Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beauty Is A Cruel Mistress

Related/linked blog posts (reading these might give you a more thorough understanding of what the post entails):

For a good portion of my life, I've always held that we owe it to ourselves to be as good-looking as we can. Or at the very least, we shouldn't be so quick to "let ourselves go". The reason we owe it to ourselves is because life--or at least life in the Western society--is all about opportunities. And a good part of having opportunities available is being able to market yourself; either through looks, or some sort of merit (intelligence/proficiency/etc.) Until personal appearance stops being a factor in the potential for opportunity, any rational person will see that being well-groomed, or looking after themselves is an investment of time that does yield rewards.

A couple of weeks ago, someone said something that had me re-thinking my whole stance (Berni):
You'd assume that if you were a girl you'd want to be good looking yet they are the least confident human beings? Where does that leave plain girls?

I think it's a lack of maturity and overall world view. Lots can't seem to be able to deal with the constant pop culture onslaught that dictates what they should be and look like. That's a lot to ask of a young mind.

When I was in my teens and 20's I would look at fashionably dressed and tarted up pretty girls in a positive light, from the point of view that they got it going on and stuff.

As I got older it seemed more like these girls came from a position of weakness. Like it's not good enough to be born pretty and healthy but they have to squeeze that last ounce of "look at me, I'm a going concern" out of every public appearance.

He likened it to a neighbourhood of houses, where one goes way out of their way to set themselves apart or look good; they use lawn ornaments, have decorations all over their house, etc. But at the end of the day, everyone can see right through the fact that they're trying to prove something

But I argued that maybe striving to be better-looking isn't about having a tacky house. Maybe it's more about making sure that the walls aren't grimey, that the walkway doesn't have mildew, that the grass is healthy and neat, that the shrubs are maintained, etc. (Get your minds out of the gutter, guys. haha). Maybe it's about maintenance.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: why are we so quick to condemn beauty? We tend to see this dichotomy of beauty and intelligence, where one matters more than the other. But I couldn't see any real reason for them not to be equally regarded. Granted, beauty's always gotten a bad rap for being an unearned, arbitrary, lucky roll on the genetic die - you just happen to be good-looking and life works out a little better for you. But couldn't the same thing be said about intelligence? We always have this notion that being good-looking is inherited, while intelligence is something that you work on. But what a lot of people don't realize is that like beauty, intelligence has a baseline, too. To be intelligent, you also need to have the capacity for it. In a sense, you need to be born with whatever characteristics allow you to become intelligent. If this weren't the case, then people who aren't intelligent wouldn't exist (because everyone would have the potential). So if it's clear to see that both require a bit of luck, and a lot of work, then why is beauty looked down on so much?

For weeks, I thought about the conversation and the questions that it raised. The answer only came to me while I was watching RockNRolla: "beauty's a cruel mistress". 

It's insane how deep this statement actually is. The reason it gets such such a bad rap is because it doesn't last. Of course, I could argue that eventually, neither does intelligence - but I think the most important distinction is that intelligence lasts a lot longer than beauty usually ever does. Intelligence carries over to your later years, while beauty hits its peak a lot earlier (think models vs. professors).

You hit your peak maybe some time between 18 and 30 (I kept a big range because some people hit their physical peak in their early-mid 20s, but don't figure out what look works best for them until their late 20s). After your peak years, it all just goes downhill from there. You do what you can to prolong the onset of physical degeneracy, but at this point in your life, it's a complete shift over to intelligence (think of older professionals, lawyers, doctors, professors, etc.)

People think that the beauty aspect isn't important because of it's short-term effect, or lack of longevity...but what makes it so important is that it gets you the initial opportunity for any long-term potential. If you look at jobs that revolve around beauty, most of them don't last very long. Cheerleaders, models, marketing gigs, promotions gigs, all have very short careers (for the most part). But let's face it, someone has to GIVE you a chance for you to even have that very chance, to begin with. It's hard to give someone a chance when they're repulsive, don't take care of themselves, or are just downright ugly (as unfortunate as that may be). Or even if you can give them a chance, you're still more inclined to think that what's beautiful is good.

