Skin-deep

I judge people based on how they look. I don't often want to, and I don't think I do this in all circumstances, but I think looks are not entirely unimportant as the pure-hearted inspirational books make them out to be. I mean only that there is much you can infer about a person based on their physical appearance-especially in the parts of that appearance that are within their control.

Parts of physical appearance NOT within a person's control include how big their nose is, whether they have long eyelashes, pimples (I will fight to the death to say that pimples are not within human control), their height.

But the parts within their control include what they wear and whether they have abs or not-you don't get these by not trying. These latter ones speak volumes. (Actually, an effort to change the former ones also says a lot.) My friends and I generally agree that a good-looking man with a six-pack is twice as likely to be dumb: he probably spends so much time doing sit-ups he no longer has room for Tolstoy.

One observation I've made is that good-looking people get away with more things. People are predisposed to liking them because we all want to be around them. We like it when they smile. We think well of them long before they open their mouths. So when they say something dumb, they are tolerated at best, patronized at worst.

All of us have let them get away with something at some point. They don't normally develop the self-awareness that comes with dealing with the consequences of their mistakes (even if these are merely grammatical mistakes)-any other person would be laughed at, bullied or corrected; good-looking people charm their way through life, into exclusive parties and out of speeding tickets. It's the same hazard that comes with too much fame or power or money.

Like it or not, looks influence much of the politics of day-to-day interaction. One of my more fashionable friends says that how well you should dress is inversely proportional to how good-looking you are: good-looking people can wear fifty-peso shirts and make them look like 5,000-peso shirts; mere mortals, however, must make an effort to buy nice clothes to look equally "sosyal" or sophisticated.

This is part of the reason I would never date a good-looking man with a six-pack (though who hasn't wanted to at some point?) For one, it's unlikely he'd be able to engage me in conversation. But also, my beer belly and his abs just wouldn't look good walking hand-in-hand into dinners together. He would look like he was dating his aunt. I believe there are incredible movie-star levels of good-looking (think Michael Fassbender) which you are supposed to regard from afar and sigh. (Occasionally, this also occurs in people who aren't movie stars.) The good news is, there is also a less ambitious good-looking, the one you could happily marry and not feel insecure about-what I like to call "abot-kayang pogi/maganda."

Psychological studies have proven that people tend to go for people whose level of attractiveness is akin to theirs, or within their "range." That's why we (or at least I, since I'm the only judgmental person here) cringe when we see public displays of affection between a severely good-looking person and a partner whose attractiveness is disproportionate to his own.

Or maybe it's the world that's all wrong. It's unfair, of course, that the world's standards of beauty are dictated by movie stars and supermodels-they can invest their whole lives in exercise and diets, while the rest of us have other things to worry about, like jobs and bills and rush hour traffic. I often pray that if God will not make me beautiful, he should at least change the convention beauty-make short, fat and pango more fashionable than it currently is.

Who doesn't want to look good? It feels good. We all have our ugly duckling phase, that season during pimples and before braces. I didn't have a single photo taken in those years, and to this day I still haven't learned to smile properly. It's great to be past those years, the same way it's a relief to realize you're past puberty.

But I don't want to try too hard either-I figure I will never be the most beautiful girl, so might as well invest in other more profitable ventures. I do make a modest effort to brush my teeth and wear nice shoes. Nice shoes are important.

I didn't exactly turn into a swan, but at least I'm a duck.

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