Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Notes on Looking Good, part 3

Part 2.

In part 1, I discussed how genes, fitness, lifestyle and affluence all have a bearing on one's appearance.  In part 2 I ruminated over the psychology of wanting to look good.

In this part, I want to talk about expressions and grace.  Much of how one carries oneself is a part of one's upbringing, as well as the people and situations one comes across.

That said, one's mood and personality are also reflected to a great extent in one's gestures and mannerisms.  To some extent at least, one's mood and personality is a matter of choice.  Even if it turns out that one has less choice in the matter than one believed, it doesn't hurt to try!

In a manual of grooming (I forget the exact name of the book), it was mentioned that a lady should appear beautiful even when upset.  That she should appear more sad than angry.  That sadness will invite affection, while anger will invite approbation.  Wise words indeed!  Hostility in another person (towards oneself, especially!) is never attractive.  On the other hand, even little children love smiling faces.

The face is what we are mostly remembered by.  Face is through which we express our mood the most.  And the face justly receives the most attention in human interaction.  Hence, facial mannerisms are perhaps the most important in the consideration of one's beauty.

How one smirks or smiles (whether it shows sarcasm or delight), what kind of a serious face one has (whether it shows boredom, indifference or concern), how one raises and lowers one's eyebrows, how much one opens one's mouth while talking/eating/laughing, how one tilts one's head, how one yawns or sneezes, how one speaks or listens, ...

While these might be considered habits, there is perhaps a deeper aspect of one's face through which an attitude of depression or cheerfulness might convey itself.  The "aliveness" of a face or the "twinkle" in one's eyes or the "warmth" of one's gaze is very hard to fake.  Some faces convey serenity, some convey restlessness.  Some faces seem trustworthy, some seem sociopathic.  Some convey a softness of spirit, some a readiness to be cynical.

In conversations, it is easy to observe the restlessness of someone's facial muscles when they want to get their word in, and are no longer listening to what is being said.

Do these facial modes of expression make one look good or bad?  I think we can all agree that a short temper, or a bitter person, or a jaded/cynical person, is less inviting and attractive than a forgiving, sweet and a childlike/innocent person.  And we all judge faces and their expressions to see what that personality contains.  To that extent, it helps to have a cheerful disposition and to think optimistically and liberally.

Stress can tighten the facial muscles and make one look "high-strung".  Over time, stress can age a face and make it look tense or haggard.  A bit of quietness or meditation, in the morning and before going to bed, can calm the nerves and relax the facial muscles.  It is perhaps a better and more inexpensive way to keep one's face young than to purchase an expensive age-defying serum!

Beyond the face, the bodily postures and acts can be judged to be attractive or not.  The way one uses one's limbs, sits, walks, lies down, eats, are all factors in one's evaluation as a beautiful or as an ugly person.  Models are taught how to walk on the aisle, air hostesses are trained how they move about and serve, waiters at expensive restaurants are generally graceful and unobtrusive.  Some are trained, some are hired because they are already graceful.

Is bodily movement a cultivable beauty?  It is certainly cultivable in the early years, but beyond the age of thirty, one is generally set in one's ways.  Teenage is the ideal time to learn how to act gracefully.  And children and teens learn the most from seeing how adults act. Standing tall or sitting straight or laughing softly are "skills" that will make one more attractive throughout one's life.

It is never too late, though.  I was in my twenties when I learnt (almost accidentally, by watching another man) that I should gently shield my mouth with a palm while eating and speaking at the same time.  I hadn't seen anybody else do it till then.  So I do believe that one can always learn to become better.  Sneezing or yawning or burping only after turning away from other people is not hard to cultivate at any age.

There is a risk though.  Some of these habits might be considered elitist and uppity.  Crassness and breaking "taboos" is the very stuff adolescence is made of.  And a graceful adolescent might be seen as pretentious and acting "holier than thou".  But then, one has to choose which judgments one takes to heart.

(to be continued)

No comments: