I’ve been pondering lately about this thing called vanity that seems to be gripping the nation worse than ever. What is it, where does it come from, why do we care, etc.
I get that one wants to look the best by observing good personal hygiene, choosing a hair style we think suites us and dressing in a manner that expresses our individuality. Maintaining healthy weight and just generally staying happy and healthy is also a good thing. Disclaimer: by healthy weight I am not saying you should subscribe to AMA’s crazy BMI scheme, those guys are out of whack which is whole different rant. So many people people are overly focused on attaining the weight specified by AMA’s BMI chart that it becomes unhealthy. What I mean by healthy weight is maintaining weight that enables you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can have an ideal weight based on the BMI chart, but that doesn’t mean you are healthy. On the same vane you can be considered obese by AMA BMI chart yet life a very healthy lifestyle and overall be very healthy. More on that in a different soapbox.
So beyond those basic thing (hygiene, clothing, hairstyle) why are we so obsessed with beauty? We all are in some way or another. Either we are obsessed with obtaining it, or we are obsessed with observing it. To make a very generalized and stereotypical statement, women are obsessed with being beautiful and men are obsessed with looking at beautiful women. I’m not claiming to be immune from this stereotype. Is it strictly a feedback loop? Meaning women want to be beautiful because men want to look at beautiful women, in other words is it all about women getting attention from guys? I find that very hard to believe because women that are generally considered very beautiful do get a lot of attention from guys and complain about all the “creeps” that are always checking them out and bothering them. Is it a matter of wanting what we don’t have, that is simply being unhappy with what we have? I find that a much more plausible theory.
It seems to be a “societal programming” that’s gone hey wire. From what I hear women are intensively competitive about who is the fairest of them all, and to what end. Is it so that everyone will like them? If so that is a very unreasonable expectations. You don’t like everyone so why would you expect everyone to like you? Like I said those that get a lot of attention complain about how much attention they are getting, which could be a case of “be careful of what you wish for”.
Guys aren’t any better. While they seem to be generally less competitive about their own looks, they aren’t immune. They feed into this more by being competitive about “scoring” the most beautiful woman.
Meanwhile no one seems to acknowledge that there are so many different form of beauty and how everyone has their own taste of what they consider beautiful. Both genders totally buy into the programming that there is a single standard for beauty, which is totally ludicrous. Guys are probably worse about this than women. I’ve talked to guys who talk big publicly to show how they follow the programming, yet when when you have a more private conversation with them it comes out that they don’t necessary believe that. The programming is deep that they will never admit to it though.
When it comes to art though everyone realizes that there is no single standard for beauty, it all comes down to personal preference. This is why there are so many form of arts, and everyone likes different things. I really don’t know enough about art to go deeper into this analogy, but I think you all get my drift. Why can’t we apply the same thinking about each other and stop thinking that life is a beauty context where there can only be one winner and realize that we are all beautiful in our own way, that not everyone is going to like us just the way we don’t like everyone the same.
I have no magic bullet answer to this question/dilemma. There is most definitively a feedback loop component that is going to be hard to break. Speaking from a guys perspective you get caught in a no win situation because of this. You focus on someone’s beauty too much (whether by verbal complements, or the way you look at her) you get labeled a creep who only appreciates her body (or you’re sex crazed guy using complements to get your way). If you don’t focus on her beauty you are insensitive because you never complement her looks.