Holidannys

MISCELLANEOUS MONDAY: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL APPROACH TO BEAUTY

There’s a girl at my work that looks like the cover of a Sports Illustrated, all tanned skin and blonde hair thrown up into a messy topknot, the kind that makes girls want to kill themselves over. She was sitting and talking to my coworker, two seats away from me. She didn’t look at me, or even talk to me, but I felt a creeping blush burn across my cheeks. When she left, and my face paled, I looked at another coworker and said, “She’s so hot that even I’m uncomfortable.”

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She was a 10.

There’s a boy who lives on my floor who looks like the kind of boy Lizzie McGuire would fall in love with, 2005-surfer-boy-chic, and whenever I talk to him, I become this macho bro version of myself.

He was a 10.

What is it about objective attractiveness that makes me melt? I’m not attracted to either of these people—actually, their 10-ness is what makes me distinctly un-attracted to them. I’m totally lying; I just know how many standard deviations of attractiveness I’m allowed to move in either direction, and they’re outliers. Also they’re both straight, and I’ve had approximately two Tweets worth of conversation with either of them.

I have a fascination with extremely attractive people. It’s not sexual; it’s scientific. Consider me an anthropologist. Even if we aren’t attracted to them, we treat beautiful people in a certain way. We treat them as if they’re rarified. We want to get into their good graces. It’s instinctive; it’s like the privilege of getting to talk to the most popular kid when you were in sixth grade.

I recently attempted/did ask out someone. He’s the kind of attractive where you rubberneck and go, “Wait, really?” And when asked what I liked about him, I would say, “Um, he’s cute, I guess, and nice.” I’m lying when I give that answer. I’m bamboozled by his attractiveness. I have no idea if he’s nice. He could be sacrificing baby goats and wearing their skins as a cape, and all I would do is tilt my head into my palm and go, “Oh that’s so cool.”

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I’m so fake, but so are you. Let’s not pretend that we don’t all do this.

But I imagine that, as amazing as it must be, it must also be incredibly isolating being wanted for only your looks. In a recent Rolling Stone article, Adele said, “But sometimes I’m curious to know if I would have been as successful if I wasn’t plus-size. I think I remind everyone of themselves. Not saying everyone is my size, but it’s relatable because I’m not perfect, and I think a lot of people are portrayed as perfect, unreachable, and untouchable.”

And the idea of success being rooted partially in appearance pervades our world. Would pop stars be as successful if they weren’t commercially attractive, ready for consumption and palatable to the general public? Surely there are lots of people out there who are good singers. But are they fuckable?

There is a YouTube couple that I watch occasionally. Mark Miller and his boyfriend Ethan Hethcote are Indiana-bred, all-American golden boys. Mark looks like an ad for Men’s Health and Ethan has that amiable, boy-next-door hotness. Their videos are cute and silly and fluffy, but their subscriber count, half a million on Mark’s and a quarter of a million on Ethan’s, betray the underlying impetus. They’re hot, and they’re traditional paragons of masculinity, and we can’t stop watching. It’s why I’m subscribed. It’s why I click on their videos. But it’s also why I tend to skip over them with a clench in my stomach. Because I know deep down that I’m more interested in their faces than their voices. And I hate that I’m like that.

I was going to start out this blog by saying, “I don’t trust anyone who didn’t have bad acne, some sort of tooth issue, or a little bit of fat.” Which, I generally stand by, but I realize is a little beauty-phobic. I generally trust people who went through awkward patches, who have learned to rely on inner beauty and comedy, who are…well, like me.

I can’t relate to beautiful people, therefore I shame them. But maybe beautiful people are just as weird and fucked up as me? Maybe they’re just waiting for someone to include them into the Weird And Wonderful circle. Because if Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Hills have taught me one thing, it’s that beauty doesn’t guarantee happiness.

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We objectify beautiful people because it’s easier than to humanize them. It’s easier to write them off when we’re bemoaning our pain. “He would never understand that. He’s always been hot.” Sometimes that pedestal that we put beautiful people on develops into a full-blown trench separating the Hots from the Nots.

I think I started off this blog thinking that I didn’t identify with beauty, and because of that, I was somehow better and they were worse off for never having struggled like I did. But who the fuck am I to decide what anyone has gone through? At the end of the day, don’t we all just want to be seen as the fucked-up meat puppets we all are?

Everyone is put into some boxes due to their appearance. Adele, because of her weight, was labeled “approachable” and “one of us.” But she’s also a multimillionaire and has a voice of an angel. But we still see her as one of us because she’s “normal.” Mark and Ethan are “hot” so they’re watchable and consumable and enviable.

Everyone’s in a box, and some might have the pretty labels and privileges, but it’s still a box, at the end of the day. It’s still outward objectification and judgment imposing itself on individual lives.

Maybe they’re relying on hot, but I’m definitely relying on funny, and, when broken down, is that really much different? Everyone has a crutch, and some crutches are chosen for them. Am I really able to pass judgment on someone just because their crutch is a pretty face and a good butt?

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