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Fri Oct 31 11:13:02 SAST 2014

Beauty is in the eye of surgeon

Jackie May | 26 November, 2012 00:29
Jackie May. File photo.
Image by: Times LIVE / Times Media Group

According to a strange magazine I found at an event launch, there is a common understanding of what it is to be beautiful.

The magazine is full of adverts and articles on aesthetic medicine and anti-ageing science and images of arched, sperm-shaped eyebrows. There are explanations of treatments like Brazilian bum lifts and the miracle gas, Carboxy Therapy. If you want to lift a cheek, stop the inevitable sag, or lose the bulge, you will find all the guidance you need in A2 Magazine.

An article I read with equal doses of fascination and horror said: "Around the world, the women considered to be the most beautiful have heart-shaped faces with wide, high, cheekbones, a narrow jaw and large eyes framed by arched eyebrows."

Considered beautiful by whom? Apparently by the aesthetic and anti-ageing doctors attending The World Aesthetic Congress earlier this year.

But before you feel like I did when I opened the magazine, and want to slit your wrists at this depressing interest in fixing yourself, I came across US psychologist and author Vivian Diller's research. She describes the complicated experience of beauty rather than the perception of what beautiful is.

Diller conducted a survey asking participants: "What makes a woman really feel beautiful?" The top four reasons she found are confidence, flexibility, the ability to smile and a lack of self-criticism. Men who responded "almost never mentioned the kind of physical attributes typically associated with model-like looks - perfect, symmetrical features or thin, angular bodies". The question you have to ask is who wants the bodies A2 Magazine is promoting?

Diller's findings resonate with what fashion designer Marianne Fassler said in a recent interview. "There's that quote, 'anybody who tries to be beautiful is ugly'. The more you try to have the hair and make-up and the fashion, you turn into this ugly thing."

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