My wife and I met through online matchmaking what seems like an eternity ago. When we were first matched we actually didn’t initially see one another’s photos. We sped through the process knowing only what our intellectual connection was. What we liked mostly and over the course of structured communication what we were like. When we finally met in person the attraction had already occurred far beyond the pulsing urges of sexuality from visual attraction. That’s absolutely not to say we weren’t physically attracted to one another, I was to her at least, but rather it wasn’t the primary driver or even deciding factor of our having established a connection to one another.
We were recently watching television regarding dating and marriage and whatnot and I quipped about how often it seemed that there was an artificially heavy premium being placed on physical looks in the process. Sure, some of it is made-for-tv drama in doing so, but it’s also a greater reflection of the common social pretense which is how it makes it onto television in the first place.
In an interesting twist on the assumed social convention though, it’s been the women holding the heavy prejudice on the men’s looks while the men are overwhelming complimentary about the women. It wasn’t just in a single program we witnessed it. After our initial conversation I started watching more closely for it and it came up time and again and not just on the television .
I don’t have to look very far to see this in action in the real world around me. People who either feel rejected because they perceive the world treats them different because of how they look as well as people who clearly are treated different because of how they look. The difference in treatment isn’t always bad either. I recently had a deep and pointed conversation where someone readily spoke of the discomfort they feel knowing they’re treated with pretty privilege.
In it I’m oft reminded of my own experiences in dating and just that exact experience with being prejudiced for how I looked so it makes me acutely aware now that we’re expecting.
I hope to be able to instill in our padawan the importance of seeing the entirety of a person and not just their outward visual appearance. Teaching this, particularly in a world obsessed with passing judgement on how one looks will be a challenge.
Originally, I wanted to write a Dear Padawan type of letter explaining the anthropological and social reasoning behind why historically it exists and why in the modern world it shouldn’t but I found myself struggling with how to effectively frame it without either sounding either bitter or judgmental.
I’m reminded of the adage “a shitty personality can make even the most beautiful person appear ugly.” It’s one of those sayings that until you experience it yourself means little but once you do it can become a life changing experience in how you not only view the world around you, but more importantly yourself.
Beauty is fleeting. It isn’t just the natural process of aging against the inevitability of time, or the chance circumstances of health and well being, or the social enlightenment of trends shifting that affects how beauty is defined, it’s also the myriad of self-perceptions about one’s own physical presentation that is shadowing such definitions (the assumption that those who feel beautiful are beautiful and those who feel ugly are ugly regardless of what the reality of the world around them seems to say).
As someone who’s personal style is often either ahead, behind or completely askew of the current trends, as well as someone who has traditionally looked down upon physical elements, I feel I’m immune to a lot of the bullshit that affects people in how they look. There’s the simple, self-imposed choices I make, not because I intend to be different, or the same, or however and external perception might manifest itself but because I enjoy, or I accept, such things and readily both equally accept and ignore the accolades, the critiques and the wtf’s. For me, what I determine is cool is inherently cool. If someone else agrees, great, let’s enjoy together. If someone doesn’t, ok, let’s agree to disagree and convene on some other common ground. If someone can’t come, fuck them, I don’t need them in my life. And, I’m ok with any outcome.
While you might say this is the maturity of an adult who is in an established romantic relationship and the stability of a career talking, it’s not. It’s someone who twenty-five plus years ago gave up on trying to be trendy and cool and decided who he was would have to be good enough for the world or he was going to have to change the world to be ok with him and has actively worked toward the latter ever since. I will be honest, I have plenty of shortcomings in dealing with it, as well as advocating for it, but it is too be expected as the process will be lifelong in being completely comfortable with myself in all ways. Since my body, and my interests are constantly changing so is my understanding of it.
Moreso though, it’s from this that I craft some of the interpretation of the world around me. The more comfortable I am with myself the more accepting of others I feel I am. It’s the perception is reality conundrum all over again … the more I perceive myself judged by others the more often I myself will judge so if I can personally flip the script and now dwell on judgement the more likely I am not to judge others.
In other words, I am not prone to prejudicing others looks if my own looks I am comfortable with. I have no reason to judge them if I really just don’t care about looks. Easier said than done. But, honestly, it’s a lot easier to ignore looks than a shitty personality. Those standout like sore, well, everything.
Most of prejudice is projection in many of these cases. It is us perceiving our own shortcomings and assuming everyone feels the same about us as we do. We are focused on our own shortcomings because the human condition tends to create an artificial emphasis moreso on criticism over praise.
When I worked in radio we used to joke about negative phone calls. Jocks would disproportionally receive complaints about the playlist even when given ample opportunity to craft it themselves through requests. When they did receive compliments they were only occasional and even when passionate felt manipulative (as in do more of that or else I’ll complain). It is a natural occurrence in the human condition to complain even when getting what you want, and only thank when it’s convenient to our own advancement. As I worked my way through marketing and sociology courses I found this to be true even outside of music and the parallels work exceptionally well in how we treat one another as human beings based on our looks, particularly in relationships — overly critical on what we dislike visually and occasionally overly conducive to supporting what we think at the moment we like with compliments.
I’ll get into the gender influenced experience another time, but throughout the gender spectrum there’s opportunity to feel the pressure of physical conformity for perceived beauty, this post is moreso just to acknowledge how often it occurs, gender skews aside, and express my disdain for the practice overall.
Hopefully, I can help not only my little padawan understand how it is more important to view themselves and their fellow humans outside the context of physical manifestation but also influence the rest of the world around me to think more clearly about such an endeavor as the years go by and thus find the best parts of themselves to be who they are not what they think other people see. If nothing else, I want my little padawan to know they are loved no matter how they look and to take that sense of acceptance to every interaction they have with their fellow humans to look past the physical manifestation to the human beyond it — that of personality and intellect and passion and intent — and to judge based on a deeper, broader and more expansive understanding of the subtlties of what the human condition exists of.