Posted in Of Culturel

Of Physical Beauty

Plastic Surgery Cartoon

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about going to the doctor to get treatment for acne. Just to recap, he gave me a lot of medication, some oral, some topical, and told me to update him after 3 weeks. Nothing’s changed, but he gave me a new prescription anyway, this time with more topical meds – a sunscreen lotion and a facewash. When my mother sardonically asked, “Are they medicines or cosmetics?”, I replied, “At least, our kidneys aren’t on display. Else, you’d have kidney beautification products too.”

Which got me thinking, what if we, humans, didn’t have skin? Would all this brouhaha about cosmetics, plastic surgery and the culture of physical beauty simply vanish? Never having to bother about cleansing, toning, exfoliating, moisturizing, sunscreening, facemasking, makeupping…and a zillion other things ever again. Hair stylists, colourists, trichologists, manicurists and pedicurists would become obsolete, all fussing with some dead tissue all this time. Never having to worry about acne, eczema, dermatitis, and the production of melanin – a pigment that has been the source of war and xenophobia for centuries, where human beings, though unable to control the melanin production of their own bodies, nevertheless take it upon themselves to provide sociological connotations for it. Imagine…never having to deal with any of that.

But, men will be men, women will be women, and before this sentence gets anymore prejudiced, humans will be humans. Imagine you were just your bones, muscles, blood and internal organs, which are all on display. You’d have cosmetic products for them! Fluoride shots for cleaning all your bones! Colgate infusions to make them visibly whiter! An extract of tomato rivalling with an extract of apple skin to make your heart look redder (and healthier) while there is a high-end serum for heart-reddening (for there has to be an expensive as well as an affordable option for everything) made from red roses and hibiscus. You’d have metal plates, or cheap, plastic moulds to make your kidneys curvier. You’d get lung augmentation at any oxygen store near you. The width of your intestines will determine whether you’d be let into a fashionable restaurant. And, they’d seriously need to come up with a permanent solution for gas, flatulence, diarhhoea, constipation and the like, because your dining partner, and people around you, will totally know it was you. Maybe, you could replace your digestive system with a high-quality synthetic fibre one, and never worry again.

Beauty competitions won’t go away. Colour of heart, diameter of food pipe and bones, curvature of the hip bones, ovary size, all these and more will be checked. Even your faces, where the circumference of your hollow cheekbones will be displayed on the LED screen above you on the stage (the bigger the better, of course. Both cheekhollows and screens.). It will be worse for intelligence exams, like those for scholarships or jobs, because all they have to do is MRI your head and look at your brain. They can do it with skin and hair, but this will be a preliminary scan. Those selected will be anaesthetized, their cranial top removed, the brain taken out, measured and studied, put back again, and while the patient, uh, student is conscious, s/he is put through a battery of tests, all the while under a second MRI scanner. Eighteen hours of that, and you will know if you can go to Oxford or Harvard, or if you’re just not what they are looking for, but good luck anyway.

The skin is actually the largest organ in the body. Even though the pigmentation is slightly uneven throughout the body for most people, it was, thousands of years ago, stripey in the nature of zebras and tigers. If cartoons are anything to go by, we probably would have assessed our stripey beauty too, and found something pleasant or not-so-pleasant from zebra to zebra. I mean, human to human.

As for what we have now, an opaque, unique, living, breathing thing covering us from head to toe, I feel there are enough horror stories out there of celebrities, by far the wealthiest of our species, who go under the knife to be the most eternally stunning tiger or tigress around, but end up looking permanently stunned themselves. Some people laugh at them, but if they did not have to listen to those remarks, along with having careers based on their looks and the money to make it better, they may not have gone ahead with it anyway. You wake up with your face for 25, 50, 75…years and even though it keeps changing once in a while, you still tell yourself in the mirror, “You again. I’m so bored of looking at you.” It doesn’t matter if anything is actually wrong. You can always find something wrong.

