Monday, December 28, 2009

Guess What? Looks Can Buy Happiness After All

This piece is in response to an article that appeared online at, titled "Looks buy happiness, but only in the city" (Wed. Dec. 16, 2009, 8:31 a.n. CST). The article can be viewed at

In a stunning reversal of public service announcements, motherly advice, spiritual admonitions, and the Christina Aguilera music video for the song "Beautiful," it would appear that in American cities, looks do matter after all, at least for women. This is, of course, tragic news for those of us who don't look like a supermodel, but exceedingly good news for Clairol, Cover Girl, and every other beauty supplier in the country. Well, at least the women of America can now do their part to stimulate the economy by buying products that make empty promises about how we'll look like Gisele Bundchen if we just smear enough of it onto our eyelids.

This revelation is the result of a study conducted by a visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, and it's a good thing she was just visiting. If she worked there permanently, I shudder to think what she might have discovered... I envision a study titled, "You're ugly, your mama was ugly, your daddy was ugly, and now you're ugly" about the role nature and nurture play in a woman's personal "hotness" factor.

As it is, the actual study examined women in the city and in the country (no mice were included, by the way, just human women), and it clearly revealed that in the city, looks matter more. Apparently, there's much more pressure in the city and much more competition for limited resources, such as "social acceptance." I didn't know social acceptance was a resource, but it's in short supply in our nation's cities, right up there with a dearth of dirt roads, cows, and manure. (I don't know what our cities can do about this tragic lack, but I'm sure another psychologist will study it at some point.)

Fortunately for ugly women across the United States, they have safe, comfortable places to ease their souls when their lack of attractiveness gets them down... locations far from the madding crowds, referred to the sticks. In these places far distant from those mean old cities, women can rest assured that no matter how hideous their appearance, they'll still look better than a cow, smell better than manure, and brighten up an empty dirt road. In the country, there is plenty of social acceptance to go around, a situation that I expect will last only until some American corporation can figure out how to bottle social acceptance, at which point they'll ship it to the cities where they can make more money for it, since it's so scarce there.

I'm so glad this study was done, because I've been living my life up until now under the impression that my looks are fine, and I can relax about it. Now I know the truth. I can't relax at all, and I can only move as close to the city as my looks in comparison to everyone else's will allow. Once I hit the land of bathing suit beauties over 5 feet 6 inches tall, I'll have to back off and settle down. I think that's somewhere in Indiana, but I'm not sure. I'll have to Google Earth it to be certain. And then, I'll have to move there.

Interestingly, this study examined neither men's appearances nor the suburbs. I, for one, can't wait to hear how much social acceptance is available for 40-year-old fathers in aprons and oven mitts hovered around gas grills in the suburban areas surrounding Boston, Massachusetts. My hunch is that their acceptance will be in exact proportion to how skilled they are at getting the burgers off the grill before they're burned. But I could be wrong about that. After all, I was wrong about how much my looks matter to a visiting psychologist at UCal Berkeley.

Stay tuned for my next installment, where I worry endlessly about the size of my thighs due to a study done by a visiting anthropology professor at the University of Arizona. (I'm just kidding...that study hasn't been done yet...but I bet it will be!)

Copyright 2009 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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