The Skins We’re In

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Pr...

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Presents a Night on the Town with “Mad Men” – El Rey Theater, Los Angeles – Oct. 21, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This is an older piece, one I wrote when I was still doing my blogging vis-a-vis my Facebook notes. I thought it was worth sharing and will be bringing some of these old “Meandering Thoughts” posts to Hand of Ananke)

“Eye of the beholder” is more than a very creepy movie with Ewan MacGregor and Ashley Judd. It is more than a simple little homily. It is, to my way of thinking, a fundamental truth. Whether it is art, music, our favorite locales or the sort of people we are attracted to no two of us are the same in these matters. There will be similarities, of course, such that the differences are irrelevant, but the differences are there. Yet I notice a certain moral import placed on our utterly subjective views on beauty, especially when it comes to attraction.

My cousin’s wife (and I’d like to think my long-lost friend) posted a link to a documentary a friend is making on this subject. This got my own wheels turning. I wonder why we cling to such seemingly arbitrary notions of beauty. Why do men need to have washboard abs? Why do women, with the exception of Jennifer Connelly, have to pluck their eyebrows almost out of existence? How do these things change from one year to the next? One Oscar season an almost waifish Nicole Kidman is the standard of feminine beauty, and the next the whole earth Christina Hendricks is. Why does physical beauty even receive so much attention?

I won’t pretend that physical attraction is irrelevant to me. I’ve made too much of a fuss about the above mentioned Mr. MacGregor to make that claim.  It is, however, only one part of the equation, and often not even an important part. Personality and common interests play a greater role for me, even in my initial reaction to someone. A man or woman could be drop dead gorgeous by my private standards of physical beauty and if I have nothing in common with them, or our personalities just don’t click, I don’t feel an attraction. I like fellow nerds, but most importantly, nerds that are ok with the fact that they are nerds.

I suspect that most people agree with me on this subject. There is, after all, an entire world of people who meet their match without either of them meeting their societies “strict” standard of physical beauty. I merely feel bad for those people out there, and I’ve know a few, that feel so bad about their appearance that they believe they are unlovable. I also feel a little less bad for those so obsessed with the “beauty” of prospective partners that they let a perfectly good match get away. Finally I feel bad for the young people in general, because each generation has to struggle with this, and our society in particular, with its mass media and consumerist culture, does everything it can do to reinforce its narrow vision of what is beautiful.

For my part, I am going to go out to the coffee shops and clubs and try to find me that nerdy, punk rock god or goddess out there that I know is waiting for me. I just hope I look good doing it.

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