Science tells us that the most beautiful person in the world has a certain eye-to-nose ratio and that various other numbers can be used to determine absolute beauty. Sites like Anaface will happily evaluate your photo and inform you that while you’re fairly attractive, your eyebrows are too arched and your chin-to-mouth-width ratio is too big to qualify as beautiful.
Huh. Yeah, sure. Okay.
Basically, I think using science to judge beauty is malarkey. I think it reduces people to numbers and expects them to fit into a particular mold. Molds are boring and unfair, both to the people they’re evaluating and the people who are expected to like them.
Science claims that Florence Colgate could be the most beautiful woman in the world, but that doesn’t mean she’s everyone’s cup of tea. People Magazine picked Bradley Cooper as their Sexiest Man Alive last year, but I don’t care how perfect his eyeball-to-nostril-width ratio is – he’s definitely not my cup of tea, no matter what the numbers may say about him.
I use “aesthetically beautiful” to describe the beauty of someone I’m not attracted to or interested in emulating. These people may fit into “the mold” or they may not. For men, this describes someone like 1990s Brad Pitt who is very good-looking, but does not appeal to me. For women, it applies to some models and celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Christina Hendricks who I think are beautiful, but I’m neither attracted to them or aspire to be like them. It also applies to women I happen to pass in the street who strike me as beautiful or stylish. I admire these women, but they are so apart from me that all I can do is admire. Emulating or even relating to them is out of the question.
Sometimes after going off on a rant about Vogue‘s latest body-image faux pas, Kevin will ask me why I get the magazine if it upsets me so much. I thought about it and I realize that I read Vogue like I’m visiting a museum. I admire the creativity in the styles and the poses of the models, but I’ve detached from it. What they wear isn’t real clothing, since I can’t afford or don’t like it, and the models aren’t really people, because I don’t know anyone who actually looks like that. Real people don’t actually have those cheekbones, or that waist, or those long legs, or that glowing flawless skin. Those closeups of lipstick-painted mouths? Yeah, those aren’t what lips actually look like. Models may have been real people once, but Photoshop and editing has warped them into non-humans.
I see the models in Vogue as non-people, aesthetically pleasing creations designed to show off a product. I see them as “the mold” and not as living, breathing people. This is what I’ve had to come up with to distance myself from the impact advertising could have on my self-esteem.
But what does that do to my other perceptions? Seriously, how bad is it that I’ve had to relegate super-skinny models to “not people” in order to escape having my own self-image distorted?
I’m going to go with really bad.
But I don’t know how to fix it.
By admitting to myself that models are humans, that makes their looks plausibly achievable. They have the same limbs and skin and facial features as me, so theoretically, there’s no reason I couldn’t look like them. I could wear those clothes and use that lotion. I could watch my diet and work out more. I could go tanning and get waxes and laser treatments. On the surface, there are a lot of things I could do to make my human figure look like the human figures that are in all the magazines. I could – maybe – fit into their mold.
But I don’t have their genes, or their stylists or hairdressers or post-production team, for that matter. I can get over not having flawless tanned skin, but what if I couldn’t get over being short? What if I couldn’t get over not having a D-cup chest and an hourglass figure, or sculpted calves and thighs that didn’t touch? That’s when it becomes easier to dissociate from the models entirely – because it’s easier to believe that they were created on a computer than it is to believe that people out there really truly might look like that, and I’m not one of them, when I apparently should be.
Luckily I like my non-D-cup chest, and my calves are becoming ever-so-slightly sculpted thanks to my running program. I can deal with my pointy nose and my dorky knees. I can live with my boring, uncooperative, but shiny and naturally dark-honey-colored hair. I have my bad days, but overall, I like my body. I don’t know what my nose-length-to-mouth-width ratio is, and I don’t care, because I feel beautiful regardless of what the numbers say about me. I don’t mind not fitting into the mold; I just wish there were more molds that resembled me and my friends.