Beyond Brushstrokes

Man has been obsessed with the search for the mythical fountain of eternal youth. It exists only in the imagination. There are projected and contrived cravings for rejuvenation procedures, cosmetic surgery, oxygen baths, hormonal injections, experiments with gene therapy. Some procedures and medicines are FDA-approved and safe to use. Other elixirs and treatments are still waiting for approval. While there are many successful results of retouching, revitalizing enhancements, there have been some tragic results too. Thus, one occasionally reads about cosmetic disasters: failed and fatal experiments and deadly diet pills. There are botched jobs because of allergic reactions to anesthesia and other complications.

All for vanity’s sake. Is it worth it?

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The soul is born old but grows young. The body is born young and grows old.” If only people could be like the mythical Benjamin Button who looked younger as he grew older chronologically.

Studies reveal that heredity and environment determine physical appearance. Lifestyle including diet, exercise, sleep, and attitude can enhance or diminish looks. Contrary to common belief, the secret of youthful looks is not found in exotic concoctions and megavitamins. DNA and genetic programming determine it.

Environmental factors such as climate, sun and wind exposure, and the lack of moisture affect an individual.

For siblings with similar genetic combinations, the difference lies in lifestyle and attitude. A fast-paced, stressful, sedentary lifestyle (i.e. smoking, drinking liquor, bad dietary habits) would take its toll on one’s appearance. A healthy, active man would always look trim, fit and younger beside an overweight, sluggish brother. The attitude can be glimpsed in the facial expression and aura of a woman.

Too much emphasis has been placed on packaging — external beauty and form. Not enough focus is given to developing the important elements of a human being — the mind and spirit.

People are under social pressure to conform to idealized images. Media advertisements reinforce the conditioning with intense focus on physical perfection and youth.

A vulnerable audience unwittingly responds to the programming stimuli. The individual finds the herd instinct overwhelmingly hard to resist. They tend to follow the trendy crowd against one’s better judgment.

If oversized, pouting lips, tattooed eyebrows and semi-permanent lashes are “in,” there are many women who want to acquire the “look.” (Never mind if their appearance looks radically different, fake.)

The surgically enhanced faces of women appear alike — the stretched, creaseless foreheads, high cheekbones and pointed noses with high bridges, deep set, wide eyes. But that’s a personal choice that probably makes them happy to be photogenic.

Psychologically, there seems to be an addiction to fixing oneself. One tries it and continues to fix herself until she no longer looks like herself. The “cat woman” in New York was an example. Her freaky feline features happened after several procedures. She underwent a major transformation to look like an exotic panther, almost grotesque. She was unable to stop. A comparison between “before” and “after” photos showed that she had been better looking a few years earlier.

Great expectations produce evanescent illusions, unrealistic, addictive delusions. The aura of youth emanates from within. Without vitality, joie de vivre, energy, a young man would seem old beyond his years. A senior citizen who loves life and lives it with zest shall always be youthful and attractive. A sense of humor, a big smile, and charming personality are alluring.

Wisdom, compassion, generosity, humor, wit weigh more than youth and good looks. Age, weight, girth are not as important as people are made to believe. It is all the marketing hype that makes insecure people feel the social pressure to look a certain way.

One should remember that what truly matters is intangible.

As the French patriot and pioneering pilot-author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince:On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.