Ugly Love

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Cheryl Strayed used to write an advice column at The Rumpus called “Dear Sugar.” Her readers knew her simply as Sugar.

Those who wrote to Sugar usually identified themselves with aliases. Sometimes the alias was a single letter like “M.” Other pseudonyms expressed the challenge, the heartache, or the chaos about which the writer was seeking counsel. “Mourning and Raging” stands out as an example.

Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things gathers together some especially poignant and vivid exchanges in her column. Most of them touch me and move me (and sometimes bewilder me and even unsettle me).

One writer’s story—and the response that Strayed gave him—has stayed lodged in my head and my heart. The author called himself Beast with a Limp.

Born with a blood disorder, Beast’s body is visibly lopsided. One side appears normal while the other is withered and contorted.

Honestly assessing his pronounced deformities and obvious disfigurements, he calls himself an ugly, broken man. His words convey no hint of self-loathing or self-pity. Just realistic acceptance.

While Beast with a Limp has many friends, the special intimacy of romance has evaded him. He writes Sugar with a simple, blunt question.

Should he cling to the hope of finding that special kind of love with someone else, or should he set aside that hope as a fruitless, demoralizing fantasy? Who, after all, would want to be embraced by, to be kissed by, to be caressed by his repulsive form? Continue reading