Saturday, August 21, 2004

Does appearance count?

Pop star Christina Aguilera has removed 11 piercings, including those in her eyebrow, lip and tongue. A friend explained this decision as follows,

Christina feels she's past the whole piercing thing now. She's really happy with her boyfriend and associates piercings with unhappier times in her life.

According to newspaper reports, Miss Aguilera has previously admitted that she had the piercings done when she felt down.

I find this interesting as it's always seemed likely to me that people who wear jutting pieces of metal in their face do so because of some inner disquiet. It's like a kind of physical scarification to match the emotional one.

Which brings me to a quote I like from Hugh of St Victor. He wrote that,

Body and spirit are but one: disordered movements of the former betray outwardly the disarranged interior of the soul.

I think there's some truth to this. The way we present ourselves does matter, because it reflects our inner condition and because, as Hugh goes on to point out, it can be part of a discipline of improving our inner condition. Hugh writes on this theme that,

inversely 'discipline' can act on the soul through the body - in ways of dressing, in posture and movement, in speech, and in manners.

There is of course another, very simple argument for good presentation: it is more attractive. I can still remember my disappointment at the grungy appearance of the women students when I was at university. They were at an age when they ought to have been at their most beautiful, but they were deprived of this by the entrenched grunginess of youth culture.


  1. Sydney's Lebanese/Arab boys have taken to haircuts which differentiate themselves even further from the main - shaved at the sides and long at the back. It seems a visual expression of emotional separation. But it just widens the gap even further.

    A multiracial town is naturally a tense town. But with the addition of visual separation in the form of haircuts, arab beards, hijabs, and burqas, the separation is complete.

    All things foreign hit the subconscious with microshocks and produce feelings of tiredness and nausea. It's visual assault. Not only do we not celebrate this diversity, we don't get used to it.

    I want all the public "marks of separation" banned i.e. foreign languages, dress, appearance, music. Follow the Tunisian government and rip off the hijab. At least for newborns and new immigrants, if not for everyone.

    I think European and Asian migration stretched people's tolerance to its limits. But Muslim and black African immigration of late has overstepped the tolerance of many folk. Visually, they're incompatible.

    Only when we look and sound reasonably similar do we have half a chance of getting along.

  2. All things foreign hit the subconscious with microshocks and produce feelings of tiredness.

    Anonymous, I know that I never really relax into a sense of home in the more multiracial of Melbourne's suburbs.