Attempting to Unravel the Truth About Beauty – Part Two

Beauty – Part Two

The human race’s obsession with attractiveness is probably, in essence, quite innocent.  Displaying and acknowledging attractiveness can be argued to be a perfectly reasonable evolutionary mechanism employed by most (if not all) people to help determine health and vitality.  We’re naturally drawn to attractive people as it is generally synonymous with health, vitality, fertility, and good genes.

I can’t be bothered talking about any of that.

I do, however, want to wrap up this conversation about beauty.  Seeing as it is my blog, I’ll give this final installment the Dee treatment, and just share with you my own personal opinions on what is beautiful, basically ignoring the screeds of research I’ve been wading through on the subject.

I’ve opted to share five things that I think are beautiful to illustrate my point on this subject.  I am leaving out countless others including:

1)  Integrity

2)  Grace

3)  Smile lines and well-earned physical signs of living a full and interesting life

4)  Honesty

5)  Humility

6)  Generosity

7)  A warm smile

8) Health and vitality (regardless of what the scales may say!)

9)  Confidence…

The list could go on and on.

However, for today’s blog I am sticking to five things that I think make women truly beautiful:

1)  Strength and resilience

I realised again last week that there are a number of absolutely amazing women I am lucky enough to know, that have overcome some gargantuan obstacles in their lives.

I am lucky enough to have met women who have faced (and overcome) addictions, mental illness, hard times that I can’t even imagine being faced with.  Women who have survived life-threatening illness, cared for others tirelessly (be it a sick or severely disabled child, family member, or in some cases they have made the care of others a career), mind numbing loss, war, natural disasters, poverty, abuse.  These ladies have experienced rock-bottom and climbed out with an understanding and resilience that is impossible to describe.  Although you can’t immediately put your finger on it, just being around them, you get a sense of the strength and understanding that can only come from the experiences that they have faced and overcome.

I have dozens of examples I’m intensely eager to share with you, but these are not my stories to tell.  So I’ve scoured the web for images of the strength that I am talking about, as a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

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Rescued from slavery in the sex industry. Strength and beauty embodied.

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Iconic shot of an Afghan refugee – her eyes say so much, the pain, the wisdom, the things she must have seen. Beautiful and haunting.

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Drew Barrymore, one of the more well known recovering addicts in the spotlight.

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Survivor.

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Hurricane Katrina survivors supporting each other. Touching and beautiful.

2)  Vulnerability

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While there is a time and a place for being tough but fair, or for “putting on your big girl knickers and getting on with things”, there is also something absolutely beautiful and human that can only be seen when we are exposed and vulnerable.

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The other part of the beauty of vulnerability is that, even the most amazing and effective women have vast and gaping imperfections.  Being privy to that, and seeing just how broken we all are is fascinating, comforting, connecting and refreshing.

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Perhaps there is something a bit more basic and visceral about vulnerability and its association with beauty.  We are, apparently, the fairer and weaker sex.  There is something magic in being  swept up into strong arms in a moment of weakness.  Something so romantic about needing protection and rescuing.

But only sometimes.  There’s a big difference between being an occasional damsel in distress, in need of a hero, and a consistent mentality of being a victim and not just getting on with things.  While I truly think it is beautiful and more than a little sexy to be vulnerable on occasion after you’ve been strong for too long, there is also something quite sad and ugly about expecting other people to solve the world’s issues for you.

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3)  Connectedness

There is something exquisite and enticing about the effortlessness that some women include and embrace those around them.  These are the women who get down to eye level when they talk to children, they look you in the eye when they are talking to you, they are frequently found quietly (and often thanklessly) doing what needs to be done in their homes, families, communities and even the world itself.

I really enjoy people watching, and looking out for examples of the beautiful things I am talking about in strangers.

Old couples holding hands or sitting together and so comfortable with their partner that you can hardly tell where one of them ends and the other begins.

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New mothers looking into their baby’s face, radiating a contagious sense of peace.

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Seeing a couple on a successful first (or early) date and witnessing the energy between them.

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Teachers, trainers, coaches, community leaders working with a group and being able to see the cohesion and enthusiasm that their words and energy plant in the hearts and minds of their captive audience.

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This is connectedness, and it is absolutely magnificent.

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Again, I have an almost limitless supply of stories I could share with you about friends and family who demonstrate this amazing connectedness.  But, they are not my stories to tell.  I hope you get what I mean, and I added some more stock photos and pithy sayings I am sharing in an attempt to illustrate this point.

