Papa’s got a brand new hag

Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess, advice columns, California, Springfield, traveling boyfriend, FaceTime, video calls, zombie Orson Welles, male sexuality, female sexuality, the contrast effect, attractiveness, Hollywood, evolutionary psychologists Douglas Kenr

Amy Alkon

Amy Alkon
Amy Alkon
My boyfriend travels a lot, and when he’s away, he wants to video call over FaceTime. Well, I look absolutely hideous on FaceTime, and I don’t want to do it. And really, who doesn’t look scary on FaceTime? Megan Fox? Scarlett Johansson? I get that he loves me and knows what I really look like, but I always feel depressed and self-conscious after I get off our video calls. – FaceTime Hater

Of course it’s what’s on the inside that really counts, which is why men’s magazines so often run glossy spreads of stout, good-hearted older women crocheting afghans for nursing home patients.

FaceTime should be renamed UglyfaceTime for what it does to a person’s features, and especially to a woman’s (in lumps, jowls and eye baggery not apparent in photos). While the camera is said to add 10 pounds, FaceTime adds 10 miles of bad road. The good news: You look just like a movie star! The bad news: It’s the zombie Orson Welles.

Friends will remind you that your boyfriend loves you and tell you you’re being silly (read: shallow). Some will offer helpful suggestions, like “It’s all about the lighting.” They aren’t wrong. I suggest avoiding light entirely, like by FaceTiming from a dark closet. Another popular chant: “Wear concealer.” My recommendation: le burlap bag over le head.

Right now, countless readers are getting ready to email me to tell me I’m an idiot. (Hold your fire!) First, male sexuality is highly visual – in a way female sexuality is not. And then there’s what psychologists call “the contrast effect” – how the attractiveness of someone or something changes, depending on the “neighborhood”: how attractive or unattractive the nearby alternatives are. So, you could be an easy 8.5 in Smalltownville and come to Hollywood – aka Mecca for every high school’s golden-blondiest cheerleader – and find yourself struggling to hang on to a 5.8.

The contrast effect even holds true for somebody we love. In research by evolutionary psychologists Douglas Kenrick and Steven Neuberg, when men in relationships were exposed to pictures of very attractive women, they perceived their partner as less attractive – and (eek) felt less satisfied with and less committed to her.

Obviously, looks aren’t all that matter. But sexual attraction naturally wanes over time. Best not to help it along with a “just keep your chins up!” attitude about FaceTiming. This isn’t to say you should leave your boyfriend visually starved. You can keep him well-supplied with images of you that you can control: selfies.

These selfies could even be used for a “foreign correspondent” approach to FaceTime – keeping the camera on a still photo of yourself (like when a CNN reporter is on an audio-only connection from a tent outside of Jalalabad). This will allow you to focus on your boyfriend instead of on another man – one with the medical training to make your cavernous nasolabial folds look less like the place they’ll find Jimmy Hoffa, your dad’s coin collection and three hikers who disappeared in 1976.

©2016, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Weekly radio show: Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for more than 40 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Now more than ever, we’re asking for your support to continue providing our community with real news that everyone can access, free of charge.

We’re also offering a home delivery option as an added convenience for friends of the paper.

Click here to subscribe, or simply show your support for Illinois Times.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment