Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Monday, September 6, 2021

Nose knowest

I guess the impetus for this blogpost started about three months ago. I was at an eating establishment that I frequent on occasion and the masked woman behind the counter had visible bandages covering her nose.

I have never had particularly warm relations with this person and I should have known that it was none of my business. But for some reason I asked her what was going on and she told me that she had just undergone sinus surgery. 

It just so happens that that is one of the myriad of surgeries that I have had and I talked about my experience for a moment with little to no response from the girl.

A few weeks later I saw the woman again, with an entirely new nose and realized that she had not been honest with me, not that she had any duty to be, mind you. She had obviously had a rhinoplasty. I do have a little innate counter located somewhere in my brain that marks down when a person lies to me and it has quite a long memory, but hey, it was none of my business in the first place.

In any case, no big, she didn't like her nose, she got one that she liked, great. Funny thing is, the next week another girl who works at the same place also got a new nose, looked like a completely different lady. I did a double take, wondered momentarily what was in the water? Who was next? But their choice. It is amazing how a different nose can make one look like an entirely different person and even suggest a new and distinct personality.

taxonomy of noses
The point of my blog today is that it is apparent to me that many people either dislike or outright hate their bodies. 

And unscientific as it might be for me to say, I believe that the problem is far worse with women than men. 

People in general, do not seem to be real comfortable in their skins. And I don't think it is very healthy to engage in this sort of self loathing.

There is a word or phrase that describes the syndrome of hating your body or a specific part of your body, Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder. It is listed under the category of  "Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders." 

And it can be quite debilitating, one of the worst obsessive maladies, according to experts.

Now I am neither a psychologist, social scientist or cultural anthropologist but I have my guesses as to why the problem seems to be worse for the distaff side.

Biologically, in hominids anyway, women often have to use their looks and beauty as a form of currency. Men on the other hand, can be homely and unattractive as hell and yet will have no problem securing a mate if they are smart, rich and powerful. Think no further than Greenspan or Kissinger.

I believe that I have read evolutionary biologists attribute this to the innate drive for a female to find a partner that will provide a secure financial nest for her offspring. Perhaps it has to do with males historically being the dominant breadwinner. Huge survey difference by gender on the issue of physical versus emotional infidelity too, but that is a different story for another day.

In any case, when I am stopped at a traffic light and look in my rearview mirror at the passenger in the car behind me, about ninety percent of the time it is a woman who is making sure that everything looks copacetic in the mirror. Guys don't really seem to give much of a damn. But women feel the need to remain presentable and they are far more frequent mirror checkers.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and we have a new wave of peacocks and metrosexual men who are getting more and more work, I get that. But by and large, I think men feel more comfortable in their bodies and less focussed on their physical image. 

I know that as homely and misshapen as mine is, I have gotten pretty used to it. I have a hump on my left side where a surgeon botched and cut a nerve and my stomach spilled out forever like the canal accident that caused the creation of the Salton Sea.

I have numerous zipper scars and a couple drain holes still visible as surgery souvenirs. I am overweight and will never be characterized as overly handsome. I don't really like the sound of my recorded voice or the shape of the back of my head. 

But I don't really give a shit because I have inhabited this earthly vessel for sixty three years and well, it just feels like home at this point. If you want to hide the children when you see me at the swimming pool, that is on you.

I started looking into how people feel about their bodies yesterday. I found this fairly recent survey from Ipsos, Most Americans Experience Feeling Dissatisfied with How Their Body Looks from Time to Time, Including Nearly Two in Five Who Feel This.
Most Americans report feeling unhappy with how their body looks at times (79% vs. 21% never, I am always satisfied with how my body looks), with dissatisfaction most prevalent when looking in the mirror (37%), when at the beach in a bathing suit (32%), or when shopping for clothes (31%).

Those most likely to report being dissatisfied with how their bodies look include women (83% vs. 74% of men), younger adults (86% of those ages 18-34 vs. 75% of those 55+), and those with a college degree (82% vs. 75% of those with no college degree).

For women in particular, being at the beach in their bathing suit (38% vs. 26% of men), shopping for clothes (44% vs. 17%), and trying on old clothes they haven’t worn in a while (35% vs. 19%) are especially likely to trigger negative thoughts about their body image compared to men who say the same.
It appears we are actually more charitable when it comes to the body type of our mates.
Americans are not as critical when thinking about their current/potential significant other’s body, with two in five (41%) saying that they would not want their partner to take any action because they like them the way they are, and another 8% saying they would not want their partner to change anything as a perfect body will never be within their reach.
I think it is terrible that so many people are unhappy with their looks. And I think the drive for perfect anglophile noses is also sad and rooted in deep seated unconscious racism and self loathing. 