But at least now, I think understand why Berni appreciated it a lot less as he got older. The older you get, the less relevant beauty becomes. When your "opportunities" are secured, you don't need to do much more in the looks department. An example of this is how some guys stop working out once they get a girlfriend (which I disagree with, but is another topic altogether). Or when couples grow old an ugly together; when that happens, the relationship is about everything BUT looks, and it no longer matters. For jobs, after a certain point, your resume does all the speaking for you at job interviews. And after a certain point, the effort that you put into looking good begins to outweigh the rewards that you get from it (sort of like the women who spend thousands on creams and hours of their day putting treatments and masks on, just to look marginally younger).

But I'm torn between the two sides because it's hard to blame people for clinging on to their prime (in terms of their best physical years). After all, the alternative--realizing that beauty doesn't last and it makes sense not to care--is equally disastrous because you take the decline at full speed instead of trying slow the process down.


On the other hand, what you need to take into account is that (generally speaking,) the people who hold on to their beauty are the ones who were beautiful, and the people who often condemn it are the ones who never had a reason to value it. It should also be noted that people obviously miss things that used to be a big part of their lives. So the people who also condemn the whole quest for perfection or beauty are the ones who stopped holding it as one of their highest values.

But what makes "beauty [such] a cruel mistress" is the fact that people spend their whole lives with it as a side-project; something that always distracts them from giving some other (arguably more important) factor 100 percent of their attention. They spend their entire lives chasing after it, doing their best to keep it fulfilled, working towards it, and catering to it. But in most cases, it never lasts enough to warrant the lifelong effort that you might put in. In a way, people stay loyal to the concept or ideal of beauty - but that loyalty isn't mutual. One day, sort of like an ungrateful girlfriend who you just bought a new set of titties for, beauty just decides to get up and leave. 

And for some reason, it always comes as such a surprise to people (even though they saw it coming a long time ago). At this point, they start desperately trying to hold on to it - they wish that they still had it, or they spend a whole lot of time and money trying to coax it into coming back. Nothing physical ever lasts - beauty's fleeting at best, and irrelevant at worst. With all that in mind, it makes you start to wonder whether you should've ever been dumb enough to have a mistress in the first place. 

My solution? Put work into it until it no longer profits you. Until the (extra) work that you put in stops benefiting you in some way, it'll always be justified. There's no reason to be subjected to picking either beauty or intelligence - why not pick and cultivate both?

Peace,

- knowledge


1 comment:

  1. There's no other way to say this. People need to stop hating on people who strive hard to look 'good'. Of course it's a different problem if your view of being beautiful is only influenced by the outside world (media, other people blah blah blah).

    But the real question is, why do I feel that I need to justify wanting to get my hair done? Why do so many people gasp at the mention that I spend so much on make up? Why do I have to constantly argue the worth of the piece of clothing I want to purchase? Why is it so wrong to want to look pretty?

    There's nothing wrong with wanting to look better, or upgrading your physical appearance! People go to school to enhance their mental capabilities. Why can't I spend hours on making myself beautiful. That's my prerogative, as an individual that works hard both in earning money and in school. And insecurity schminsecurity I don't know about you but I'm perfectly comfortable with myself. Beautifying myself is fun. To me it may contribute to my overall self-confidence but it is not the main factor. It. is. fun. People who hate on people who strive hard to improve and beatify themselves are people who don't find joy in it. It's a hobby, it's something to do. It's not hard work for those who enjoy it. It's not like were punishing ourselves. And men, men work out yeah okay they want to look good but I'm sure they enjoy sweating it out and being physically fit. I'm sure they also bask in the effects of endorphins you get from a good workout.

    And in this fast paced world, I feel that taking my time doing my hair, my makeup, and picking my clothes counts as pampering myself. Growing up I've always been called fat. That's an insecurity of mine. Yes. But, knowing that other parts of me are pretty and highlighting that helps me cope with this insecurity. Allows me to appreciate what is good, and accept the bad. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone. I'm just making myself happy. I'm not doing this to appease anyone. I'm not doing it because it's what is expected of me. I'm not only doing this to attain success. I'm doing this because this is fun. It makes me happy.

    -kreb

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