I Have a Severe Phobia of Ugly People
An interview with a "cacophobe" called Richard who breaks out in a rash every time he sees someone he deems to be unattractive.
llustration by Dan Evans
Everyone's always banging on about how difficult life is for society's marginalised and disadvantaged. However, they might want to spare a thought for Richard Simpson*, for whom a simple flight in business class can be a living nightmare..
Richard – a 45-year-old man I used to work with and still know well – is a self-diagnosed cacophobe, meaning he has a fear of what he deems to be ugly people and, by extension, ugly things. I recently spoke to Richard on the telephone (lest my face make him break out in hives) about what it's like to be debilitatingly judgmental.
*His name's not really Richard Simpson, he just wanted to remain anonymous. You'll understand why when you read on.
VICE: Can you tell me how your cacophobia affects you in your everyday life?
Richard Simpson: When I get the train I have to keep walking – sometimes three carriages – until I find pretty people. I can't sit next to anyone ugly. I can't even be near them. I'd rather stand up the entire journey – I've spent a lot of commutes standing up. I constantly rate people out of ten; if they're less than a six I can't look at them. I'll get an uncomfortable tingling, like a rash. If they're a two or a three I'll feel sick. I'll have to leave the room.
What about queuing up at a supermarket? Will you queue longer to get the more attractive cashier?
I'd just sort of time my walk better to make sure I ended up with the attractive person. I can't go to ASDA any more, there are too many inbreds. I call them "facially challenged". I go to Waitrose now; it's got pretty people. I wouldn't go back to ASDA – there's a guy who wants to tear my arms off; I just told him that if he stopped shagging his sister he wouldn't have such ugly kids.
Wow. Do you often give people advice?
Yeah, normally on trains. If a girl's biting her nails I'll tell her, "You're never going to get a nice boyfriend if you bite your nails." One girl started crying. She said, "Is that what it is?" I felt really bad.
Once, when I was on a flight, the passenger next to me smelt like he'd been digging roads for a week, in the same clothes. I asked him if he was allergic to deodorant. He said no and I said, "Do you want to borrow some of mine?" He wasn't very happy – he said no and he didn't add a thank you.
"I was really bad in job interviews. If they weren't good-looking they wouldn't get the job."
Would you have really lent him your roll-on?
I would have let him have it. He needed all of it. I'd have told him, "Don't stop with the armpits, do the whole body." He stank. I didn't know whether to put my headphones in and watch a film or stick them up my nose.
When I was waiting for the dentist a guy with hair sprouting out of his nostrils sat down next to me. I couldn't physically look at him. He looked like he was growing potatoes up there. I felt like throwing up. I told him to buy a nose clipper; I said, "No girl wants to see pubes growing out of your face."
What about girlfriends? How has cacophobia affected your love life?
I can't stand manky bushes. Women who don't wax. I've felt cheated when I've taken someone home – really hot – and then I've taken their knickers off and it looked like I'd opened the cleaning cupboard and all the Brillo pads had sprung out. One woman, I didn't know whether to hand her a razor or call the RSPCA about a dead animal where her minge should be.
One girl, I told her, "You'd better go to the bathroom." I could hear her in the shower and I just started imagining Brian May's hair clogging up the plug hole. I had to leave.
Another one, I thought she was brunette, but she'd died her hair – the collar didn't match the cuffs. I felt cheated; I'm not sticking my cock in John McCririck's sideburns. I pretended I couldn't do it to my girlfriend – I didn't have a girlfriend – and told her she had to leave. She was really upset.
Have you ever been on a blind date, or is that not a risk you would take?
No way – I don't trust anyone else's view on what's attractive.
How has your cacophobia affected you at work?
I can't speak to anyone wearing granny pants. I can see their pants when they bend over, and even if they're attractive, once I've seen they're wearing grannies it's, "Game over – I can't talk to you any more."
So you've actually stopped speaking to people you work with because of their underwear?
Yeah. I'll still be polite – I'll say hello if they say hello to me – but I won't talk to them. I won't chat to them. I don't even want to look at them. I was really bad when people came for interviews; I'd just look at them on the security camera [as they came in] and that'd be it – the interview was over. If they weren't good-looking they wouldn't get the job. I was known for it. People said, "Richard doesn't employ ugly people."
"Ugly people feel uncomfortable around attractive people."
You're married now – tell me about your wife. I'm assuming she's very attractive?
Yeah, she's beautiful. The first time I went round her flat I went through all her cupboards in the bathroom – is that bad? – and it was like a mini replica of Boots. There was deodorant, wax, razors. I just thought, 'Thank god.' I knew I'd be alright.
What about your children? Do they have cacophobia?
They look like models – they take after their mum. I wouldn't say they've got cacophobia, but they do rate people. When we're in the car they rate everyone we drive past, my elder son especially. If we have lunch with people he'll be like, "Dad, what's that about? I'm not having lunch with ugly people."
How would you feel if your son brought home an unattractive girlfriend?
I'd have a problem with it. Massively. But I can't see it happening.
You said your children look like models – but what if they didn't? Have you heard about the Chinese guy who sued his wife for having an ugly baby? It turned out his wife had a ton of surgery before she met him, and the baby looked like her pre-ops. How would you feel about that?
She shouldn't have children. Seriously, that's got to be against the Trades Descriptions Act. She knew she'd have an ugly baby – she's tricked him into breeding munters. What's the opposite of pedigree? You're always going to love your kids, but it's not fair on them. What sort of life are they going to have?
Does cacophobia affect your friend choices? Are your friends aware you have cacophobia?
Well, my friends are pretty similar to me. It's not really been a problem because ugly people feel uncomfortable around attractive people anyway. I was on a plane once and the woman next to me got up after the seatbelt signs went off, and she must have asked if she could move, because the next time I saw her she was sitting in another aisle. I was really offended, but I was pleased as well because she was a munter.
And you think she moved because she felt uncomfortable around you for this reason?
It must have been.
Has your cacophobia ever been an issue when you've been out with your friends?
We were at a pub called The Griffin – it's got strippers who come round with a pint glass – and a couple of my mates are borderline cacophobe. One of them wouldn't put any money in; he told her, "You're not attractive enough." I said to him, "It's only £1." He said to her, "You're not worth it." I felt really bad for her. I gave her a tenner and said she should spend it on some decent face powder.
Okay. Well, good luck with everything, Richard.
This article was edited at 12.52PM.
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