I hope I’m not alone in this, but the physical appearance of a person is something I don’t think I could ever really give up looking at. It’s wonderful thing! (Is this anthropological at all? I don’t know)
You could just take a really Sherlockian approach to it, by valuing a person’s appearance for all the things it could tell you, and all that you could deduce from it. Obviously, appearance isn’t limited to a snapshot, static image of them – it’s also their demeanour, the way they carry themselves, the way they speak to different people and their little habits and tics. It all tells you something if their past – both ancient and recent.
You could take a fashion approach to it, where you look at people’s outfits for inspiration – what combinations work and don’t work. You could take a behavioural approach and see how people perform the daily rites of etiquette, who does the spitting on the floor and who does the face-pulling.
In a sudden moment this afternoon, I found myself taking on a rose-tinted aesthetic approach. It was like a pair of lenses had been lowered onto the flat bridge of my nose all without warning: suddenly I found myself to appreciate everybody’s looks, of all shapes and sizes.
There was a young lady smoking outside my academic building earlier, who I would have previously seen as conventionally slightly on the big side, and her outfit was plain, leaning into sport casual – but then I saw how her slender legs came together with her backpack (the straps as short as they can go, so her back isn’t sacrificed for the sake of some arbitrary style trend). How her jacket, ending at her stocky waistline, really complemented her short, curly bob.
Then there was the girl I saw running across the road right as a car was about to proceed through the crossing. She had a long face, and everything about her was a bit too long – her jacket, the hem of her skirt, her arms, her hair (too long for a bob), her boots. But then the magical lenses fell from the skies yet again, and I saw how there was a certain beauty in that cohesion, and that her clear skin, bright red lips and dazzling smile (and sort of Trelawney-like earrings waving in the wind) was like the statement piece out of a pret-a-porter outfit.
What is deemed sexy, or beautiful? But more importantly, what are the rules that define this? How do these rules come into being? My little epiphany today made me aware that so much aesthetic meaning can be taken from the most ordinary and everyday of people, and experiences.
I may be alone in this viewpoint – but if I’m not, please let me know.
(Note on June 27th 2014: Just been reading through 1984 for the first time – yes, a bit of a late literature bloomer – but there’s a part where Julia and Winston are staring at the singing buff woman who hangs up the laundry, and he has the exact same thoughts as me in this post! One of his lines really stuck with me, something like “She has her own style of beautiful”. I’m not aloneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)