Beauty-Beast Syndrome

By Dave Hanks

Almost everyone has read the story of "Beauty & the Beast" a tragic/sweet love story. But there are real life stories in the same vein. Not love stories, but tragic in their own way.

We have all seen the pathetic case of the "fat girl" who attaches herself to the school "beauty queen". The "fair" one allows the connection because of the adoration and subjugation of the unpopular girl. The "lesser one" feels needed and gladly feeds to the "relationship monster" anything that is demanded. She will even demean herself in pursuit of affection from the idolized companion.

This situation is not just restricted to females. I know because, as a male, I have been the lesser member of this phenomenon at various times in my youth. Wanting desperately to be involved with others of my peer group, I have been the "tag-along": the third member of a group of three, the fifth member of a group of five, etc. I willingly allowed myself to be dominated and put in condescending roles in order to feel a comradeship with someone. A foible of my youth, now past.

The strange quirk of this syndrome is that the beast role doesn't demand a beast nor the beauty role require a beauty. If in the minds of the participants they fit each role, then that is all that is needed for this strange relationship to form.

One such relationship stands out in my memory above all others. It involved two college girls, roommates that did everything together. A seemingly ideal partnership where they planned everyday existence together. Planned mischief together. They even planned their future life travels together. Similar in ideological background and in their dreams, yet very different in all other ways. The one that I shall call the "beauty" was small, petite, and a real shrew-type. A selfish girl that had always been doted on. The fact that her looks were just common did not matter. She viewed herself as a campus queen and demanded tribute from others. She only associated with and dated those who filled these wants.

The other roommate, the one who played the "beast" role, was perhaps 35 pounds larger and had always been burdened with a "big" complex. A complex stimulated because she was the tallest in her family, a family of average sized people. She also carried an "unloved" complex. Her mother died when she was only four years old. The new step-mother, try as she might, could never warm-up to the suddenly thrust upon her - children. As a result the "beast" felt unloved and inferior - turning to seek solace in books and in dreams.

When the "beast" arrived at college and met the "beauty", an attachment formed. The syndrome flourished as the "beast" continually fed the giant ego of the "beauty" and in return felt camaraderie and a sense of belonging. The "beauty" worked the relationship for her own desires. She continually subjected the other, by mutual consent, into situations that were uncalled for, unwise, and in some cases even dangerous. These escapades were occasionally indulged in as extra time from school-work permitted.

I met them one summer night and immediately perceived the relationship. It was most obvious, to anyone with powers of vision, that each girl's assumed role did not fit either girl. The "beauty" immediately detected my distaste for her and my interest in the "beast". I was a threat. Someone who might sever her disciple from her. She did what she could subtly do to put distance between me and her friend but in the end she failed.

I have first-hand knowledge of this particular syndrome arrangement. I have it because, you see, I married the perceived "beast". A pseudo beast! The one that was the true "beauty"!


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