4)  Kindness

Kindness is beautiful.

That’s it.  Full stop.

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5)  Humour

There are few things as appealing and attractive as laughter.  Just overhearing people laughing releases positive endorphins in most people.  Smiles and merriment break down barriers, ease tension, bring people together and, not to put too fine a point on it, make life bearable.

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Being able to laugh at our self, and each other, without malice or envy, is about the shortest distance between two people I can imagine.

So I’ll wrap this post and subject up with some pictures of gorgeous funny women who have influenced me directly and from a distance.

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Attempting to Unravel the Truth about Beauty: Part One

Sometime ago I posted an article written by a self-professed “exceedingly attractive” woman who was having a good moan about women who were punching well above their weight and married or dating attractive, successful men.  Snopes said this was a possibly a hoax, but it highlighted some really cool and confronting stuff I want to talk about.

Here is the article in question..

Something strange happened after posting this. I got a lot of responses from single men and women, who agreed with the sentiments of the woman (real or fake though she may be) in the article. They also disclosed how fraught their own romantic struggles could be, but they were quite vehemently on board with her honesty regarding people needing to be attractive, and work on their external looks, as an absolute priority.

The happily married guys and gals chimed in saying lovely or amusing things about themselves or their partners. One quite cool guy stated he felt like he was punching well above his weight and his wife was amazing (she is by the way). Several mummy friends laughed and shrugged off the derogatory statements made about our comfortable clothes and ponytails.

I’d hazard a guess that the people who are jealous or incredulous towards the happily, comfortably married folks (male or female) and not-so-secretly noticing their faithful partners, probably wouldn’t have given them a second look before they were taken.  A simple case of grass is greener, or wanting what they don’t currently have. That’s fine, and it makes sense, so no harm no foul, provided the jealous parties don’t actively coerce the happily coupled types to jump ship.  And if they do, good riddance.

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Consistent and long-term coupling takes effort and evolution as an individual and as a team. So yeah, sometimes the lipgloss gets retired as it is not a priority when we need meet the rigorous challenges of family life.

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But standing on the outside looking in and thinking:  “Why doesn’t she just put in a touch of effort!  Look at her man all dapper and hot” actually makes a great deal of sense. It isn’t particularly helpful though, as I also think these women would bore quickly if they were subjected to the throws of domestic bliss of yoga pant, ponytail, and bare faced mummy types.

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In my genuine experience, a lot of these guys think their make-up free, slightly frumpy female companions ARE beautiful.  Grumpy proper thinks I am one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He’s an absolutely ineffective liar, so experience tells me that he’s genuine in his assertions that, to him, I am.  I don’t think I earned this, I’m just grateful for the fact it is.  And to me, he is equally perfect and gorgeous.  Lucky or by design?  Probably a bit of both.  And it doesn’t mean that both of us don’t occasionally meet other human beings that we find quite irresistible in one way or another.  Meet enough people in this life and you’re bound to bump into a few you’d not mind bumping uglies with.  Sorry if that’s crass… We’re animals.  Choosing not to act on this stuff and resisting temptation has its own rewards though.

Here’s the thing: We are the women that have bore their children, tended to them when they get the man-flu, have seen them cry (yes, men cry) and laugh and everything in between. That kind of intimacy and collateral that builds up over months and years comes at a cost that nobody can ever quantify.  That kind of connection evolves over time and through trials, and it is not for everyone. And, quite often, that intimacy has a life expectancy for some people as well.  Many a couple have gone their separate ways when the kids fly the coop, or if priorities or personalities go too far askew in their trajectory.  This is life.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks skimming articles on attraction, relationships, marriage, courtship, physical beauty, sexual desire, and a variety of other subjects that were touched upon in the article and its responses.

I feel no more enlightened, but what I have confirmed is that although there are varied personal and cultural criterion for what people consider attractive, there are also some fairly universal themes.

Here’s a short list of stuff that just about everyone is looking for in a partner and a brief explanation of why:

1)  Symmetry

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Absolute symmetry in the human form is quite simply impossible. But we have an innate ability to seek it out and be attracted to it on both a subconscious and conscious level. While our mammas are making us in their bellies, the cells are striving for health and symmetry as they are being made.  Outward physical appearance of symmetry can be a basic indicator that your parents gave you good genes and you had a nice safe and healthy place to gestate so you’ll have plenty of good genes to pass on yourself.  Not that this is always the case, of course, but it is a thing our brains do consistently in clinical test and daily life.

