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What makes a 30-something man ugly?

As part of ShortList's recent examination of male attractiveness, David Whitehouse explores what makes men in their twenties ugly

We’re all organic matter. I’m aware of that. We grow, we flower, we rot, we die. It’s just that I’m not ready. I am 35 years old, and I am f*cking hideous.

When a camera flash goes off, the flesh beneath my chin expands like the neck of a bullfrog. I am either purple or translucent, depending on what part of my body you look at. There is what I think is a corn on my left foot but I am too cowardly to check in case it’s going to kill me. It is tiny, but glass-sharp, and when I stand directly on it, pain shoots through my testicles. I got this because I used my foot for three-and-a-half decades. That’s the only reason. I used my foot.

I didn’t look like this 10 years ago. My gums hadn’t started to recede so that I look, when I smile, like a horse on a postcard people buy because it appears to be laughing. My earlobes seemed reasonable. My breasts weren’t hinting at their oblong destiny. I didn’t even have breasts.

I’m me in a hall of mirrors. Me under a grill. I’m a diminishing echo of my former self. But I don’t hate me. I hate the 25-year-old me. I’m so powerfully jealous of him, I want to reach back through time and cram my arm into his windpipe.

And my jealousy extends to anyone his age. I’ve constructed an elaborate fantasy world in which they all have the life I wanted when I was 25, but which I missed out on because by some cosmic joke I was born 10 years too early – my decade-premature birth is a fault in the timeline of the universe, which I’d probably rule by now were it not for the blip.

In my fantasy world, the validity of which I can fully convince myself of at any given time, everyone in their twenties is rich from YouTube when I’m broke. Everyone in their twenties has the confidence of a gakked-up Etonian, entering work-experience placements and finishing the week on the board when I did a month at Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and didn’t even get a f*cking phone. They have apps I can’t decipher that facilitate them having sex with other 25-year-olds more easily than I can order a pizza.

I live with this jealousy like lava in my bones. It’s this that makes me ugly, isn’t it?

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