People still keep telling me about my acne, even if I’m telling them Really Important Stuff. I don’t care, because I comfort myself with the thought of my blood-red heart, kept so with a diet of apples and tomatoes.* After all, inner beauty is real beauty, isn’t it?

*This is not legitimate advice for maintaining a healthy heart. I’m not a physician. Ask a real one. I hear it’s good to lay off on the cholesterol.**

**Again, not legitimate advice.

Is physical beauty important to you?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

27 thoughts on “Of Physical Beauty

  1. One time I had some dental work go a little wrong and my face looked slightly deformed for about 2 months. It was quite the experience. Even though I live far away from most people and spent the majority of that time with just my family, I was surprised and a little disappointed with how much it affected me, and with how intensely relieved I was when my face went back to its “normal” self.

    Personally, I’m most fascinated by the kinds of people that somehow manage to look kind of strange looking, while still appearing “beautiful” in some way. (to me, they are my idea of what “faeries” or “the fey” might look like) People that are not the socially most acceptable forms of pretty or handsome, but still have their own very unique sense of style, or just something that catches the attention, like striking eyes, interesting facial hair, or just the way they walk, or dance, or play with their kids or their dog.

    But, even then, I’ve seen how these things can change over time and circumstance. Or, at least our perspective can. I had a friend in college that I considered to be beautiful even though she had a very odd, scarred face. She had style, and a lovely voice, and a gentle, willowy way about her. She probably still has these things. But over time, I disappointed her, and her love for me turned to bitterness and hatred, and I can no longer think of her as beautiful. But this has nothing to do with her appearance.

    My own sense of beauty has more to do with how I feel than how I look to others. Although they are related. You know those people who always look pretty, or even more so, sometimes, when they get angry, sad, or upset? I’m not one of those people. You know those people that can look twice as pretty if they put on some make-up? I’m not one of those, either. That seems like it could be fun, but I think I’ll just try to be grateful that I actually look better without it. I look my best when I feel really joyful about being alive, getting to be in the amazing place that is my home, and satisfied with my life. For me there’s no beauty product for sale, exciting trip I might go on, or anything else I don’t have already, that could ever take the place of that.

    1. And when you are in such a place in your life, where you can call yourself satisfied, why would you? I’d say you’ve hit the jackpot with the way you described your life! I completely agree with you on ‘interesting’ beauty. It’s personal preference for sure, but I too have always found odd-looking people attractive. And even if they don’t appear conventionally attractive, its their personality that can make them ten times more attractive than some visually appealing beauty. I’ve always found conventional ideas of beauty boring. Sure, I adore a classic beauty like Audrey Hepburn, but when you compare her features with other such greats, she’s completely unique. It’s that “it” factor, some people have it, some don’t, no matter how they look.

      1. funny you should mention Audrey Hepburn… she was always one of my all-time faves! One of a kind for sure…
        thanks for the sweet response!

      2. I love Audrey Hepburn too. I haven’t seen much classic cinema, but I have seen most of hers’ and just love everything about her. Your favourite? Apart from classics like Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I loved her dance sequence in Funny Face.

  2. Hahaha you’ve got a wonderful sense of humor 🙂 You’re so right, though — even without skin, humans would find a way to create beauty competitions all over again. Imagine the horror of folks with situs inversus (that’s when your organs are flip-flopped – still functional, but the mirror image of the “normal” body). I can only imagine how marginalized they would feel.

    Thanks for sharing!

      1. It is real! Google it 🙂 Supposedly it doesn’t affect day-to-day life much, but it’s a huge deal if you’re having surgery (since organs might not be in the “right” place).

  3. I’ve had to have tetracycline for my acne and I’m getting hassled to get my teeth whitened in time for graduation. Excuuuuuse me on the latter for liking coffee – any other first world problems I should address?

