At Notre Dame Game With My Youngest Son

Does the media have control over what we as a society deem attractive? Everyday we see images of beautiful people on TV, in magazines, on the internet. I want to know who decides what is attractive? Are we being brainwashed?

Speaking of brainwashing…I took my youngest son to Notre Dame this weekend to “encourage” his love for my Alma Mater. What a joy it was for me to be able to show him what makes Notre Dame a truly special place. We toured the beautiful campus, spent time at the grotto, saw Touchdown Jesus, visited the locker room and even ran out of the tunnel onto the football field. Of course, no trip to ND would be complete without visiting the bookstore to ensure the memories are immortalized in a special ND shirt or football. To see the excitement on his face when the team took the field is truly a priceless memory.

With the this trip, the brainwashing of my boys should be complete. However, this will continue throughout their lifetime as now we can transition from the individual trips to a boys trip where the four Burgdorf “men” can cheer on the Fightin’ Irish together.

As I reflect on this collegiate “brainwashing”, I realize that a similar type of influence occurs everyday with today’s media. Fashion, attractive style and desired body types are portrayed everyday on TV, in magazines and on the Internet. Unlike my steadfast love for Notre Dame, what is deemed “attractive” by the media seems to fluctuate with the trends of the day. For example, if one only looks at hair styles throughout the decades, the wildly different styles can easily be seen. I remember watching my sister change her hairdo based on the latest craze. The perm, the poof, something that looked like a palm tree on the top of her head, and then the colors.

Obviously, it’s not just hairstyles that are effected. Body types are just as susceptible. Looking back through history at body types, it’s interesting to note that during the Renaissance period, plump individuals with creamy white complexions were deemed most attractive. This was because the bourgeois population, the working laborers, had to spend time outside performing manual labor. The aristocracy, the rich, were able to live a life of leisure and weren’t forced to work. So their bodies became plump and their skin were protected from the UV rays of the sun.

Times have changed. We went through a tanning craze in the 1980s and 1990’s, that still has its devotees today. Nowadays, the athletic build seems to be the most attractive. I wonder if that build connotes a richer lifestyle, with the time luxury for exercise. Either way, I’m happy at this one because, to me, this connotes health and vitality, not the sloth of richness.

I think that’s the real important message here. When considering attractiveness, it is important to come at it from a perspective of promoting health, not a specific trend or fad. This is of ultimate importance when we consider our children. Our perspective, whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, comes through loud and clear to our children. If we obsess over celebrities with disproportionate bodies, that may translate to our children that this is the accepted “normal”. If we do things to our faces and bodies to make them stand out in an overly obvious manner, this can lead our children to feeling uncomfortable with their own appearances. Many articles have been written illustrating that ideal attractiveness actually results from symmetry.

In my opinion, symmetry connotes naturalness, healthiness, and attractiveness. This is everywhere in nature. Look around and you’ll easily notice it. Look at a butterfly’s wings, or a flower. The most beautiful species in nature are nearly completely symmetric. So much so, that it is easy to take for granted. But if you think in the reverse, we tend to easily notice the asymmetric. It catches our attention that something may be off. Ask anyone with an injury or a disease that has left them evenly slightly asymmetric. It might be uncomfortable for them or may even be something they try to hide. Only the very well adjusted or with a strong self confidence are able to overcome this departure from symmetry.

I believe that is why the natural appearing result from plastic surgery has been so popular in my office. Because of preconceived notions or sensationalized plastic surgery, many patients come in worried that after surgery they will look fake or unnatural. After a quick discussion they learn that I, too, enjoy the natural appearance; one that is proportionate to their body and with a well rested, youthful appearance they are trying to obtain. I just want them to look healthy, natural and symmetrical. To me that is the most attractive. And, after we spend time trying on implant sizers, or going over before and after pictures, my patients tend to agree.

The media will continue to influence trends, my sons and I will continue to love Notre Dame, and I will continue to strive to ensure my patients are well informed and educated about the decisions they make with their beauty so that any further “brainwashing” about what is attractive can be avoided.

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