Are you hot, or not? This question obsesses our culture from the billions we spend on cosmetic products to the massive social networking platform originally used–and still today–to rate the hotness of college co-eds, known as Facebook. Take a quick spin through your local mall, or better yet, television dial and our addiction to attraction is everywhere.
But what makes one person beautiful and another…well, less so? The truth is beauty is not a constant but a concept which varies widely based on place, time, and a host of cultural values. What is beautiful now is not the same as even a few years ago, and of course, the idea of a beautiful woman is different around the globe.
Its safe to assume that ideas of beauty are as old as humans–beauty is, after all, in the the eye of the beast: animals use visual cues to chose and attract potential successful mates. In humans, some of the visual markers of a desirable mate are symmetrical features, clear skin, and less facial hair, “child bearing hips” and cues of youthfulness, indicating overall health.
We’ve come a long way from needing these cues. With 7 billion humans in the world, we’ve masted the mating thing, so the need for these visual cues is less, even as our ability to mimic these cues increases. Want to look young with plump youthful skin?
full red lips
and an attractive breast to waist ratio? All you need is cash and recovery time.
If you’re looking for something less drastic, try the latest make up craze–contouring.
Before and after shots show the difference that a complex make up job “photo-ready” make up–originally popularized to deal with the improved picture quality of high definition cameras and video–can have . The celebrity Queen of illusion, Kim Kardashian, is of course, an early convert:
We know that many of our favorite stars look more like us without their team of makeup artists and stylists than they would like us to know. Are they more beautiful? Not necessarily, but what they are is highly constructed. If we were to apply the same techniques used to change media personality on normal people, we know we would get similar results
Artist Esther Honig recently asked 41 freelance graphic artists around the world to Photoshop her image to make it beautiful. What results is 41 variations--darker or lighter skin, varying eyebrow shape, degree and style of make up and addition of clothes and accessories–of Honig (click the link to see all 41). Each picture is also a lens into the particular standard of beauty in each county.
In both of these interesting media samples, we are challenged to see these variations in defining beauty. Going further afield, we find lots of conversation about accepting a wider variety of body types and ages as part of what we consider beautiful.
I remember watching TV with my father one day, when I was about 14 or so. In a commercial, there was an old woman with a weathered wrinkled face. I remember my father saying, “Wow, what a beautiful face!” I was struck by his exclamation–the face I saw was completely different from what every woman’s magazine was telling my adolescent self: that beauty, judged by men, hinged on having a completely polished and refined exterior, one that would cover any individuality blemishes and mask them as something more desirable.
Look at the real women–and men–around you: your parents, your children, your friends. You don’t love them because they’re sexy. In their faces, in their features, no matter how symmetrical or misshapen, is a lived experience, a real life complete with laughter (lines), sadness (and eye bags) and not a few days outside. It’s not their polished mask, but the very blemishes that track the life we have shared with them that makes them beautiful to us.
What if they forgave your freckles and dark spots? Better yet, what if they loved you because of the laugh lines and crows feet that make you you? Would you have more time and money to spend doing what you love if you didn’t have to polish your mask so much? What if living your best life was enough to make you beautiful?
Beauty, like the face of an old woman, is a life well lived with love given freely. Love costs nothing, contains no harmful chemicals, and doesn’t need to be removed before bed. Take off your mask, go live your life, it’s guaranteed to give you a healthy glow.