Friday, January 27, 2012

All the Pretty People

I have lived my life in awe and envy of pretty people, aching to be one of them. When I am able to step away from my insecurities and apply the rules of rationality, I realize I am far from alone. Our culture instills in each of us the assumption that beauty is not only the norm, but mandatory for happiness. Just turn on the TV or go to a movie, or pick up a celebrity magazine. Everyone is beautiful.

There is the clear implication that if you are not beautiful, you are somehow not as worthy of attention, admiration, or love as those who are. And whereas the actual proportion of beautiful people to average-looking people is probably around one in twenty-five, the preponderance of beautiful people in the entertainment media reinforces the tendency to equate physical beauty with worthiness.

Sadly, that assumption has solid scientific basis in fact. Research has consistently shown that attractive people have unquestioned advantages in almost every area where selecting one person over another is a factor. Undoubtedly it has roots in the old "survival of the fittest" genetic imperative, altered over time to associate attractiveness and "fitness." (Have you ever noticed that every ad for body-building products features models who have no need for the product being sold?)

Of course, we are all implicit accomplices in all this. We slavishly follow "pretty people" celebrities, no matter how vacuous or devoid of personality or actual talent they may be. They're pretty, and that is enough. Yet in the real world, you can walk through a crowd of ten thousand people and quite literally not see nine thousand eight hundred of them. But I'll bet the pretty ones get your attention, no matter how fleetingly.

Our cultural concept of beauty has varied only through the centuries...and what little variation there has been is centered mainly on the "ideal" weight of the female of the species.

Fortunately, aside from the general universal acceptance of "beauty," each of us also has our own standards of what/who we consider beautiful, based on our individual experiences. I say "fortunately" because there are not that many pretty people to go around. These individual variations on the concept of beauty are vital to the continuation of the species. Were we all are exclusively attracted to the alpha male/female, natural selection would have kept the population to a bare minimum and might have led to the extinction of our race.

There is, I truly believe, something to the concept of "vibes." They do draw people to one another, and either you get them, or you don't. Among gays there is the concept of "gaydar," which we feel enables us to spot other gays in a crowd. I have seen innumerable people who are undeniably beautiful, physically, but from whom I receive no aura of there being anyone beneath the surface of the skin. Conversely, I frequently am physically drawn to people who others would not look at twice.

I've always felt sorry for beautiful people who rely on their beauty to get them what they want from life--and I've known a great number of them. They too often don't have much else going for them and they don't think they need to. Defying all logic, they assume that since they are beautiful now, they will always be beautiful. There is nothing that so saddens me as to compare photos of people my age who were breathtakingly, chest-achingly beautiful in their 20s with photos of what they look like today. What must it be like for them?

I, who was never beautiful--though I now realize to my infinite regret that I was far more attractive than I ever appreciated at the time--am having a hard enough time dealing with all those things of which accumulating age has robbed me. But loss of beauty was never something I had to be overly concerned about. Again, I can't comprehending having to add loss of beauty to the list.

Life plays strange and often cruel games on us. The giving, taking, and lifetime absence of physical beauty is but one of them. We can't change the rules, but we can be aware of them and both recognize and make the most of whatever role we were assigned in the game.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( )

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

You know that old saying about beauty being in the eye of the beholder? It's true. What isn't beautiful in the eyes of one person is in the eyes of another. It certainly explains how I ended up with my guy. The more pictures of myself I see, the more I question his eyesight.

Fortunately, this can work in our favor no matter how poorly we see ourselves.