One of my guy friends in high school once developed a serious crush on a girl. I was puzzled about his fascination, because while I liked the girl in question, my eyes failed to behold the beauty that he had decided was there in volumes.
So, I asked him about it. Without hesitation but with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “I love women with crooked teeth.”
This is a view in vivid contrast to a world where Photoshopped models and oiled bodies have created certain standards of beauty that are completely unrealistic, creating ludicrous expectations that lead to low self-esteem and all the neuroses associated with self-hatred. Hawthorne warned us about this in his story, “The Birthmark,” in which a man finds a woman who is as close to perfection as she can get except for a birthmark that he considers her only flaw. The man comes up with a method for removing the unsightly birthmark and is able to behold his image of perfection a few precious seconds . . . before the woman dies.
Way to go, asshole.
I don’t know what is behind this quest for perfection in the human body, but it is one of the most ridiculous journeys humanity has ever taken. Trying to look your best for your honey is a nice thing to do (after all, they have to look at you all day), but trying to make yourself look like whatever empty-headed model or hot actor happens to be in vogue in order to attract someone misses the point of an intimate relationship. The point of an intimate relationship is to find someone who loves you for who you are, flaws and all.
The question of who defines perfection must also be considered. Different cultures have different perceptions of beauty. The dynamics of body-type attraction tell us that a person tends to pay more attention to certain body types while others fail to register. This creates a situation where anyone’s definition of beauty is going to be a product of cultural and personal biases.
Frankly, my heterosexual tastes lean strongly in the direction of imperfection. When I’ve met women with perfect teeth and botoxed skin I feel a little frightened, like I’m looking at Data right before something has gone wacko in his core processor and he’s about to take over the Enterprise. I don’t care if a woman is plump or skinny; tall or short; blotchy, dark or fair; nearsighted or birthmarked. What I care about is whether or not we can trust each other enough to share our vulnerabilities, physical and emotional.
Once I dated a girl who had everything wrong with her. Poor eyesight. Osgood-Slaughter disease. A form of epilepsy that made her sleep for days. And to top it all off, whenever I came over to pick her up for a date, her father would always be sitting in a big black leather chair reading the biggest Bible I have ever seen.
We spent most of our dating life fucking each other’s brains out. Damn, she was good.
And guess what happened? She dumped me. I remember being blown away by it all and, in a moment of rare vulnerability with one of my buddies, I blurted out why I was so very, very upset.
“She was perfect.”
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