Attractiveness unmasked

surgical mask makes one appear as more attractive

Appearances have largely been called out throughout the length of human history in their more than probable prospect to come across as rather deceptive. And yet, this very appropriation of physicality is what necessarily marks almost every single awareness that we essentially live through, whether that be in our instinctive smiles flashed at known faces or our brain jumping into over gear to make judgements based upon mere countenance and numerous such conscious or subconscious assertions across which we conduct the business of life. No wonder our lives were thrown off track when the coronavirus pandemic raged through the world, bringing along with it, among numerous new mandates for which we never would have been enough prepared, the undebatable necessity of having to compulsorily, obligatorily, necessarily, essentially and urgently as well, all masked up. True, the cynical enough views about humans living under a mask most of their lives should have accustomed us enough to not let this masking measure emerge as a disruption to the normal way of our existences but the physical nature and extent to which this norm needed to be adhered to, in all good faith, far overrode the psychological profoundness of what it had long been believed to be. And for once in our entire extent of evolutionary existence- the ‘once’ though being a singular assertion of a rare but recurring still phenomenon- we discovered with surprise that sometimes even the shallow physicality of it all can be just as overwhelming as what is mostly understood to be a percipient residing of the subliminal sphere of our (perplexingly mysterious) being.

One sure would consider us a bit crazy or perhaps somewhat showy of their inappropriately intellectual dig into all things even when they tend to be extremely practical prospects, so much so that there isn’t really anything else to it than what meets the eye- or rather that abides wholesomely by reason in utmost clarity of it. But we really aren’t vigorously digging into just about anything to make mountains out of molehills therewith, it’s just a rather interesting facet of the masked up reality that revealed itself to us in a starkly bare truth of itself. As we began with evoking notions of the appearance in all physicality of it and extended it thereupon to embark on the necessity of shielding that very appearance with a mask- though for reasons not quite fit with the analogy perhaps- we intended still to dwell on a rather practical aspect of what has come to entail out of this mandatory mount of the mask upon our mouths (and noses). Once culturally shunned a notion in infirmity, or otherwise not quite fancied in its disserving of the aesthetic aptitude innately residing in humans and encompassing also other disrepute of it pertaining to such intentions in concealing one’s identity for reasons not very noble, the masking up of human faces has never managed to sustain as a universal norm. It might have dictated the world order time and again as in induced circumstances like the current time but masks have not been something that has managed to gain absolute favor the world over. Surprising it is therefore that after all this dwelling in neglect, in abhorrence and in denial, the humble face mask has now come to amass indeed the power of which it has always been steeped in.

As the COVID 19 virus continues to ravage the world with not an ounce of its ‘sheen’ lost yet, the face mask has come to be an ubiquitous element of our lives. We don them as naturally as we clothe ourselves, of course in necessity first but like all other essences of life, masks too have been made to synchronise with our aspects of lifestyle. So there they are today, as a fashion accessory as well that we mix and match in so many designs and shades and prints and patterns without once compromising on its primary function of protecting us from the unrelenting might of the novel virus. Essentially therefore shedding its unsightly image in perception, both in its own visage as well as what it renders upon the wearers of it has been the face mask that has come to redefine indeed conventional standards of attractiveness. In diverting from the largely held view of undesirability alluding to its perceived notion of being identifying of people carrying some disease who don them in order to prevent its spread and finding expression instead as being a standing up to responsibility, mask wearing has today managed to chart such reputable territories hitherto uncharacteristic of it till only recently. In fact now masks have seen an exaltation in their status to such extents that wearing them in even their most ordinary manifestation of the unadorned surgical swathes of blue has managed to bring upon them such glory as the apparent assertion of attractiveness.

Just why this availing of something so desirable by the face mask after a lifelong banishment into chiding has managed to emerge as a reality welcome indeed is something innately rooted in the psychological explorations of the human mind. The shift in perspective though is easy to understand particularly in consideration of the surgical mask that which has by now been an assertive identity of the fight against the global pandemic. With frontline workers all over donning these shades of blue in their untiring efforts to help the world thwart off the malicious intent of the virus to as as much extent as possible, this archetypal essence that masks has come to encompass has made them emerge as harbouring of such ideals rooted in ideas of compassion and care, while also delivering to one and all a reassurance both in holding of individual responsibility as well as in the manner that the wearer is preventing the virus perhaps present in them from infecting others. Emerging therefore from these times of turmoil of both physical and emotional nature has been the immense resilience of the face mask as being protective of us in all our vulnerabilities that is what has endowed its bearers with the desired trait of attractiveness as a pandemic takeaway profound indeed in its value, by in fact overturning the tables on what has always guided conventional notions of the aesthetical scouting.

This value based assertion of the perspective newly acquired however isn’t the only consideration effecting this welcome change in psychology in almost universal measure. The attractiveness factor is also guided by evolutionary motions along which the human genes have treaded, as the already attractive proposition in care and concern is also furthered by such pursuance of ingrained still nature as the desire for a healthy mate. In such leanings of it therefore, the positive link newly established between face masks and attractiveness is also as physical in its attribute as it is capturing of the mind. Also adhering to this same vein of what largely spans as a view dwelling on appearance would be an idea rooted in somewhat more superficiality. With a larger portion of the face covered across such features of it that which therefore make accurate appreciation of the appearance unlikely, the focus instead shifts to that certain element of the physical forever lauded in its depth and intensity when coming to making sparks fly. With the eyes left to do all the talking, in both literal and figurative meanings of it, both of which come attached with a marker of charm when it comes to making impressions, face masks help us seek out that quintessential allure in sight by leading us to delve deeper into them. Equally superficial a seating in which face masks might be augmenting of attractiveness though emerges as a contradiction to the perception, as in such capacities of it that might effectively shield such features that might actually be not so attractive.

But such dwellings on the essentially look- based still is not what sums up wholly this assertive indeed perception of what face masks have attained across the evolving strata of the human psyche. Across the mechanism of a certain brainy feature called amodal completion, we as perceptive human beings are wired to conjure up whole entities from partial information, such as entire faces from our knowledge of what entails from an awareness of just the eyes for instance, and in such symmetry that what furthers even the quotient of physical attractiveness we allow ourselves the scope to imagine. This in fact is the governing principle of what explains another intriguing phenomenon called pareidolia- face pareidolia to be more precise, as we subconsciously proceed to draw out entire outlines from a mere couple of information we have access to. Inclined as we are therefore to necessarily complete appearances in such reference to the imagination that provides as possibly attractive an eking of them, it is only natural that masks have gone on to harbour notions more adhering to the attractive exploration rather than being the other way round. This, despite the fact that the until very recent reality of masks have been rather depreciating instead of the human image- and in multiple aspects of that as well- and the COVID 19 crisis could well be delivering of such life lessons that might help emerge us as a race less prejudiced in our inherent biases.