I know from my own mother's experience that there was a huge pressure for first generation offspring of immigrants to fit in and conform with the "americanized" mainstream.

Having said that, I still think that ethnic noses are beautiful, losing hers certainly didn't help Jennifer Grey's career. Everybody makes their own choices, of course. I think a strong Italian or Jewish proboscis shows character and strength, as well as beauty. As does a Scandinavian ski slope, which tend to be far more in vogue of late.

"Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder." Aldous Huxley
According to an even more dated survey of 2500 people from Allure Magazine, the fixation on body image in our society is even getting worse:
In an Allure survey conducted in 2010, 35 percent of people said they felt their appearance defined their identity. In 2015, that number jumped to 50 percent. So it makes sense that almost two thirds of people now said they work hard on their appearance.

Home in closer on this theme and here's what you find: 61 percent of men and women think their lives would be better if they were more attractive, 64 percent of people said their appearance has helped them get assistance from a stranger, and 62 percent said it has gotten them better service in a store. Almost half of the people we polled even believe that being better-looking would help them get a promotion. And to those 47 percent, we say: Huh? Are you guys all models?
I took the body dysmorphia survey from the BDDF.  I didn't score too high. I guess my looks and appearance don't stress me out too much, as hideous as they might be.

I have ranted on this subject long enough but want to close with just a few more thoughts. Somebody, out there, thinks you are absolutely beautiful, just how you are. I guarantee it. Metrics about what constitute true beauty are constantly shifting but real beauty comes from within. Honestly, I think that you are beautiful.

Love yourself, every wart, wrinkle, defect, every extra pound, because you are deserving of love and have nothing to prove to anyone. Be happy in your vessel.  Nobody is perfect. Physical beauty is good but overrated in a way. Quite fleeting, in the great scheme of things. You better have something else in your quiver too and not rely on the beauty card totally or the end results can be very sad.

Speaking of perfect, I have known a few guys in my life who were incredibly handsome, two are coming straight to mind. When I was single these guys could score at will at the bar, it took some of us a lot more work. Absolute magnets, they must have radiated pheromones.

Mark ended up killing himself, all of his good looks could not mask his internal unhappiness. I once was sharing a hotel with J--- and he didn't show up for an hour after we checked in. He had met a woman in the elevator and they went and had a go in her room on his way up from the lobby.

He was ho hum and matter of fact when he finally arrived at our room and explained his hourly absence. I was amazed and a little jealous. I never had women coming on like that and for him it was as ordinary as a manicure. Guy ended up with addiction issues but has now thankfully straightened out his life. I would not have traded places with either friend on retrospect, not that we ever get the actual chance.

I end with a brief dabble into ancient Chinese philosophy that discusses the beauty of form. The 22nd hexagram in the Chinese Book of Wisdom, the I Ching, is titled Grace or Beauty.


        GRACE has success.
        In small matters
        It is favorable to undertake something.

Grace brings success. However, it is not the essential or fundamental thing; it 
is only the ornament and therefore be used sparingly and only in little things. 
In the lower trigram of fire a yielding line comes between two strong lines 
and makes them beautiful, but the strong lines are the essential content and 
the weak line is the beautifying form. In the upper trigram of the mountain, 
the strong line takes the lead, so that here again the strong element must be 
regarded as the decisive factor. In nature we see in the sky the strong light of 
the sun; the life of the world depends on it. But this strong, essential thing is 
changed and given pleasing variety by the moon and the stars. In human 
affairs, aesthetic form comes into being when traditions exist that, strong and 
abiding like mountains, are made pleasing by a lucid beauty. By 
contemplating the forms existing in the heavens we come to understand time 
and its changing demands. Through contemplation of the forms existing in 
human society it becomes possible to shape the world.

        THE IMAGE

        Fire at the foot of the mountain:
        The image of GRACE.
        Thus does the superior man proceed 
        When clearing up current affairs.
        But he dare not decide controversial issues in this way.

The fire, whose light illuminates the mountain and makes it pleasing, does 
not shine far; in the same way, beautiful form suffices to brighten and to 
throw light upon matters of lesser moment, but important questions cannot 
be decided in this way. They require greater earnestness.

