Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

This week's column: Beauty is Only Skin Deep -- but Ugly Gets the Pay Cut

I've found a way to do portable word processing (a very old laptop that amounts to a fancy typewriter), but without my laptop I'm more limited than I used to be on my internet time. Considering the fact that I should be writing and working on selling my other books rather than net surfing, that may be a blessing in disguise. However, if it is, the disguise sucks.

Meanwhile, my scheme to use my column to guide readers to my newspaper's web page has stalled -- because the New Era didn't post my column this week. *sigh* It only got 21 hits when I did post it, maybe because some people are understandably hesitant to click on links.


In my early twenties I had one of those between job experiences, which is another way of saying I was unemployed during what, until recently, was one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. Being both cheap and lazy, I stopped shaving to save money. It wasn’t long until I resembled a young version of Saddam Hussein when they dragged him out of that hole.

One day, while I was at the fire station bemoaning my lack of jobbiness, the fire chief said, “If you want to get a job, you need to shave that beard off.”

“But,” I whined – I mean, pointed out, “you have a beard.”

“Yes – but I have a job.”

I went straight home, hacked that thing off, and got hired the next day.

No, not really. Being a young punk, I whined, moped, kept growing the beard, and eventually got hired despite myself – by a company that required me to shave off my beard. I became a third shift security guard making minimum wage, and you know what? I was happy to have that job. (Sorry, I had to throw that old guy saying in there, because it’s true.)

Nothing in life should be based on appearances. Every grunge wannabe teenager with a face full of metal said that. Martin Luther King said that. I’m sure, at some point, that Larry King said that. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking race, dress, or whether you got hit with the proverbial ugly stick as a baby, what you do should matter more than how you look.

Certainly I said that, whenever someone mentioned the fact that I’ve always concentrated on comfort over looks. Also, I’m cheap. Two decade old pants cover up just as well as brand new ones, as long as the wear doesn’t get too bad. Five layers of multi-colored, multi-patterned sweaters may make me look like that guy who played Doctor Who in 1981, but by gosh, I’m warm.

But saying it doesn’t make it so.

Now we have two university researches, probably handsome, manly economists, who claim plain looking people get between 5-10% less pay than good looking people. This is assuming all else is equal: You can’t compare the beautiful people in Hollywood with the ugly people, because Hollywood has a city ordinance banning ugly people. The security guards and trash haulers of Hollywood are just more beautiful people, waiting for their big break or coming down like a shooting star into an ash tray.

So … does this have anything to do with why I’ve been on the edge of abject poverty most of my life? Let me check a mirror … hm … could be.

The researchers say that good looking people trend toward occupations where beauty is more important than intellect and talent, such as politics. Just the same, they add that regardless of occupation, beauty is its own reward to the tune of a couple of bucks more per hour. And that’s one beautiful tune.

They also discovered – brace yourselves – that the difference is bigger in men than in women. But male or female, the difference counted even in so called performance based fields, such as lawyers or doctors. Often it came down to customers simply wanting the looks, more than the skills. The only news that indicated any sort of justice is that ugly cuts right down to the bone: While the beautiful won out in nice people, the lower pay applied just as much to people who act ugly as those who actually are. Have you noticed how Mel Gibson’s bank account is suddenly drying up?

As I mentioned earlier, I never cared much about all that one way or another. As a teen I wore whatever came out of the drawer first, and frankly I don’t recall where most of my clothes came from: My mommy probably bought them for me. The only shirt I ever remember buying for myself had a science fiction space battle scene on the front. Grooming amounted to an occasional pass with a comb.

And I wondered why I never got any dates.

That didn’t change much as I went into jobs where that stuff didn’t matter. The security company put me into their own clothing, after all, and the factories I worked in required only that you didn’t lose your fingers in their machines. I really never gave much thought to how I dressed until I got elected to the town council, and even then I’d just replace my crappy old sweatshirt with a dorky new sweater. I met my fiancée over the internet; by the time she knew how I dressed, it was too late.

Then I sold that book, and she sat me down for a talk:

“I’m throwing away your clothes,” Emily said. “The 70’s are over.”

Well, it wasn’t a talk so much as a lecture.

She’s right, too. Ever since J.D. Salinger died, a new writer can’t hope to sit alone in his study, whacking away at a keyboard, and just hit the best seller list without effort. No – he’s got to work for the sales, as well as the quality. The easy stuff is the Facebook fan page, and the twitter, and setting up a website. The hard part is cold pitches, books signings, interviews, and walking down the street with an advertising sandwich board slung over my shoulders.

Basically, I have to look good so people will buy my product. Since I can’t afford a plastic surgeon, I have to dress better, and maybe stop slouching so much. Otherwise people won’t start buying my book until it’s discounted 5-10%.

So I figure I’ve got until maybe early winter to completely change my way of thinking on clothes. That’s the time of the year when I’d be happy in a bear skin, or a burlap bag stuffed with chicken feathers, as long as it keeps me warm.

Looks like Emily’s got her work cut out for her.
Tags: column, emily, new era, slightly off the mark

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