Wednesday, 23 January 2013

They're the most beautiful person in the world

I'm pretty sceptical of this phrase.

I’d say there’s a healthy dose of NGF causing the phrase, “He/she is the most beautiful person in the world”. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest the people saying this really mean something else.

Why do I say this? Simple, it strikes me as a quick cliché. I’d probably believe this if each person had a different way of saying it. We all end up saying our partner is the most beautiful person in the world, and there’s no wiggle room on this. I know people aren’t trying to convince the world of their partner’s ultimate beauty, but I do have some hilarious problems with that phrase.

It can’t be true, there’s no way someone can possible know their wife/husband is the most beautiful version of a person in the world. They haven’t seen all the people in the world to judge this. And how do they measure beauty? What traits does you particular wife/husband exhibit making them the most beautiful person in the world? What you’re essentially saying is that up until the moment I laid eyes on my partner, I had never seen a more beautiful person. Further, you’re saying that since you laid eyes on them, no other person has ever been even slightly more attractive than your partner. They’ve always been at the top of the pile, and they always will be.

Really? How can this be true? If it is true, then it’s only true for you, and only true for you right now. You clearly didn’t think everyone else was ugly until you met your current partner, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have met your partner. No one ever accurately explains how their partner emerged shining surrounded in a heavenly glow from the snivelling morass of ugly.

And exactly why does this current partner sit higher than every other person on the planet? In order for something to be true it needs to be communicable, you need to be able to tell me about it in rational, coherent terms. It’s not enough to simply say that your partner has the best eyes/ass/hair/skin/breasts/dick than anyone else, and then hold to that reason when given counter-examples of greater beauty. You’ve stopped communicating if you revert to, “well, I DO think my partner’s the most beautiful. I just DO.”

Perhaps what they really mean is their partner is the most beautiful person in the world, but only subjectively. If someone disagrees (as almost everyone will, because we all say our partner is the most beautiful) then that’s just because THEY aren’t in love with that person’s partner. What matters is they think their partner is the most beautiful.

I suspect what they really, actually, deep down, mean is something closer to: “She’s the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” This is probably closer to the truth, but it’s probably not entirely true either. She won’t be the most beautiful person ever seen, even by you. There are actual measurements out there to establish beauty (model agencies and other scientific enterprises use them all the time). Those measurements are useful for placing people on some kind of objective linear scale of beauty using data points and survey results. That scale can be used for ugliness too, just go the opposite way.

If beauty is objective then declaring your wife or husband to be the most beautiful specimen in the world is outright untrue, or at least statistically unlikely. I doubt very much your partner has featured in any form of “Most Beautiful” contest and placed anywhere near the top 2 billion. I will probably look sideway at you if you say they could beat a Victoria’s Secret model on the catwalk or leave the latest fireman calendar in the dust.

But if beauty is subjective, then that phrase makes sense. Of course YOU think the other person is the most beautiful, you’re the one in love with them. You’ll excuse us all if we don’t agree with you for feeling the same way. But it won’t matter to you, because he/she is the most beautiful. After all, you say that all the time.

There’s more than one problem though. What about all the people who separate and find another partner? Statistically, around half of all marriages and probably about half of all relationships do not last longer than 15 years. Although those numbers are from the States, the stats aren’t magical reading for most of the rest of us. Surely you’d want to stay with the most beautiful person in the world? What could possibly be enough to cause friction if they really are the most beautiful person? Everyone wants the most beautiful person, there’s no way you're going to give that up just because they don’t leave the bathroom seat down/up.

So if most relationships eventually crash how can one possibly find another partner, having already scaled the highest peaks of beauty with their other partner? I mean, there’s no coming back from that. It’s a pretty final phrase.

But second partners are very common. If a relationship crumbles people don’t just lock themselves in dark rooms until others forget to feed them. They often wait a few months before falling straight back in love again. I really don’t want to be a fly on the wall when they confess to their new partner he/she isn’t “the most beautiful person in the world”. And that actually they’re last partner was the most beautiful.

God, that would be horrific.

Thankfully, they don’t say, “this new person is great, but nowhere near as beautiful as my previous partner”. That’s not a phrase you hear very often, or at all. They always say their new partner is the most beautiful person in the world, with identical intense conviction as before. So there’s definitely something wrong here. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Either your partner is the most beautiful person in the world, or they’re not.

I suspect all this has something to do with cultural norms, chemical influences related to NGF in the brain, and wanting to flatter their partner to avoid insult. After all, they’re together now and want to keep it that way. Saying someone looks beautiful can boost one’s self-esteem greatly.

For the sake of a healthy household, I can see how this is an important phrase to memorise. It’s not every day your partner looks like a million bucks. There’ll be a few (hundred?) days where they’ll simply look unkempt or, godforbid, normal. Telling them they’re the most beautiful person in the world is for their benefit, not yours. Chances are you probably don’t really even believe it yourself right at that moment.

Actually, that’s a good point. Believing one’s partner is the most beautiful person in the world can help your own psychology when a much more beautiful person walks by or flashes on the TV screen. After all, if one feels torn each time a beautiful woman/man smiles at you, and you remember your partner is at home, things would be awkward. I mean, everything would fall over if you even briefly thought that stranger was more beautiful than your partner. Surely.

There’s a golden rule to either telling the truth or telling a lie. To be convincing in your story, you can’t just say the words, you really have to believe it. And you have to act like you believe it. People are very aware of hypocrites.

That’s why people don’t say, “I think, in my limited experience of only meeting/seeing around 100,000 people in my entire lifetime, that the person I’m with presently is probably the most beautiful person I have seen, so far”. How would that make their partner feel?

Sure, it would be true, but it wouldn’t be conducive to a long-lasting relationship. And the worse thing is, you wouldn’t believe something like that yourself. It’s far too rational and accurate. That kind of wording wouldn’t be enough to convince you about the penultimate beauty of your partner. To continue believing such a phrase, one has to really act on it. It’s the people who say such things and have the gumption to go around thinking their partner might actually not be the most beautiful person in the world who screw it up for the rest of us.

Maybe these people are correct, but they won’t dare tell their partners.

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