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All the Times It’s Good to Be an Ugly Man

No surprise here: There’s a thing called a beauty premium, and it measures the real economic rewards that the better looking reap by nothing other than being blessed with good looks. While we may instantly think about drop-dead gorgeous women who snag free lunches, free drinks, student-loan eradication or the union with high-earning, powerful men, we should note that being “too good-looking” is a man thing, too. And it pays well.

To wit: NFL quarterbacks blessed with the pretty stick get paid more, regardless of performance (their unattractive peers earn about 12 percent less). Attractive male CEOs have better stock performance. Better looking dudes have more friends, aren’t as likely to be shunned and get better grades because they’re assumed to be smarter. Hot male lookers earn 3 to 4 percent more income than the the homely, or nearly $230,000 more over a lifetime.

That said, if you weren’t blessed with symmetrical good looks, don’t despair yet. A body of research has elucidated that there are some times when it actually pays off to be an ugly man. They are as follows:

When it comes to earning power.

Though it’s been widely believed and proven that beautiful people make more money, new research has found the opposite. Well, sort of. A study in the Journal of Business and Psychology last year found that while super-attractive people do typically earn more money than average-looking people, super ugly people make more than average-looking people, too (and sometimes more than really attractive people as well). That’s because of something called the “ugly premium.” Upon closer scrutiny, researchers determined that the real traits that lead to making big money are driven more by intelligence, health and personality over looks.

Another study from 2006 found that being unattractive can pay more because of the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. If we think good-looking people will be more productive, it only follows that we think the less attractive will underperform. So the tables turn when a less-attractive person really knocks it out of the park by simply outperforming expectations.

When it comes to relationship happiness (for her).

This one might seem counterintuitive, but here it goes: When a woman is with a super-attractive man, she’s more likely to worry about her own body image and adjust her diet accordingly. That causes a lot of self-conscious anxiety. On the contrary, when she’s with a less attractive man, she doesn’t sweat it as much and is, in actuality, happier.

When it comes to being good at science.

Basically, we think really smart nerds are awkward and unattractive and socially weird. So when they are, we’re more likely to believe their research.

When it comes to getting swiped right on Tinder.

If you’re a super hot symmetrical hottie on Tinder, women are less likely to both swipe right and to respond to your messages. Why? They associate your chiseled good looks with narcissism and arrogance. Tinder’s main tidbit of advice: If you’re a good-looking man, don’t upload a headshot. We can only deduce that ugly men should knock themselves out on professional headshots to demonstrate a bit of ironic self-confidence.

When it comes to finding a mate.

Promising research has found that members of some species actually prefer the unattractive rejects of the group. The idea here is that if everyone chases the hotties, you have a clear advantage by going for the less attractive person, because no one else wants them.

When it comes to being a player.

Off the above research, that advantage can work in your favor in spades. It turns out that being ugly can convince attractive women that they’ve found a diamond in the rough who is used to being rejected and is, as a result, super humble and grateful to be with them. One unintended consequence of this mistaken assumption on their part is that you might just find yourself able to sleep around with a ton of hot women off the misunderstanding (which you never correct) that you’re a super humble non-Adonis who’s going to love them better.

When you want people to like you for you.

One thing you can be sure of when you’re not a bangin’ looker is that when someone loves you, they probably really love you for your actual character and personality, not your looks. Exceptions, of course, are when you’re ugly but rich. In which case, you may never know whether they love your for your personality or your money, but who’s counting?

When you want people to like you for being rich.

In one survey of Japanese women who were asked if they’d be with an ugly billionaire or an unemployed hottie, 75 percent of women picked the “financially successful yet visually unimpressive man.” Self-explanatory. Hey, we all play the cards we were dealt.

If you want to go into radio.

There’s an old expression about having a face for radio, but it tends to hold true. When Freakononomics Radio host Stephen Dubner asked economist Daniel Hamermesh, who studies beauty’s impact on earnings, what the best profession for a charismatic ugly person should be, he was unequivocal: “Probably radio,” he responded.

If you want to be a comedian.

This one is controversial, but an ugly comedian is considered a redundant phrase because of the persistent belief that nerds who can’t get laid are funnier. “Most comedy is about failure: romantic disaster, rejection, social embarrassment,” Michael Deacon wrote at The Telegraph about why the best comedians aren’t attractive. “If you look like Brad Pitt, the audience simply won’t believe you know what failure feels like.”

The idea here is that if you’re not good looking, you’ll have lived a life of rejection and bad luck that makes you a unique authority on the bleak existence of life, and the coping mechanism of humor to deal with the blows. Awkward-looking comedians back this up, even if it’s just in a self-serving way. “I think if a comedian’s too good looking … I really cannot believe they’re going to be any good. This is for us; this is our consolation prize,” Conan O’Brien said of being an unattractive comedian on a Marc Maron podcast.

This theory has been widely disputed — particularly the argument that pretty women can’t be funny. Plus, plenty of male comedians are considered good-looking, too—e.g., Will Arnett, Donald Glover and Russell Brand, to name a few. Perhaps what’s more accurate to say is that whether you’re Jonah Hill or Jon Hamm, being actually silly looking or merely willing to be silly looking is a comedic asset. Even better? Just believing you’re silly looking, whether you are or not.

If you’re a criminal.

While research shows that less attractive people are more likely to commit crimes, Hamermesh says that also comes with a distinct criminal upside—again, from the same Freakonomics podcast: “You can do better as an armed robber if you don’t have to shoot people, because you can just scare them by being ugly as hell.”

When you’re getting older.

According to self-proclaimed ugly man Del Keens, who works as an ugly model for a company that scouts extraordinary faces, getting older isn’t as bad as you’d think when you’re not that hot. “Knowing I’m aging physically doesn’t affect me as much as it does other people, because I’ve never really looked that great,” he told Vice. “I think I have far more exciting adventures because I never have to worry about what I’ll look like the next day. Same goes for if someone punches me in the face in a bar.”