Grace and beauty of form are clearly shown here to be subordinate to other concerns and should not be relied on. The sages offered a cautionary tale when discussing this phenomenon. From the Wilhelm translation:

This hexagram shows tranquil beauty - clarity within, quiet without... In this aspect the world is beautiful and removed from the struggle for existence. This is the world of art...all beauty of form will appear to be only a brief moment of exaltation. Hence this is still not the true way of redemption. For this reason Confucius felt very uncomfortable when once, on consulting the oracle, he obtained the hexagram of grace.

Be beautiful, it works inside out.


Stutzy said...

I’m Gonna punch you back hard and close- right in the belly on this one. Not everybody can don a Hawaiian print shirt from Steinmart and blithely chant some ancient Chinese stuff about how we should all be happy with ourselves. Inner grace is nowhere to be found these days. You are out of touch with what a struggle it is for people trying to establish a sense of self in today’s mediated, filtered, soulless, and yes graceless world. These young women are using the tools available to them-not much different than makeup, sharp suits, and yes- male pot bellies-because that is a symbol of excess, status, and self image as well.

Blue Heron said...

Steinmart? Give me a little more credit than that, I mostly buy my Hawaiian shirts at the swap meet. Never thought I was trying to venerate buddha with my pot belly but hey, you might be on to something.

Anonymous said...

I just hit you hard-and not below the belt.
I hope you publish what I wrote.
I’m counting on your thick skin and sense of humor. But That post was one of your least empathetic-very graceless.

Blue Heron said...

I published it immediately and completely disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

That would be a surprise.

It seems to me you aren’t you aren’t much different than the Texas legislature telling women what to do with their bodies.
As a man -It’s none of your business.


Blue Heron said...

My point is that self acceptance and self love might prove more beneficial to all of us than chasing illusory standards of beauty.

Ralph Chaney said...

This phrase stuck out nicely for me... I love the yin-yang of it.

"I was at an eating establishment **that I frequent on occasion** and the masked woman behind the counter had visible bandages covering her nose."

KAT JOY said...

The combination of the curl in your hair, discerning yet soft expressions, and quick comedic wit put you far above a "homely" category and closer to the "darling" of my just imagined attractiveness scale.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you've written here. I have to say you've had more than your share of body problems, surgeries, etc, I hope that gives you a rest for a while. As a woman I was never particularly upset about my looks after adolescence, but then I looked pretty good, a bit taller, a bit thinner, a bit blonder than average. But even after gaining weight and losing those assets, I still feel ok about my aged fat body. It's working pretty well for me. I went through the feminist movement in the 70s and realized that my body was for me to walk around in, not to please somebody else and I look at others that way too. BTW, my favorite men always had big noses, they seem very masculine to me, even though my father didn't have one. ~ Diane O

The Phantom Knows said...

Why Robert, you ignorant slut. Didn’t you know all along that your belly posturing and wicked sense of humor is mansplaining to a whole generation lost in space. You need to understanding the utter un-wokeness of your commentary and get in touch with your feminine self.
By the way, nice shirt… does it come in men’s colors?

Liz said...

Part of it is how we were raised. I remember when we moved to Syosset that I had to have surgery on my nose. I had two emergency room visits on the ride up because of my faulty eustacian tubes. I begged mom for a much needed noe job as long as I was getting the surgery. She refused to let the doctor do it because she thought it was a terrible thing to do. Amazing when you realize how vain mom was.

We also had a gorgeous sister, and we knew we would never look that good.

Ken Seals said...

It's a real shame that most people have no idea that almost EVERYTHING can be fixed in the latest versions of Photoshop!

Warren Bishop said...

Robert quite an article and notwithstanding the "piranhas a syllabus worthy of any school.
Self image started the instant we came down from the tree and raised our noses from the ground.
Up to that historic flash point a quick "whiff" once a month and you either had a dance partner or sat it out.
Then evolution blessed females with that sex could be provided on demand to literally swap for food and security. This in step with the first prenuptial.
Hollywood then rendered the magnificent Tarzan swinging from vine
to vine uttering his mating call to Fuck the salacious Jane who balanced the equation of what Robert touched on "No Body no Fuck"
However in 1955 director Delbert Mann "Shazam" the
killer of Frank Sinatra
Ernest Borgnine became "Marty" an ugly,fat and awkward Italian butcher dominated by his mother
meets "ugly,fat and
awkward Betsy Blair.
The two seemingly impossibly connect connect and "blow up the tote board!!
Thus look if we dig deep enough keep in mind...
"Statistics line and liars give us statistics...