WELL, I JUST READ Newsweek's comprehensive new cover story on "The Biology of Beauty" (June 3, 1996) and I'm feeling a little down. "Looking good," says Newsweek, "is a universal human obsession." That's not really news, I guess. But the article claims that people who are considered attractive get along much better with parents, teachers and friends, and make more money than people who are not so attractive.
The claim is that we are not only enmeshed in a beauty-oriented culture, but all people everywhere share the same sense of what is attractive - regardless of race, class or age.I gazed at Newsweek's picture of the symmetrically perfect Denzel Washington, an actor whose facial features on the right side exactly match his facial features on the left side.
Then I looked at the likeness of Lyle Lovett, the country musician we all thought was pretty cool when he married Julia Roberts. His left side and his right side are a terrible mismatch. Which certainly explains why his marriage to Roberts deteriorated so quickly.
The article goes on to say that people whose features are perfectly symmetrical are attracted to other perfectly symmetrical people.
So I looked in the mirror and noticed that my smile is off-center, my nose is crooked, one of my eyes is more narrow than the other and my hair loss from one side is uneven as compared to the other side. For no apparent reason, I even tip my head to the right side.
However, there is one thing in my favor. Both my ears are uniformly small, they closely resemble each other and they lie back nicely against my head. The article says nothing about ears, but isn't it true that huge floppy ears on a man are a gigantic turn-off to a woman?
I don't know for sure, but I've heard that's true. On the other hand, I've never read anywhere that tiny, pasted-back ears are insanely attractive to women.
But back to Newsweek.
The other thing that really gets me is the claim that symmetrically attractive men who are universally attractive to women are above average in height, are muscular and athletic, and have prominent cheekbones, broad foreheads, large jaws and strong chins. Equally attractive women have large eyes, small noses, full lips, delicate jaws and small chins.
Great-looking men have a waist-hip ratio of .9, meaning the waist measurement is 90 percent of the hip measurement, and great-looking women have a waist-hip ratio of .7, meaning the waist is 70 percent of the hips. Now get this - all great-looking men and women in all ages of history have had those ratios!
I'm strictly average in height, have a forehead that stretches clear to the back of my head, and sport a weak jaw and chin. I have no idea what my waist-hip ratio is, but I'd rather not know.
A symmetrical disaster, I'm comforted only by the assertion that extremely symmetrical men are less attentive to their partners and more likely to cheat on them - while women show no such tendency. OK, I'd like to suggest right here that for all women who are mesmerized by symmetry, that assertion should be a really big red flag.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be a sore loser. It's just that the study seems to me flawed.
In spite of my own personal lack of symmetry, I'm fortunate enough to be married to a perfectly symmetrical woman whose features are entirely classical. Now, as long as she continues to think she can live with a non-symmetrical husband, my marriage throws the proverbial wrench into the "Biology of Beauty" theory.
That means that the people at Newsweek, bless their symmetrical hearts, are symmetrically wrong.