The Art of Being Uncomfortable

By: Lisa Carver
January 7, 2012

This article was first published in Hermenaut #11/12 (Winter 1997). Hermenaut was published and edited from 1991-2000 by HiLobrow cofounder Joshua Glenn. Click here to read more from Hermenaut and

The editor of the zine Feminist Baseball once stated this true fact: “Give yourself a pedicure — it’s usually better than going to a live show,” but then went on to review about five billion indie rock shows! No, no, no! You don’t have to go just because they’re there. No one really likes rock shows: They’re smoky, you can’t hear anything, and some skanking creep will probably step on you and ruin your toenail paint job. There’s no drama, there’s no intimacy. That’s why everyone there is drinking so much beer — so they can get unaware to the point where they don’t know they’re miserable. Don’t make yourself miserable! Heed these tips and you’ll be happy… or at least a good-looking miserable person.

  1. Uncomfortable does not mean miserable: It means accentuated living. The more uncomfortable you feel, the better you look. And the better you look, the better you feel. Furthermore, on a strictly practical level, being uncomfortable enhances any experience. For instance, when I go to a scary movie, I make sure to wear false eyelashes that feel like spiders on my eyes, Yeast Infection Pants (pants so tight you’re sure to get a yeast infection if you wear them two days in a row), and I eat nothing all day but candy. The discomfort makes me extremely edgy and ready to be frightened; and judging by how much I jump and scream compared to the people around me, I’d say that I have a much better time.
  2. Liz Cox

  3. Wear tight clothes: Fashionable person Vicky Wheeler says people always look better (and she sure does!) in tight clothes — no matter what their body type. Combustible Edison chanteuse Liz Cox agrees, noting that “there’s an attractive alert look to those whose clothes pinch.” Other tips: Since we all know that fabrics which say “Dry Clean Only” look better than machine-washable ones, wear only garments that can’t be washed at all. Feathers, for instance: If you wear feathers and hot pants into a diner, I guarantee the food will taste better. I’m also inclined toward small, furry purses (they remind the men of you-know-what). And for God’s sake, don’t buy wretched winter clothing: Just wear fifty flimsy gowns all on top of each other if you want to be warm. Still chilly? Have another glass of champagne!
  4. You can use anything to your advantage: When pretty 24-year-old Rachel Johnson got into a car accident that slightly disfigured her face, she didn’t try to cover up the scars or hang out in dark places. Instead, she wore her scars as if they were jewels, and made up scintillating tales of exotic misadventures when asked about them. “I am not above coloring in my scars for more effect,” the bewitching Rachel confessed.
  5. Beauty is pain: Cat scratches are an excellent substitute for cleavage, because those vertical crimson scabs look like breast shadows. It’s hard to get it just right, so keep trying.
  6. Fancy yourself up when going shopping: If your hair and face are frumpy, you’ll feel ridiculous trying on gowns. You’ll probably even begin to feel that your destiny is a sweatsuit… and it will be! Just keep telling yourself: I was put on this earth to be excited.
  7. Wear a wig: I was hesitant to take that last hurdle into fakeness — buying a fall. I felt it would be wrong to trick people into thinking I had really long hair. But then I learned the truth: People love to be tricked. (Office-supplies slut Jaina Davis finally convinced me to get the fall by saying, “Just think of it as a really hairy barrette.”)
  8. Wear birds on your butt: This final tip comes from fellow New Hampshireite Melissa Jasper, who sews fake birds onto her skirts and pants as if they’re perched on her hindquarters. Now, this won’t work for everyone, but if you’re the kind of person who can pull something like that off, well… I’m free this Friday evening, wanna do something?


All I was supposed to write for Hermenaut were these tips on the art of being uncomfortable, but as I was musing on the superiority of the artificial, it occurred to me that exercise is a very confusing subject. On the one hand, the indolent body and frenzied mind of the chronically unfit (the lashes may wink and the tongue may waggle, but little else budges) are attractive — especially in the black-and-white photos or long descriptive passages in slightly lurid books from the last century — and perspiration does make our feathers droop. On the other hand, one can only live so long on coffee, gin and tonics, romance, dressing up, philosophy, and insomnia (for the truly glamorous are very smart people who tend to stay up too late) before descending into a suicidal depression. That’s why, from time to time, I’ve stealthily crept at dawn to the health club down the street to become one with a dozen other ladies whose sweat soon blossoms into perfect circles ’round their purple lycra-ensconced crotches.

Aerobics is not glamorous, for glamour always involves appreciation by and contrast with the opposite and more craggy sex — you know, the one that commits all the murders. Aerobics is merely a respite in the valley of pure femaleness, a sweet balm for the ravages of the luxurious life. (Don’t get me wrong — I like ravages. However, you gotta take a break sometimes.) But beware. Behind the girlish, dance-like trappings of aerobics lurks exercise, and exercise is a man.

Like every good bad man, exercise is seductive, dangerous, and absolutely nothing like what it appears to be. And just like that bad man, exercise will start making you do things that you would never think of doing were your mind only clear. (Don’t forget — endorphins are drugs.) If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself wearing a ponytail every day, suddenly believing that yellow and turquoise compliment your complexion, and buying shoes that support your arches. So here’s one last thought: Exercise is the enemy of looking wonderful. Sometimes one needs something from one’s enemy, and must interact with him, true. But be very, very cautious in your dealings with this seductive foe, ladies; enter his lair only when you must, never stay too long, and never let yourself forget his true nature. Exercise is the one and only thing I recommend taking in moderation.

Now scurry out of that gym, put a bird on your butt, and your blue-eyeshadowed companions need never know how dangerously close you came to getting comfortable.