Beautiful Isn’t Doing Us Any Favors

There was a post this week on Brain Pickings about how looking at beautiful women can make both men and women judge the attractiveness of non-gorgeous women more harshly. About how focusing on beautiful women, in essence, makes us all unhappier. (Beautiful men did not have that effect.)

Which made me wonder, in general, whether the focus on beauty in general does us no favors. Yes, beautiful things / people / landscapes / moments draw our attention. And, yes, they are a wonder.

But they are the peaks of existence. The freaks of nature. The fleeting moments of perfection.

Which throws everything else into contrast. Most of life is not a peak. It’s not remotely perfect.

So part of my wondering about “beautiful” is how always looking around for and exclaiming about the peaks / freaks / fleeting perfections makes it difficult to settle into all those other 99% of moments of life.

“Beautiful” also irritates me: it holds an exterior standard of attractiveness above all other valuations (like interesting, deep, healed, useful, touching, strong, tender). And the dominant culture is the one that gets to determine what’s beautiful, which is so limiting. And it’s addictive, as in, focusing on beauty over time requires even more intensely beautiful things / people / landscapes / moments to even register as beautiful.

Beautiful seems like it goes deeper than pretty, but is it merely “more intense prettiness”?

I love the beauty in a sunset, a smile, a child’s profile, a piece of furniture. But I’m left with a suspicion about beautiful — it’s nice, but I don’t think it helps us flourish, or helps us invest in the things that should be invested in, or helps us love people any better. So, for me, beautiful gets a shrug. It’s very nice. But so what?

* This is my participation in Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays.

** I know I’m not supposed to add anything after the 5 minutes, but I’ve been reading a bunch of other FMF posts, and that crystallized what I’m talking about here. I don’t want to redeem “beautiful” from the world, I don’t want to expand the definition to include imperfections. I mistrust it as an adjective. I want to use better words for how a thing/person/landscape/moment makes me feel.