Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Fault, Dear Brutus…

Is not in our stars, but in ourselves; that we are short, fat, and ugly.

Here’s another study that attempts to correlate an individual’s physical attributes with his success in life.  This exercise in “anthropometic economics” examined height, weight, and attractiveness, as they affect not only potential money-making abilities, but also criminality.

They found that being unattractive in high school was correlated with a lower grade point average, more problems with teachers and suspensions.

Based on my evidence of two, not to mention my ability to reason, I have to disagree with the whole thing.

Shrimpy, frizzy hair, fading tint aviator glasses, braces - I’d objectively give this person a 1 on the 1-5 attractive scale. That probably corresponds to a 50% chance of ever becoming a contributing member of society, and, I’d guess, a 20% chance of becoming a serial killer.

And yet, she (yes, she - that add-a-pearl necklace dangling every so artfully from the top of the collar gives it away) had a decent GPA and never had any trouble in school. Perhaps she was lucky in her ability to rise above her unattractiveness and make good choices regardless of her hideous appearance. (For what it's worth, I thought I looked good that sophomore picture day – so you can imagine what I looked like the rest of the days.)

I don’t have a digitized picture of my husband in high school, but you’ll have to trust me (despite my unattractiveness which, I understand, makes that more difficult): According to this article, given our challenges in the stature and beauty departments, if we had only weighed more, we would likely have been destined, by the trifecta of anthropometric attributes, to be the modern day Bonnie & Clyde of our parochial parish.

First of all, with the exception of height, it could be successfully argued that the other attributes are chosen rather than given attributes, so any attempt to link our behaviors to factors beyond our control is poppycock. 

Secondly, the entire article would be simply hilarious if it weren’t dangerously close to a justification for government intervention and regulation.

“Public health policies successful at reducing obesity among individuals in the population will not only make society healthier, but also safer.”


“We conjecture,” they concluded, “that the United States health-care system, as well as the relatively weak welfare safety net, might be why human growth in the United States has not performed as well in relative terms as one would expect on the basis of income alone.”

Or a potential excuse for lack of personal responsibility.

The benefit of these “weird facts,” he [Mr. Mankiw, a Harvard economist] said, is that it “forces you to think about the world in ways you didn’t before.”


Doug Reich said...

Or, perhaps people who are irresponsible, lazy, or psychopathic, don't care about their appearance or in fact, act in self-destructive ways in terms of drug use, diet, hygiene, exercise, etc.

I love these studies - you point out the true motive - social engineering - one's this "link" is established, the modern intellectual can then proceed to being "pragmatic" in terms of the optimal way to force people to behave in ways consistent with their posited relationship

p.s. everyone in the 1980's looked like this - I think you were cool!

Lynne said...

Doug, do I see some fading tint aviator glasses in your past? Rimless? 'Cause that's what all the really cool kids had, until they got a basketball in the head during gym class and the lenses snapped off the posts - or maybe that was just me.

The best part of this photo is that I actually chose to look this way! Not the 'shrimpy' part, but the hair? Bad perm. The glasses? I had to beg to get them. The sweater? My pick. The necklace? That little something special.

What the hell was I thinking? Oh yeah. That I looked cool.

I'm going to further indulge myself in this little trip down memory lane: This picture day is distinctive in my mind not ony because of the chosen outfit you can see, but also because I had dress pants on (say it with me now - "slacks"). Mostly, it's memorable because at some point in the day, I was in a hurry heading to my Honors Geometry class and I actually fell flat on my slacks-covered ass in the middle of the between-class crowded hallway. My brush (I have no idea what a brush could do for that hair) and my package of cheese crackers went flying ahead of me at two different angles. I popped up, collected my things, and was laughing so hard by the time I got to class that I could not breathe and had to leave again in order to regain my composure. I was quite sure that despite the crowded hallway and fantastically big hair, no one had seen me because I was, in fact, so cool.

Days later, a junior boy from my neighborhood said to me, "Nice wipe out in the hallway the other day!"

Aaah. Good times.