I’ve been reading genre fiction again, and getting frustrated by it. This time I’m frustrated by the pop culture attitude toward beauty. The notion of beauty is one that matters a lot to me, so I tend to get a bit ranty, but let me try to focus on what my current bugbear is:
A person’s beauty isn’t an objectively assessable thing on which there will be universal agreement. There isn’t one perfect beauty to which we all aspire and to which we are all attracted. Like humor, the most beautiful person, according to the averaged ratings of 100 people, is very nice to look at but (to most people’s eyes) not memorable or extraordinary.
Beauty is REALLY about individuality. Moreover, anyone with a brain worth connecting with knows that real things have scratches; anyone with a brain worth sharing your brain with sees wabi sabi or jolie laide, knows that (especially these days) the standard beauties are the ones who invest a lot of time and money on their beauty instead of on books, chocolate, rollerskates, or real estate. Better a crooked nose and a fascinating, unique hobby than a perfectly symmetrical, unblemished face and no life.
Of course ideally we’d all be beautiful in our unique ways and not worry about fitting any standard. But we’re human, I get it, we’re profoundly social and driven by norms, so how about as a compromise we maybe think about fitting into a particular TYPE of beauty?
Maybe we can generate beauty clusters.” Like, this is a dumb article about an interesting thing – click on the link and scroll to the bottom, where you’ll find composite images of women from 35 nationalities. They’re all pretty, but they’re all definitely different. I’ll play my hand here and admit that I found the French composite heartstoppingly beautiful, and the West African composite strikes me as the one I most want to have a chat with. Also the Irish composite looks noticeably like my mother.
Or maybe not. Maybe we hope that people can embrace 7 billion different definitions of beauty. I’ve said before that I think men don’t care much about all this, not in real life. (The science makes these leaps from the ratings people give in a lab to what these ratings might mean in terms of attraction in the real world, where we can smell each other and experience each other’s emotional energy and stuff. I’ve looked for studies that prove a link between judgments in the lab and real life but I’ve found nothing. Anyone else?) I think in real life all of us find beauty in what we love far more often than we find love in what appears beautiful.
Am I a hopeless pollyanna? And does it make a difference that I say these things as a funny looking chick, asymmetrical, with small eyes and a big chin and various other violations of the “standard” for women? Would it be more meaningful (or less?) if I were the usual kind of beautiful, instead of my own definition of it?