I first saw her at a restaurant beside the school. It was about one PM. Ian–a co-boarder and a classmate–and I were having our lunch when she went inside. Forgive the cliche, but I thought I saw an angel. She was just so astonishingly beautiful that, for a while, my eyes were glued on her.
I have never seen such beauty, or to put it in another way, I’ve only seen Kate Winslet on television. But, boy, this girl’s real!!! Her eyes are like my eyes (as friends describe them) “solemn and beautifu”. And her nose! And lips–great God, she’s really an angel!
Numerous studies indicate that human beauty may not be simply in the eye of the beholder or an arbitrary cultural artifact. It may be an ancient, hardwired, universal, and potent behavior-driven, on a par with hunger or pain, wrought through eons of evolution that rewarded reproductive winners and killed off losers. If beauty is not truth, it maybe health and fertility: Halle Berry’s flawless skin may rivet moviegoers because, at some deep level, it persuades us that she is parasite-free and consequently good mating material. Acquired, individual preferences factor, but research increasingly indicates that their influence is much smaller than many of us would care to know.
I later found out that she works (in) a bookstore nearby. So, I visited that bookstore always…or, I visited that woman in the bookstore always.
Landmark studies show that attractive males and females not only garner more attention from the opposite sex, they also get more affection from their mothers, more money at work, more votes from the electorate, more leniency form judges, and are generally regarded as more kind, competent, healthy, confident, and intelligent than their big-nosed, weak-chinned counterparts.
She is in charge of the school supplies. So I drew near her and asked for a number of things inside the glass cabinet, when the truth is: I just wanted to be near her, smell her, hear her voice.
‘It turned out that the way an attractive female face differs from an average one is related to feminity,’ says psychologist David Perrett of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. ‘For example, female eyebrows are more arched than males’. Exaggerating that difference from the average increases femininity,’ and in tandem, the attractiveness rating.
I don’t know how she took my presence. But she made me feel as if the bookstore were my house and she my maid.
For psychologist Nancy Etcoff, (author of the 1999 book Survival of the Prettiest), ‘female makeup is all about exaggerating the feminine. Eye makeup makes the brow thinner. It makes it look farther from the eye’. Which, she says, is a classic difference between male and female faces. From high hair to collagen in lips to silicone in breasts, women instinctively exaggerate secondary female sex characteristics to increase their allure.’
I was convinced that to know her name was really a must. But, every time I bridge our distance, I seemed to be levitating…out of myself.
As a rule, I never did approach anyone, when I yet can’t figure (out) how I feel. In short, my heart never gave me the chance to at least introduce myself to that lady. Until…
‘Human beauty really has three components,’ says bio-psychologist Victor Johnston. ‘In order of importance, there’s natural selection, which leads to the average face and a limited age range. Then there’s sexual selection,’ which leads men, at least, to be attracted to exaggerated feminine traits like the small lower jaw and the fuller lips. ‘Finally, there’s learning. It’s a fine-tuning mechanism that allows you to become even more adopted to your environment and culture. It’s why one person can say, ‘She’s beautiful’ and another can say, ‘She’s not quite right for me.’
One night, together with my friend, I saw an angel together with her co-workers waiting for a ride. On the very jeepney they took, we rode as well.
One by one, along the way her colleagues went down. Until, we were the only passenger left.
Before she could even step down from the jeepney, a friend went down ahead of her. And on that most beautiful night, we exchanged names.
Female preferences in male faces oscillate in tandem with the menstrual cycle, suggests a study conducted by Perrett and Japanese researchers published last June (1999) in Nature. When a woman is ovulating, she tends to prefer men with more masculine features; at less fertile times in her monthly cycle, she favors male faces with a softer, more feminine look.
When I told my girl friend that I seem to be drowning in her beauty, and I would like to make her my wife, she laughed at me and said, “women at that age (she’s around twenty five years old) are looking for financial security. That’s why she’s working–but you? What are you, yet?”
Research indicates that, across the board in mating species, a non-good-looking guy can make up ground with status and/or wealth. Anthropologist John Marshall Townsend showed photos of beautiful and homely people to men and women, and described the people in the photos as being in training for either low-medium, or high-paying positions–waiter, teacher, or doctor. ‘Not surprisingly, women preferred the best looking man with the most money,’ Etcoff writes, ‘but below him, average-looking or even unattractive doctors received the same ratings as very attractive teachers. This was not true when men evaluated women. Unattractive women were not preferred, no matter what their status.’
Nevertheless, I went to talk to her often, and later I learned that about a month from now, her baby will turn one.
It’s all a bit bleak. Talk to enough psycho-biologists, and you get the impression that we are all rats–reflexively, unconsciously coupling according to obscure but immutable circuity. But beauty researchers agree, that along with natural selection and secual selection, learned behaviors are at least part of the attractiveness radar. In other words, there is room for individuality–perhaps even smattering of mystery–in this business of attraction between humans.
(Italicized portions are excerpts from Brad Lemley’s “Isn’t she Lovely?” Discover magazine, February 2000)
This article was first published in the Mediator, the official student publication of the College of Mass Communications, West Visayas State University, La Paz Iloilo City, August 2000 issue.