Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Skin deep appearances

To quote Sir Thomas Overbury  (1581-1613) “All the carnal beauty of my wife, is but skin deep” or as we paraphrase it today “Beauty is only skin deep”.

Note that Overbury was writing in a poem called “A Wife” where he was trying an elliptical way to warn of a friend from making a bad arrangement.  The poem was instrumental in his later being murdered by poisoning.  It is said that “no good deed goes unpunished” and this apparently applies to good advice as well.

People seem to be worrying about their looks a lot today.  Degringolade gets made at Kunstler picking on fat people in a recent post (OK, I'm fat, so what?, Degringolade 4 November 2011).  And everyone’s favorite bunny suited homesteader referenced a post (which we will get to in a moment) that notes that since you cannot do much about your exterior, you should be focusing on the interior portions of what you are.  In the case of Ms. Framboise, I think she is warning us that her bunny suit has hidden pockets for a folding stock C1 SMG that she obtained through her military connections.  LOL

The piece that Ms. Framboise commented on makes some relevant points. She starts by noting that people tend to categorize and describe people by quick reference to the outer appearance.

Double Nickel Farm 30 November 2011  (hat tip Framboise Manor)

…our exterior body is a direct result of genetics and living in a sin filled world thousands of years from the ideal creation.

How and with what we fill the pages of our book is up to us. Whether one decides to open the book is up to the depth of the other. It is not a reflection upon us, regardless of how personal it feels. And for the record I prefer the beat up, dogeared pages of a well read book far more than a book with a perfect cover, just as I prefer learning how to use a tomato in as many ways as possible and not only as ketchup...

what about you?

These are reasonable points.  And we will get back to them in a minute.  But first we go to the other end of the spectrum, and take John Robb of Global Guerillas, who is very much worrying about peoples appearances.

Siting a Los Angeles Times article, he notes that the profits of dentists have been down the last two years (-2.7 and 3.1%), and sees this as a sign of a further erosion of the middle class.

John Robb, Global Guerillas, 1 December 2011

First impressions matter, and a failed first impression is hard to overcome. One of the most important factors in a first impression, from future employers to prospective lovers, is a winning smile. In fact, a good smile has become so important over the last thirty or so years it has become "a test" for whether someone is part of the middle class. Here's what we use to test a smile:

·         Do they have clean teeth (free of decay),

·         straight teeth, and

·         and (increasingly) white teeth?

The smile test is, first a foremost, a measure of how well you take care of yourself. Your health. It answers the questions: Do you have healthy and (potentially) productive habits? Are you presentable or are you a distraction? However, in many ways it's an even better test of whether a person can afford access to or has invested in various levels of dentistry services…

What these numbers are telling us is that we are NOT in a recession. These numbers and the attitude shift we are seeing is telling us that we are in an economic depression and it is getting worse (all of the blather than things are getting better is what's called a BIG lie). A depression that is radically reducing the living standards and reducing expectations of what life should be like. A depression that is rapidly destroying the US middle class (and soon the rest of the developed world’s).

What Mr. Robb does not appear to be aware of is that dentists, during the boom times, were getting to be wealthier than the doctors because most of their more cosmetic procedures were elective (not covered by insurance).  Since the procedures were paid for by the patient, the dentists did not get squeezed by the big HMOs or Medicare/Medicaid on what they could charge.  So it is almost an automatic that elective work is going to decline in a downturn.

However, he makes a broader point about signaling in a physical sense.  While Ms. Double Nickel is absolutely correct in saying that we should be concerned about the interiors of ourselves, I think it is an extreme overstatement to say that outside of cosmetic surgery and Botox™ people have no control over appearances.

Your outward appearance is going to reflect a lot about your personal choices.  If I have been working in a mud hole out in the field installing subgrade electrical lines, I am going to be muddy.   And people are going to think, “That’s a construction worker.”

But they are also going to see if I stand erect or slouch, if I smile and seem confident.  Do my (muddy) clothes fit well, are they well mended?  Even if I am wearing a collared shirt versus an uncollared shirt will tell you how I view myself.

The overly casual styling of today is a disaster.  It has people, who are in no position to afford to do so, signaling that they don’t respect authority and don’t take care of themselves. 

So while it is true that you cannot be overly concerned about whether people take notice of you, it is not true that your outward appearance reflects nothing of you inward self.   In dangerous times, what you signal to other people can become a matter of life and death; just ask Sir Thomas Overbury.


PioneerPreppy said...

An interesting and astute observation. No mention of Smurfs when talking about Kymber detracts from it a bit though :)

russell1200 said...

I had to a [site:framboisemanor.blogspot.com smurf] search at google to catch the smurf reference. I had no idea. LOL

I have roots that go way back in Nova Scotia, so likely Kymber is surrounded by my distant blood kin: I can see where that might have a detrimental effect on ones psyche.