and I quote

august 2014

click for permalink August 26, 2014

So I did something weird this past month and by weird I mean plastic surgery, which is definitely out of the ordinary for me personally, not to mention kind of absurd and self-absorbed and impolitical and some other things I'll get to in a minute. But first, isn't it weird that beauty and averageness are thought of as essentially opposing concepts, and yet photographic morphing experiments dating all the way back to the dawn of photography have shown us that society's "ideal" is practically indistinguishable from its mathematical mean?

These collections of composites from various countries were circulated widely a while back, framed with predictable incredulity by SEO-generator headlines and shocked commentator reactions. Everyone agreed that any one of the scientifically averaged faces would be considered beautiful, or at the very least "above average," if it belonged to an actual person. Which kinda makes you wonder why we throw around a word like "average" when we clearly haven't the foggiest idea what it means.

Click to see full size.


So, according to Wikipedia:

"A strong indicator of physical beauty is averageness... When images of human faces are averaged together to form a composite image, they become progressively closer to the "ideal" image and are perceived as more attractive. This was first noticed in 1883, when Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, overlaid photographic composite images of the faces of vegetarians and criminals to see if there was a typical facial appearance for each. When doing this, he noticed that the composite images were more attractive compared to any of the individual images. Researchers [at the University of Glasgow recently] found that the computer generated, mathematical average of a series of faces is rated more favorably than individual faces. Evolutionarily, it makes logical sense that sexual creatures should be attracted to mates who possess predominantly common or average features."

Got that? The science behind the phenomenon, basically boils down to: "I know—weird, right??" But probably it's because evolution. Which is just another way of saying, it is the way it is because if it wasn't, we wouldn't be here to talk about it. (You'd be surprised how many scientific arguments boil down to this, in one way or another.)

Anyway, I've been thinking about that kind of thing while I recovered behind closed doors, a fiberglass cast and surgical tape and an absolutely stunning rainbow of bruises covering my face from eyebrow to jawline. It seems strange in retrospect but I didn't think about the outcome much at all during the week I spent navigating a narrow course between the pain, discomfort and all-around fucking weirdness of feeling one's dislocated facial bones, skin, nerves and cartilage (among the body's fastest-healing structures) kick into overdrive to repair themselves on the one hand, and the increasingly intolerable effects of the pain killers on the other. The fourth night I awoke in an absolute panic, feeling like my brain had done a reset to some primitive operating system and convinced I was burning with fever. Mr. Pink assured me I was not, and somehow managed to get me back to sleep. Upon waking hours later, I was happy to conclude that no foreseeable pain could justify a potential replay. So for the next two days Lost: Season One filled the void left by the medication and no pain was to be had. Just bruises and other minor annoyances like trying to wash my hair without getting my face wet and sleeping without lying down (the secret is a travel pillow). Then, well past when it would have been unbearable for any normal person to stay cooped up inside for 7 days when it's August out there, it was time to take the cast off.

I was talking with my mother on Skype at one point during the week, with the cast on and my face tattooed a shocking array of rainbow hues (it was also the first Skype call I've ever made without lipstick). We were commiserating over my bruises, inability to leave the apartment and the side effects of my pain killers and I was throwing praise Mr. Pink's way for taking care of me throughout the ordeal—i.e. He's been amazing, I don't know what I'd have done without him, etc.—as one does. My mother chimed in, raising her voice in case he missed the shift from mother-daughter chatting to "they're talking about me" mode, at which point he summed up the entire experience in a single sentence, as only a Scorpio could: "Well, I'm getting something out of it too, you know. At the end of the day, if I'm not mistaken, she will be just a little bit prettier."

And if you don't know why that is awesome, I'm tempted to just say never date a Scorpio and leave it at that.... But of course, being a Virgo, I can't possibly leave it at that.

So, first of all—bearing in mind this is strictly my interpretation and perspective—Scorpios aren't comfortable with staged moments of emotional expression. To them emotions like gratitude are something you express directly, in the moment, not some days later in front of an audience, for the benefit of others. Don't get me wrong, they appreciate the gratitude—and the audience—but they're not Leos or Geminis. They don't need it. If they've done something to earn your gratitude, they already know it (usually before you've expressed it) and depending on the health of your relationship, they may or may not even require your acknowledgement. Anything above and beyond that is a scene performed for someone else's benefit. The Scorpio may play along, but they'll let you know that they know that's what's going on. (Remember the last scene of the movie "LA Confidential" (spoiler alert)? The look that passes between Guy Pierce and Russell Crowe, who have just been through hell and barely escaped with their lives, having attained mutual understanding of their common enemy just in time to fight together against the evil and corrupt forces allied against them. One accepts the accolades and the other has the love of Kim Basinger, who they both acknowledge is the real prize. Their eyes meet in a moment of silent understanding and mutual respect that encompasses everything that's gone before; apologies, forgiveness, longing and regret for the friendship they'll never be able to enjoy, acceptance of the bittersweet victory and above all, gratitude. That's a perfect Scorpio moment. It's profound and complicated and raw and beautiful and the only people who need to, understand each other perfectly without saying a word.)

They (we're still talking about Scorpios here—and in case you're new, yes, that's just how it is here) also trust that you already know they think you're perfect just the way you are. If they somehow failed to convey that over the last, say, 16 years, or if you had somehow failed to grasp it, either due to crippling insecurity, poor language comprehension skills or pure simple-mindedness, the relationship could hardly have endured. Lastly, any Scorpio worth a damn can be relied on to point out the elephant in the room, the sacred cow, the taboo topic or transactional reality that no one else is acknowledging. In this case, the fact that it's plastic surgery we're talking about, after all. I haven't been recovering from childbirth or taking a bullet whilst carrying out a peacekeeping mission for the UN. Paying someone to break your nose and rearrange the support beams is an inherently ridiculous, frivolous, vain, silly, self-indulgent and downright bizarre thing to do. Plastic surgery in general is a socio-culturally fraught subject inextricably intertwined with issues of gender inequality, first world privilege, racial identity politics, the standards and definitions of beauty and of aging and all that entails, the intrinsic value of personal aesthetics and on and on and etcetera ad infinitum.

But we're all adults here, right? We can admit that in the end it's all just to be a little bit prettier.