On painting over rust

Dear Coquette,

I spent my high school years being a bitter introvert and wasting my time hating girls who had boyfriends, because nobody was attracted to me. But now in my first year of college I’m trying to start my life over. I have a new haircut and wardrobe, I lost 12 pounds, I smile at people, I joined clubs… and it isn’t working.

I don’t know, maybe there’s something I’m still doing really wrong. I thought the skirts and thinner frame and sunnier personality would make me more attractive, but of the handful of guys I’ve met here, I’ve still got no takers. It’s hard not to ask myself “Why?” and fixate on stuff like my teeth or scalp problem. Those old feelings of being ugly, smelly and undesirable are coming back, and I’m beyond done. I’m sick of being the girl who sits in the corner and really wants to say hi to the good-looking classmate, but won’t because she’s too afraid of looking awkward and being rejected. I’m tired of thinking that Man A or B is too gorgeous to get stuck with a double bagger like me, and resigning myself and giving up.

I figured if there was anybody to ask how to get some confidence and self-worth, you’d be the woman for the job.


A haircut and a diet is how you start bikini season — not a complete life change. You’re trying to mask an inner core of bitter anxiety and self hatred with cosmetic changes. That never works. 

All I’m hearing from you is teeth, scalp and skirts. It’s all spray paint and a thin coat at that. Come on, kiddo. Everyone knows you can’t paint over rust. You’re fooling yourself if you think this stuff makes you sunnier. Quite the opposite. You’re still very bitter.

Do you even realize how negative you sound? No one wants to put up with that kind of attitude. You can’t fake sunny. Positive energy radiates from your core. I appreciate that you’re trying to smile at people, but I bet that’s just a coat of paint too. 

You can’t smile with bitterness in your heart. Not really. Sure, your face will make the right shape, but people can tell that it’s not real. A smile is a projection of an emotional state of love, and if your conscious mind is fixated on negativity, it’s gonna come off looking awkward, or worse, fake.

You want confidence? Okay. Give this “whole new you” process one more try, but this time, start from the inside and work your way to the surface.

Those old feelings of being ugly and undesirable have been there the whole time, and you need to sandblast them off of your soul. There is no easy way to do it. You’ve got to use all your inner strength, and it has to be tougher than all that gunk to get the job done. 

You have to be more sick of all this negativity than you are sick of sitting in the corner. Your desire to be friendly has to outweigh your fear of an awkward moment of rejection. I can’t tell you how to stop hating yourself, but that’s what you gotta do. 

Never again referring to yourself as a “double bagger” is a good place to start.


Read “The Coquette” Sundays and Wednesdays in The Daily.

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Notes On painting over rust

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    Thank you so much.
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