awful lot funnier. It's a recognised biological fact that good-looking people can't tell jokes - something in the beauty gene cancels out the punch line. Ever seen Richard Gere in a comedy (an intentional one, that is)? Woody Allen, on the other hand, has the unfair advantage of being short, myopic and crumpled. I know who I'd prefer to spend the evening with, despite the shenanigans with Mia - who was, incidentally, previously married to Andre Previn and Frank Sinatra, neither of whom qualify for the Adonis stakes either. We'd never have had a Theory of Relativity if Einstein had been out auditioning for Hollywood, and anyone who's seen that bald, baggy-eyed portrait of Shakespeare can guess why he was so prolific.

Beauties don't know how to please; they've never had the practice. Years of smiling at the maitre d' and at dazzled friends don't count. One day they wake up and discover that it isn't that easy anymore and they're at a loss just how to behave, so it's usually badly. The less lovely, who have seen the lumpy lie of the land since their playground days, continue to enchant by other means. Mata Hari wasn't a stunner and Cleopatra, while not exactly the Elephant Woman of the Lower Nile, is said to have had considerable defects, but the pair of them are still remembered as luscious sirens. I'm sure Cleo didn't spend all day fixing her kohl. She simply cooed, 'So tell me about yourself, Julius (or Mark Antony)', nodded a lot sympathetically, and that was that.

Last summer, I went over to the US to interview Terri Holladay and when the photos eventually arrived in the office, there were several shots of an exquisite, doe-eyed creature on a sofa, sitting alongside what looked like a troll with a reporter's pad. OK, not the best moment in my life. But I got over it. Eventually. Some comfort was found in the words of Bette Davis: 'I have eyes like a bullfrog, a neck like an ostrich and long, limp hair. You have to be good to survive with that equipment.'