Women’s magazines have a tendency to piss me off. I’m fine with Allure because it lets me know what (ridiculously expensive) products are available for me to slather on myself and which lipstick will complete me. It’s all the others I detest. Why does so much rancor descend on me while waiting in line at CVS and idly looking at Cosmopolitan or Elle? Because they’re boring. Not what you thought, huh? You thought I was going to get on my high horse about the objectification of women and their willing participation, or some such bluestocking claptrap. Nope. Not here. I live in the real world and I know that if you look like shit, that’s exactly how you’re treated. Same thing for men. It’s just the way it is and will never change, period, the end.
Those magazines are boring because they all say the same thing. The big message is “pretty is in!” Every month, year in and year out, magazines blare their message that THIS season….wait for it….the breaking new trend is to be…..pretty! Surprise! No shit. That information gets me nowhere. What I, and women the world over, want to know is this: “How do I become pretty, and therefore more popular, successful, and happy?”
This question is coming up more and more for me as I get older. I care more because I’m not ready to be treated like shit. Correction, I’m not ready to be treated more shittily (yes, I made that word up) than I am now. I’m not going to lie. I’ve done things I never imagined I would do when I was in my 20s. I’ve had facials that include the use of a surgical scalpel to scrape off the first few layers of skin on my face. I tried Botox for the first time a few months ago. It worked but I couldn’t frown. I had no idea how much I frown until I couldn’t. Food for thought. Most embarrassingly, I’ve allowed a “technician” to zap my face with a laser, never really understanding what effect it was supposed to achieve. I couldn’t see any difference in my mug, so that was a few hundred dollars down the toilet.
The bad news is that while these non-invasive procedures work, (I’ll never have cosmetic surgery. Not on principle, but because I’m convinced I’m going to die under general anesthesia.) the effects are temporary and mildly noticeable at best.
Here’s the even worse news. According to a sadist by the name of Dr. Kendra Schmid, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, there is and was never anything you could do about being attractive and there never will be. Dr. Schmid contends that it’s basically all about bone structure. She has concluded that if you measure certain parts of your face and insert those measurements into infuriating complicated mathematical calculations, you’ll find out if you’re good looking enough to be allowed to live another day. In other words, you’ve got to be born with it and it’ll never “be Maybelline.” How did I get this information? I read it on a beauty site, but that’s not the point. The point is that Dr. Schmid The Sadist provided just enough information in that article I read to encourage me, and others like me, to do the math.
Of course I’m willing to try a little calculus to find out if I’m a babe! I’ll finally be able to stop asking my nearest and dearest what they really think of my looks and if I’m ravishing, cute, or “passable on a good day.” And my nearest and dearest can stop trying to avoid my calls and texts. Obviously, I had to do this.
Dr. Kendra’s beauty assessment system requires that you measure all your features, including your ears. And you have to measure the space between your features. Then you have to measure the depth of your features, and so on, and so on. Then you divide ear length by mouth width, divide that number by the diameter of your left nostril, multiply the whole mess by the space between the bottom of your nose and your upper lip, and then use the width of your eye to find the square root of the power of your chin to the third. Easy-peasy.
What’s not easy-peasy is taking all these measurements with one of those rigid tape-measures that handymen and contractors always leave behind after putting up a shelf and stuff like that. Despite best efforts, I couldn’t find a soft, tailor’s tape measure, a ruler, calipers, just the dirty, retractable tape-measure/ruler thing that I had stashed under my kitchen sink in the wake of my super’s last visit. No big deal, nothing was going to stop me from finding out if I’m hot or doomed to a life of spurnings and ridicule. I womaned up and used the shit out of that measuring-thingy.
My findings were inconclusive. Not surprising, given the limitations presented by my tool for the job, and that my command of quadratic equations is weak at best.
Even so, I didn’t come away from the experience empty-handed. Staring at my face for much longer than is considered healthy by the American Psychiatric Association brought up a few emotions and a lot of memories. Most notably, how much I genuinely cared if I was pretty or not when I was a teen and in my twenties. How much agony I went through, knowing that if I’d been just a little bit prettier, that guy in my law school class would definitely have fallen for me. How I decided in my thirties that I was hot, but only if I was rail-thin. These were not fond memories.
All that worrying, and for what? Nothing. It was agony for nothing, which I found out much later in life when a patient boyfriend fielded the “Am I pretty?” question by explaining that it wasn’t possible for him to answer because he takes stuff like my personality, my wit, my intelligence, my grace, my dorkitude, etc. into account and, as with all women, he sees me as a package deal. That sounded far too nice. And he didn’t answer the question. I called a bunch of my straight guy friends to subject them to similar interrogation. I asked them, “If you see a woman across a crowded room, what makes you think she’s pretty?” The answer was consistent. “Yeah, face counts but I’d have to watch her to see what she does and how she moves around first. If she smiles a lot.” I still wasn’t getting the answer I wanted. I pressed on. “If you went on a date with her, what would make you think she’s hot. That you’d totally want to do her?” Again, no joy in Mudville. “It’s just the worst when you’re on a date and she’s boring.” Back to personality, which was awful because it only confirmed my worst suspicion. It confirmed that I had misspent my youth bemoaning my not-blond hair, my not-statuesque physique, and my “maybe I should have had a nose job” nose. Of course those things mattered, let’s be real. But they were never, and still aren’t what make me, or any other human being attractive. There’s much more to it.
If you’re in your teens, twenties, or whatever age and worry about not being Claudia Schiffer, calm down. I have summed up, for your convenience, the answer to “What is true beauty?” Unlike the nefarious Dr. Schmid, I came up with my answer without the benefit of statistics, sadism, and ratios. Here it is:
Don’t be an asshole, smile more, and don’t forgo basic personal hygiene.
Anticlimactic? Perhaps. More effective than Cosmopolitan’s latest advice on how to make your boobs, hair, and skin absolutely radiant? Definitely.
Nota bene: Weirdly, Cosmo always seems to recommend getting either placenta or ejaculate on your face. It has something to do with stem cells and enzymes. And, that if you let a guy cum on your face, he’ll probably like you more. Hard to argue with that.