Wednesday, February 9

The Blind Eye Of The Beholder

People are constantly telling me how there is no such thing as "an ugly person"[1]. I can't deny that we each have our individual tastes, and where I consider Katie to be buff in a can, the next man on the street may not.

But we've all met people we wouldn't consider beautiful. Whether they're the secretary of your Sixth Form many many years ago (and I know that there are some people here for whom that's the case), someone you passed on the street or some guy you were reading about in the paper this morning, I'd say you'd either be lying or a total recluse if you denied this fact.

It follows that there are people who no one would consider beautiful. So at the very least we can establish that, personality aside, there are ugly people out there. What I want to talk about today is how some people claim that this quality can change depending on who's doing the looking.

The argument goes something like this: "It's what's inside that counts. Once you know what the person is really like, they'll appear beautiful to you". Surprisingly, proponents of this "Eye of the Beholder" theory reckon that exhibiting this behavior makes them noble and decent. I disagree: I think it makes them shallow.

Yeh, it's a wild claim, but you should all be used to that by now. Firstly it's pretty clear that the appearance of the subject in question hasn't changed (and we're assuming there's been no plastic surgery or any other major physical alteration here). If you've found someone suddenly physically appealing whom you didn't before, then obviously it's your perception of them that has changed, not their appearance.

Everyone seems to agree on this point. "Ain't nothing wrong with that" they say. "People grow on you, and besides it's ok to find someone physically as well as personality-wise attractive". And I'd agree - of course it is. But then I'd ask: "Would you still be with this person if you didn't find them physically attractive anymore?". Now some find that a bizarre question to be asked, but it isn't really once we recall that before they knew this particular person, they thought that they were exactly that.

Still following? Ok, let's now consider a person who is in love with another's personality but is still able to describe them as ugly (and believe me there are people like this out there). These are the people for whom their partner's insides override anything they may (personally and subjectively) think of their partner's physical appearance. These are the people for whom looks truly don't matter. These people are not shallow with respect to physical appearance.

Perhaps I'm not taking the phrase as literally as I should be. Perhaps all it actually means is that we all have different tastes? But then why does this Beholder person need convincing or assurances (even if it's themselves they're trying to convince) that the person they love are physically beautiful? Why do they feel that they have to find the people they love beautiful, when they didn't before?

It's because they're shallow, I'm afraid. At the end of the day they'd never be able to live with someone they considered ugly and so on some level they have to convince themselves that they aren't, even if they vehemently did so before.

We wouldn't call a dim person clever just because we have the hots for them. Or a poor person rich. Or a fat person thin. Sure these qualities may be more objective than physical looks (although that's arguable in itself), but as we established above it's the perceptions that change, not actual physical appearances. An ugly person may be the sweetest person alive, but they'd still be ugly.

Oh and please don't get me wrong. I'd be the last person to claim that I wasn't shallow. Like yeh, right. But what I am is honest enough not to lie to myself like a Beholder would.

EDIT: Zahera's second comment (fourth in total) does a good job of explaining quite concisely what I was trying to say above. It may be worth checking out.

[1] For the sake of this post let's assume ugly is synonymous with "not beautiful". It's easier to type.