Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

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The oh-so-trendy interior of Gjelina (Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice Beach, California)

I met my cousins for lunch yesterday at a trendy – think communal tables and dishrags as napkins – restaurant in Venice Beach. As I was waiting for my habitually-late cousins, I couldn’t help but notice all the great-looking people roaming the street. Seriously, even the dogs in this neck of the woods were eccentrically beautiful. I’m well aware that LA, especially the westside, instills a sort of unavoidable superficial mentality among its inhabitants, but I’ve never really stood somewhere for long enough to really people watch. What makes a person attractive? Is there a common denominator among “really, really ridiculously good looking” people? Here is my stab at the science of attraction.

According to a 2009 study at Osaka University in Japan, researchers found that the most important factor for facial beauty was both symmetry and averageness. It is simply our natural instincts persuading our subconscious to choose a healthy and fit partner because that person will likely have “good genes” and parent a healthy, beautiful baby. Thus when we see an unusual face, we are programmed to regard him or her with being unhealthy which leads to the preference toward symmetrical, average faces. Survival of the fittest at its finest.

For better of for worse, there actually is a way to mathematically calculate the perfect facial structure. It is known as the golden ratio and was developed during the Renaissance (recall da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”). According to this mathematical formula so to speak, a beautiful person’s face is about 1.6 times longer than it is wide. Measurements of three facial segments – forehead hairline to the midline of the eyes, between the eyes to the bottom of the nose, bottom of the nose to bottom of the chin – should be identical. Eyes are just above the halfway point at the front of the head and should be 1/5 as wide as the face. Ears lay flat and extend from the middle line of the eye to the opening of the mouth. The bridge of the nose should be straight and not be too protruding or flat, face should generally be oval-shaped with smooth skin and visible cheekbones. You get the idea. According to Dr. Schmid, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical School, there has never been a living person analyzed to have perfect proportions, though Brad Pitt is very close at 93% proportional.

Women are typically attracted to males with relatively narrow waist, a V-shaped torso, broad shoulders, taller than they are, have high facial symmetry, and have masculine facial dimorphism. Men are typically attracted to women with clear smooth skin, full lips, clear eyes, feminine features, long hair, and bodily symmetry.

Now, you might think I’m crazy trying to use science to justify who we are attracted to. And you’re right, I probably am. But the truth is, our basic instincts are driven by our subconscious desire to procreate efficiently and advantageously. We want our good genes to be carried on, and we want our offspring to be healthy, strong, and appealing. This is just what we are programmed to do; Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest really just cannot be denied. That being said, humans are a complex species. We are the only animal that is smart enough to ask questions and seek answers about ourselves, and that alone adds a twist to the basic science of attractiveness. In our multi-faceted world, there are no scientific and mathematical boundaries to who we think is beautiful and who we choose to love. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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3 responses to “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

  1. Hey, I actually write a lot of articles about this, from the point of view of an aesthetic nurse. I was researching symmetry, and I found some interesting information about how it reflects our bone and muscle structure, and can make us more genetically fit.

  2. This is the first time I’ve looked into symmetry and it is very fascinating. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and I look forward to reading yours. Happy holidays!

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