That Beautiful Face

That Beautiful Face
by Thomas J. Auflick, MA, LMHCA

Our attraction to one another is not predisposed to some uncontrollable genetic factor. Apparently, an unconscious space of experience determines what we find visually appealing in the face of another. Through a study of identical twins’ facial preference we know that they are not attracted to other identical twins, they have different tastes in facial preference. That explains why my identical twin cousins married one blonde and the other a brunette. But the study informs us that our attraction comes from an experiential development. From that standpoint, do we even know what we like or are we sold and processed by social conditioning and media brainwashing? 

The whole subject brings to me the question of our individuality in the face of our genetic identity. Last week my daughter and I heard a story on the radio about a company that will clone your pet. You can now bring back a copy of your long lost beloved pet or make an extra copy of the one you already have. My daughter’s first reaction was “Dad, we’ve got a ton of Kit’s hair still lying around the house. Let’s have him cloned.” The story on the radio had testimonies from satisfied pet owners who stated they liked having the same breed with the same temperament—just falling short of saying something about a resurrection. I had to explain to my daughter that we would not be bringing our old dog, Kit, back to life. Our cloned dog, Kit, would come to us as a puppy, not the last memory of our full grown adult friend.

In my own mind I was reliving my life with Kit—how much I loved and missed him, and at the same time—how difficult the end was and the challenges I faced with him as an old dog with his physical ailments and horrible separation anxiety. If you make an exact genetic replica of a dog or human, you are not going to reconnect with that same soul you once knew. You will have something different.

In a simple way of defining our individuality, we recognize in ourselves what is unique by connecting deeper to what is beyond explanation from a physical standpoint. My friends in science could begin a lovely rationalization that could quantify what defines us beyond our genetic code through our individual responses to our experiences defining our being. I keep my emotional and spiritual side in check by allowing their logic to balance me on that high wire while I grasp for the psychological security of the concept of a soul. 

So back to this whole notion of attraction and why we prefer one face to another. I believe social conditioning has a big part to play in the matter. Your experience and conditioning from what you know and is familiar brings forth a level of comfort that can allow for tolerance and build rapport to what is attractive. In this society, the faces of the ideal beauty comes flying at us in multiple forms of media. We are conditioned unconsciously by the overwhelming amount of imagery that tells us what to believe is beautiful. My cultural identity entrusted in the power structure of the white media stimulated my consciousness in the late sixties.

I found beauty in the face of the iconic Caucasian blond bombshells’ symmetrical faces and blue eyes. As I grew older and became aware of my conditioning, my attraction to faces evolved from understanding my own discrimination. I realized that I was missing out on the truth and beauty of humanity through illusionary effects of defined social standards. In fact the idea of perception of facial beauty, my own preference, would change over time through points of perspective. The ideal image of a face could drastically change with greater awareness of the individual and familiarity of their being. Perception of attraction could grow stronger or weaker over time as the cloud of physical illusion dissipated and the clarity of the person’s individuality came to light.

I think about those first faces of attraction that captured my attention. At the age of three I remember my first recognition of beauty: her blue eyes, spry little nose, light brown complexion, and yes, her blonde hair. My heart fills with excitement for that neighborhood teenage girl who would babysit me. How much life experience determined my taste in facial preference at that point? I found beauty in her face, but what determined my taste at the age of three? What I know initiated my interest and likeability came from her kindness, jovial temper, and interest as she doted and played with me.

Almost 50 years later I still remember her face and my heart fills with love and excitement. I feel that I was attracted to more than a face. I made a real connection to the uniqueness and specialness of her. With so many years passed I wonder would I still be attracted to her face now? I want to think so, like my attraction to the face of my wife, even with maturation over time, I still find her beautiful. Because her face connects me to something beyond her physical features. I have become linked to her soul, and there is no greater realm of attraction. I see clearly her beautiful face now and forever.  

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This is a commentary on the Psy Post article "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Based on your own individual life and experiences, your ideal "face preferences" are shaped." You can read the full article: http://www.psypost.org/2015/10/is-beauty-really-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-yes-and-heres-why-38108