Offbeat 21 October 2016

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of us all? Botox? Check. Foundation? Check. Eye shadow? Check. Pouty lipstick? Check. Hours at the hairdresser? Check. And then the mirror still gets it wrong. It’s like that other little death trap for hapless males. “Do you notice anything different?”
Of course once it gets to the point, where where the male has been so unobservant that the question has to be asked, then the trouble has already arrived. It’s not good enough. The makeover hasn’t worked. The guy is being inattentive. Verbal violence is making its way up the garden path with a malevolent grin on its face. Cups and ornaments are flexing their wings for the kamikaze flights that lie ahead.
Aunty Offbeat has some special advice for those who feel in need of a makeover. If you need to impress, it’s a woman’s thing, best saved for polite compliments, or even shrieks of excitement from BFFs.
As far as guys are concerned, nine times out of ten, they define beauty by the honesty of a smile. Their heads just aren’t wired to take in the subtle differences that highlights bring to the mirror. The best bet is to walk in, point to the bit that has been made over and say, “Hey, look at this.” If possible, also explain it in depth.
Now here’s an important caveat. Anyone who fixates on your appearance probably isn’t going to look much deeper.
Mirrors and cameras are interesting places. They show people what they look like, almost exactly. That has consequences. People can hate the way they look, be indifferent to it or feel euphoric. I’m not particularly interested or indifference or self-satisfied preening. The thing that interests me is the people who are unhappy with their appearances.
Some people look in mirrors and see things that just aren’t there. They look into the LCD displays of digital cameras, shake their heads and shudder, making you feel like a completely useless photographer, and the penny only drops when you have gone through the process fifteen times and are ready to lose it entirely.
It gets interesting when you put to the test two people with similar appearances but different outlooks on life. Both of them might not in any way resemble Barbie or Ken. They might even both resemble Little Lotta or Charles Bronson. Yet the approach of the subject to the camera can be as different as chalk and cheese. One might ham it up, engage the camera in a conversation involving smiles and waves. The other might shy away from it completely, as if it were a cobra rearing to strike. Although the two might be spitting images of one another, they will appear very differently in the image. The friendly one will look attractive and likable. The introvert will appear to be surly and unattractive.
That is proof enough, at least for me, to be able to say that appearance is far more than the sum of the makeover or the minor depth of the skin. It has to come from within.
The one who hates the camera has a problem. It probably comes from abuse as a child, being told to be thinner, dress better or look different. It’s the sort of abuse that is passed down by people who have the same sort of backgrounds, who can never be satisfied with their own appearances. It could also be commoditization of looks to achieve goals: be popular or find a better mate for instance. The results can range from obsessive interest in makeup kits to bulimia and anorexia. Either way, passing that poisonous gift on to someone else is unwelcome.
If beauty is the object of the exercise then the whole trick lies in ‘the eye of the beholder’. If the mirror gives the wrong answer, find a different mirror that shows something else.
The Barbie doll, and its implications for personal appearance, has been studied and discussed in depth. Why has nobody ever questioned the idea of even considering a plastic toy for prepubescent girls as important? It seems insane.
There are thousands of things that can make someone attractive. The facets of appearance are just a few of them.

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