2)  Health

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Having nice clear whites of your eyes, bright smile, fresh breath, healthy proportional weight, rosy cheeks, red lips, great skin, good muscle tone, etc. These are all generally universally sought after traits.  We’ve even designed ways to “trick” people into thinking we are healthy.  Make-up colours and techniques tend to mimic the naturally occurring facial signs of health.  We also have gravity defying undergarments, platform shoes, fashion tricks like pin stripes to make men look taller and a variety of other tricks and hacks to put our best (and healthiest) face forward.

3)  Posture

Good posture makes you look taller.  Taller is frequently considered more attractive. Posture also exudes an air of confidence, and confidence is something the vast majority of people relate inextricably with attractiveness as well.

4)  Hygiene

Good personal hygiene is obviously attractive.  Different cultures have different definitions of what this actually is. Some cultures are quite keen not to mask their personal musk with such things as perfumes and deodorants, and a strong musky scent is considered just fine.  Other cultures primp and preen and mask personal odor with potions, lotions and scents.  Regardless, there is a conscious and subconscious reaction to the way people smell. Have you ever just been wantonly attracted to someone for no apparent reason, even, horror of horrors if you really thought they were a bit yuck?  You might just be falling prey to pheromones.

5)  Energy levels

People with a lot of energy, even quiet confidence, are generally universally considered more attractive.  Sluggish, slouchy Eeyore types are not going to be imagined as the monster in the sack that most of us are keen to take for a joyride. Neither are they going to be seen as good prospects for genetic material or long term coupling. Humans generally crave comfort, protection, joy and even excitement.  Confident people hold the promise of these things.

Research also states that women have an evolutionary lean towards “bad boys” or “alpha males” or even “beta males” for genetic purposes, as these douche bags tend to have healthy genes (at least, according to our reptilian brains!).  They are good for coitus and procreation and not much else. However, for long-term coupling, the nice guy wins. And I for one, am eternally grateful for this fact, after being mixed up with several lifetimes worth of undeniably beautiful, but absolutely abhorant and appalling bad boys.

Men also crave an excessively brazen hussy on some level.  What is that saying? Men want their wives to be a saint in public and a slut in the sack?  Well, apparently there’s similar biological and evolutionary reasoning for this as well. Highly sexed and fertile women were historically more likely to breed prolifically. That window of the luteal phase of our ovulation where our cheeks flush, our lips plump up, our pupils dilate, and our legs more readily open is our most fertile point, and men are quite receptive to it on both a conscious and reptilian level. Apparently.

Historically, there were other, perhaps less highly sexed women in the household, tribe or village that took on the nurturing roles.  Or in some cases, women who passed their breeding prime took on these roles. This job sharing stuff was quite common until relatively recently, even in Western civilisations.

Even today, in many cultures and tribes phenomena like wet nurses and matriarchs are not uncommon. Cultures and religions that allow the taking of many wives for one wealthy man tend to delegate child-rearing responsibilities.

Modern women in the Western world place upon themselves and have placed upon them lofty expectations of performance, beauty, maternal instinct, youthfulness, success, and even vulnerability.  In modern Western society we are often expected to be perfect and able to do it everything.

Kind of unfair if you ask me.  Women are meant to be hot, ageless, maternal, sexy, independent, dependent, vulnerable, attractive, well behaved, entertaining, tough, kind, nurturing and needy all at once. Pretty tiring, and a tall order even for Wonder Woman. Sadly, gone are the days when households and communities could job share this stuff.  (Not that I am in any hurry to run out and get a sister wife anytime soon!)

Back to the point:

  • Our ideas of what is attractive and important is constantly evolving and in flux.
  • Choosing to be with one partner is not for everyone, and the sacrifices and rewards for making these choice are also constantly in flux.
  • True beauty is a package deal has more to do with compatibility and shared priorities than it ever has to do with symmetry or universal physical attractiveness.
  • The most integral Love affair anyone is ever going to have is with oneself. If you don’t cherish and adore yourself, you’ll end up empty and dissatisfied with or without someone else.

I’ll elaborate if enough people are interested in a second instalment.

It would be fantastic to hear some feedback on this before the next installment.  I realize that it is a bit married mamma centric, but I write about what I know, and what I know is indeed being a married mamma.

Thanks for reading.

XXOO

Dee