Looking for Physical Beauty in Life Partners
What the Ancient Greeks believed about beauty.
When studying the idea of beauty, or physical beauty, you cannot help but go back to the definition that artists study developed by the Ancient Greeks. These are the very rules and findings that the Renaissance artists used in their paintings of perfect beauty. The Ancient Greeks believed that not only should one strive for outer beauty (taking care of the gift of your physical body), but inner beauty (interiority), such as personality and kindness, and also develop higher knowledge. This is all in theory, of course.
The Greeks believed that character and feelings naturally involved the whole person and the body manifested all parts in exterior bodily signs and could be 'read' by the 'sensitive' observer. In art, a sober facial expression encouraged the artist and viewer to project one's own ideas and feelings onto their image, to participate imaginatively in its life, and thus both to enter its world and adopt some of its attributes.
You can tell by posture and gesture what's inside.
Along with a telling posture or gesture selected from the natural repertoire, a raised or lowered head, a slight contraction of lip or brow, and/or a level gaze or downcast eye, it could convincingly convey a sense of interiority. By indicating the presence of a thinking, feeling human being, a person with soul, it could excite the viewer's empathy, hostility, or awe.
“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.”
— Paul Klee
Not always what they appear to be.
I admit that I looked on potential partners when I was young, by noticing favorable physical traits in face and form. But as I got older I noticed something disturbing. To steal (or morph) a quote from Forrest Gump, "Beauty is as beauty does." I remember one day, seeing a woman in a waiting room who was so beautiful to look at, it hurt. Yet then, she opened her mouth and began speaking in the most disgusting profane language I had ever heard, and just that quick, she wasn't even pretty anymore. Her inside came outside and showed exactly what she was made of; and it was not sugar and spice, and anything nice.
“How beautiful an old woman’s skin is! All those wrinkles!”— Thomas Eakins
My first husband
My first husband was very nice to look at, charming when he wanted to be, even charismatic, not overly tall but not short either. However, he was a monster. He beat me for 4 years, 2 months and 28 days till I ran away. I do not see him as "beautiful" anymore, though his looks haven't changed much. The divorce was a nightmare and this beautiful man threatened my life many times, explaining that he would gladly hunt me down and carve me into so many pieces, they would never be able to find me… if only he could do so without being the first suspect rounded up by the police. I believe him. His voice has become something odious to me and even causes uncontrollable shaking even at the mention of his name.
What are you looking for in a lifelong companion?
My second husband
Seven years later I met and married again. My second husband isn't all that great looking; he is rather short and was very slim (skinny even) back then. He wouldn't be what Polykleitos (the writer on Ancient Greek physical perfection) called perfection at all. He probably doesn’t fit into the Ancient Greeks perfect proportions nor would he fit into the Golden Mean. However, he treats me like a queen, he is kind and caring, thinking of others ahead of himself. So he isn’t what most people would call handsome or physically beautiful but I find him gorgeous. Without physically doing so, he has become a giant of a man to me. He towers over the first husband in all that counts... all that is inside. And he has a voice that could melt butter. I tell people he has the voice of God… and so he does. He was a radio announcer for many years and today people still comment on his silky smooth voice.
Cursed with eye sight instead of insight.
I think the problem with the human race is that we are cursed with sight. We tend to make judgments based on looks alone, when there is so much more to each of us than just the wrapper. I remember once a girl told me she was looking for a husband that looked good in a pair of jeans. Isn’t that rather a shallow criterion for searching for a life partner? When it comes right down to it, shouldn't it be life-long companionship that we are looking for instead of reproductive attractiveness? Just asking.
“A good portrait… has more than just accurate features. It has some other thing.”— Alice Neel
Beauty inside and out.
I agree with the Greeks on striving for a beautiful inside as well as out. I'm afraid I see way to much effort these days, on improving the outward appearance and not much work on the inward. I also see a tremendous distortion of the "perfect" form of a woman. When walking in the Mall not long ago I saw a manikin advertising a pair of jeans for sale. The legs were toothpick thin and the proportions of the manikin were so anorexic that no normal woman could fit into them. Is this supposed to be the ideal now? I am concerned for the young people trying to fit into that. I think we have moved far from the Greek ideals of perfect proportions.
“How important are the visual arts in our society? I feel strongly that the visual arts are of vast and incalculable importance. Of course I could be prejudiced. I am a visual art.”— Kermit the Frog
Capturing a moment in time.
It is unfortunate that as an artist I must freeze a moment, a gesture or posture onto a canvas or sculpture and the viewer can never know the many facets (or fractals) of the true person. A truly great artist strives to capture more than just a moment and implies to the viewer that there is so much more to this person. I'm not sure I am there yet but working on it. I have painted my current husband more than once, trying for all I’m worth to show what an Adonis he is to me. Not on the outside as much as on the inside, I want to show that he is a King among men.
Patience to really SEE.
Patience is definitely needed throughout an artist's life. The more I develop as an artist, the more subtlety I can see in values; values of light and shadow, as well as values of love and meanness, in faces, in actions, in human beings. It takes a lot of training to see core shadows and true highlights of the soul? But once you see it, you can not stop seeing it... its like one of those abstract paintings where an image pops out after you stare at it... and once you see the image, you keep seeing it.
It's like color in trees. I like to do watercolors. Once I started seeing all the different colors of green in trees, I couldn't stop seeing them. Subtleties of shades of green with blue, green with yellow, green with orange, etc. I don't think I will ever use green straight from the tube ever again.
True love for a lifetime.
So the real question here is what type of a partner are you looking for? The Ancient Greek ideal of perfection inside and out, an Adonis or Aphrodite, or a human, flesh and blood, person with physical flaws but has beauty of spirit and soul? Do you want to see a great pair of jeans walking ahead of you or a rumpled pair that will never leave your side? Do you wish for the unattainable, Photoshoped, artificial beauty of the outward appearance to be good for nothing but sitting on a shelf to be admired, or the inward beauty of character and kindness and personality to be companion for a lifetime? I decided for me, I have beauty all around me, art in my soul and painting as a career; I have little need of physical perfecting in a mate as long as he loves me unconditionally. After all, I’m certainly no ideal of Greek perfection myself. I may have tried in my youth but I know in my wise older age that the physical perfection of the Hollywood glamour model will never be achievable by me, and I’m so happy that’s not what my honey wants from me. He love the inward beauty I have been able to cultivate and grow over the years. We have a friendship the most desire and few obtain. We have true philosophical beauty of companionship, mutual admiration, and love.