www.whyville.net Jul 1, 2012 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

Is There Really Such a Thing as Physical Beauty?

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Boys, we've all stammered as a pretty girl whipped around and asked us for a pen. Or maybe that's just me (how embarrassing). Girls, it's only right to assume you've seen a quaint male specimen walking through the halls, and he's probably made your cheeks catch fire with a single smile. Beauty, I think, isn't definite. We all have our own tastes and preferences for what is beautiful.

My face gains ten shades of red when I see Aishwarya Rai on TV. My friend (who is a female), gets weak at the knees when that particular substitute fills in for a sick teacher. However, let us look at this phenomena from a far-standing position. Think of beauty in a broad sense. Things like perfect noses, almond eyes, and soft locks are among the common likes. Why is that?

About 2,000 years ago, in Europe, the ideal woman was a plump, curly haired, rounder-eyed lass. The Roman nose, or "beak", was also widely considered attractive. If you don't believe me, take a look at Ancient Roman artworks. Men were much the same, face-wise (though I have reason to believe they were expected to have the body of a god!) Predating the European heartthrob was the Ancient Egyptian heartthrob. Chubby bellies meant money, and money was attractive, so mild obesity was largely attractive. Note my use of the word "mild"! Egyptians did not encourage unrestrained gluttony! Much of the population was bald to prevent both lice and heat exhaustion, so wigs were ubiquitous and desired. Men wanted a woman with a candle made of animal fat on her head, and women wanted a man with a few love-handles (money) - and who wore makeup, or mesdemet.

Today I'd say the commercial heart heartthrob is thin, fit, straight nosed, almond eyed, and defined cheeked. So, now that you've seen the subtle changes of what we, as a whole, consider to be beautiful, can you contemplate that beauty itself is nonexistent? Well, in 1775, a pastor and poet by the name of Johann Kaspar Lavater published his first installment of Essays on Physignomy which theorized that a person's beauty is defined by their personality. Additionally, physignomy is the suggestion that a person's physical appearance is heavily influenced by their inner attributes. For example, a pointy, impish nose might mean you're energetic, adventurous, and a bit snooty. Lavater's theories demean the concept of physical beauty, and, as he put it, "The face [is] . . . outward evidence of . . . beauty, if one could only know what to look for."

As silly as some physignomical theories are - most implying that you can gain psychic abilities by learning the personality of a person through their physical attributes - I think Lavater and other theorists have a valid point. We've all fallen for a friend who, at the very beginning, we once thought to have been unattractive. Through learning their personality, their golden features, and awesome traits, they've ended up looking like Aishwarya Rai or Brad Pitt. They give off an ardent aura which fills our veins with warmth. What was once unattractive is now our definition of "beauty". So I can't but help to believe that physical beauty is an illusion which is gradually altered as each new generation comes our way. Beauty is, as corny as it sounds, based on someone's inner attributes. "Sure, you have a pretty face, but that attitude has made you plummet on my attractiveness scale!"

In the end, personality will always have the upper hand over physical beauty.


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