    (snark aside, great post – makes one wonder how deeply we explore superficial beauty, and I’m going to stop before I go meta)

    1. Thank you for reading! And teeth-whitening for graduation? That is a bit extreme! I can’t ever be bothered to wear high heels for important events, let alone go through something like that. What matters is having a good time, doesn’t it?

  4. I enjoyed this post. It does point out how shallow as humans we can be. So many have become obsessed by only the visual and have lost sight of all the deeper more meaningful things in life. No matter our genetic make up and how we visually look humans will always find ways to stand out. We will always seek approval and acceptance even in ways that aren’t visual. But as long as you don’t lose sight of who you truly are, nothing will be more stunning and unique then yourself and who you chose to be.

    1. That is such great advice and very well said! I struggle with that everyday, but I do try and remind myself of it. Thing is, you can never please everybody. We keep forgetting that, even if that’s just the way the world is. Thank you for reading!

  5. This is such a fantastic read. When I receive compliments I politely say thank you but no thanks. People combat me often and always question why I say that. One reason is I know I’m not the best looking person in the world. Two beauty is only skin deep. I always say looks fade. I won’t be this good looking in 50 years. I’d rather people enjoy my words.

    1. Wow, I’d say that is a position of privilege! I’d be more than happy if people enjoyed my words for as long as I live too. I don’t feel the need for anything else. Thank you for reading!

    1. Thank you! And yes, I can’t imagine the horror of someone saying, “You could get a lung job. Perk them up a bit. Breathe better.” (!) Thank you for reading!

  6. Very deep, but if it wasn’t skin, nails, hair it would be called something else and exactly as you put it, we humans would always find something to compare to others with.
    From your POV I can tell that comparing and improving internal beauty of our bodies, implies spending more money on it 😉 so sticking to the skin, I guess it is better :p

  7. I really enjoyed this post. I think physical beauty is important to most people whether they admit it or not. The media has taught us that we can change almost anything about ourselves to make it to our liking. I think people forget that you can be the prettiest person with the best body and attract a lot of people, but your personality is what will keep people around. Great post.

    1. Thank you! And I agree completely. Sure, I’m drawn to a pretty face as much as the next person. But, if they don’t have the personality to back it up, I’m no longer interested. Conversely, someone with personality ‘becomes’ more attractive as I get to know them. Sometimes, I even prefer them as they were before they ‘groomed’ themselves. I don’t think our physical perfection obsessions will ever go away, but I have hope that there are still people who value character and personality over it. Thank you again!

  8. Back in college, I shaved my head 1 inch around. Hon, you wouldn’t believe the stares I got and the nasty comments. But for every hater, there was always one person, usually a woman, who would say, “I like your hair” or “You look cool” and make everything all right again.

    I’ve yet to write a blog post about this, but I do have a blog post that you might like. It’s more about natural beauty, but a lot of the ideas also apply to human beauty, or rather, what we have set as the standard for beauty:

    1. Beautifully written! Very poetic! And gorgeous pictures. It’s the monsoons here, and I can’t help looking at the clouds. In all their moods, all their shapes and colours, some pacing, some slowing down, with clear blue sky as backdrop…its breathtaking. I think I’m good with finding beauty in most things (and people), because I’m an avid beauty enthusiast!

      I think it’s very cool you shaved your head. I’ve always liked styles that maybe called avant-garde, though I’m too conservative to try them myself. I have curly hair, and have received many unpleasant comments because of it, and it took me a long time to appreciate it. Now, I think it’s one of my best features, and I wish I had the same thickness and volume from when I was younger!

      1. Aww, thanks. I’m glad you liked my post. It’s really hard for us to love ourselves as we are. Ironically, it’s often the people who love us the most or who are closest to us who make negative comments, especially for something as superficial as physical appearance. We can’t choose what physical state we’re born into, but we can choose how we treat each other. Love isn’t an emotion, it’s an action.

        You rock that curly hair. It’s probably better for blocking out your ears from all the silly things people will try to tell you, anyways. 🙂

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