Beauty vs Attractiveness

Published July 1, 1982. A woman stopped me the other day and said, “It is good to know you are better-looking in person than you are in your picture by your Deseret News column.”

Up until now I have thought my Deseret News picture was adequate. Not flattering and not too revealing. Perhaps I am too much like other Americans. We currently are preoccupied with our physical appearance.

The story is told of a man who had a wooden eye. He went to a party one night and wanted to dance. But he was too self-conscious about his appearance.

If he were to ask a woman to dance, he thought, she would probably say something about his wooden eye.

But still, he wanted to dance.  Then he saw a woman with rather large ears.

“I’ll go ask her to dance with me,” he said to himself, “and if she says anything about my wooden eye then I will simply remind her of her large ears.”

So, the man walked up to the woman and said, “Would you like to dance with me?”

The woman jumped up off her chair and exclaimed “Would I!”

With that the man stepped back and yelled “Big ears! Big ears! Big ears!”

Maybe we don’t have a wooden eye or large ears, but almost everyone seems to be discontent with some aspect of his or her physical body. We are either too short or too tall. Too thin or too fat. Too much or too little hair which is too straight, too curly, or too grey.

Our eyes are either the wrong color or not in the right position. And our nose is somehow out of proportion. In essence, we don’t feel we are among the beautiful people of our country.

But we Americans may also have purchased a bill of goods we neither want nor need. Exactly who are the beautiful people anyway? What are we trying to become?

Usually the supposedly beautiful people portrayed on television, in movies, or on the covers of magazines are mostly young, extremely beautiful, and very slim. Television advertisements for diet drinks are notorious for depicting such people.

And problems frequently arise in marriages when we try to be like these beautiful people or want our spouse to be like the ones we constantly see on the mass media.

The reality is that less than 10 percent of the population is actually beautiful by Madison Avenue standards or by those of television advertisers and fashion magazines. And yet the other 90 percent of us are spending great effort and millions, perhaps billions, of dollars each year to try and be beautiful by the standards of others.

And the price for many who want such beauty is often extremely high. Many try to be young, beautiful, and slim, but in the process, they end up being preoccupied, miserable, and usually unbearable to live with.

If we do equate beauty with youth, as many do, we fight a losing battle, advertising to the contrary. Everyone ages. “Beauty,” said T. Adams, “is like an almanac, if it lasts a year, it is well.”

Not everyone is beautiful by advertising standards. But everyone is or can be attractive. And being attractive is not contingent on age.

Jane Porter wrote, “Beauty of form affects the mind, but then it must not be the mere shell that we admire, but the thought that this shell is only the beautiful case adjusted to the shape and value of a still more beautiful pear within. The perfection of outward loveliness is the soul shining through the crystalline covering.”

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