Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Skin of the Buttocks Wins By a Tremendous Margin

"If women, continuing their present tendency to its logical goal, end by going stark naked, there will be no more poets and painters, but only dermatologists."
--H.L. Mencken, The Smart Set (1916)

When I came across The Art of Looking Younger, my eyes needed a moment to adjust. Certainly, the image is striking, but what is it supposed to convey? By the time I found the answer on page twenty-two, I'd begun to imagine that the incohesively-aged lady was doctor and author Bedford Shelmire. And I still do. Doesn't she look like a that would be her name? I've since learned the doctor was a man (who died in 1980).

He writes:
"The scene is a small, brightly lit room containing two persons. One is lying completely naked on a table in the center of the room, while the other, a man wearing a white coat, is carefully examining the naked individual with a magnifying glass. After completing his examination of this area, the man in the white coat turns to his subject's face, which he inspects with equal care and deliberation. Finally, he records his observations in a notebook. Waiting outside in the hall is a group of middle-aged men and women. Each is called in turn, asked to undress, and the procedure is repeated. What is going on here? Is the man in a white coat doing some kind of sex research? Is he casting a nude play, or is he just a wealthy eccentric indulging a peculiar hangup?"

Now I just love spooky little beauty stories. (Nude plays, not so much.) But really, what is going on?

"He is a scientist compiling statistical data on the dramatic skin changes caused by the environment. In order to have a basis for comparison, he has already visited a maternity ward hospital, where he examined both the faces and buttocks of a number of newborn babies. In this younger group, he found that the texture and contour of the two areas was almost exactly the same. His findings in the middle-aged group, however, are remarkably different... In this group, the skin of the buttocks wins by a tremendous margin. The facial skin, almost without exceptions, looks terrible."

At left is a chart depicting the facial and buttock skin of specimens ranging in age from two, to eighty. Click to enlarge. You're welcome.

Bedford continues to hammer the point home here, with a quote that I recall now whenever I (accidentally!) come across celebrity gossip, and overly plasticized faces:

"I have often been struck by the fact that many entertainers have skins that look extraordinarily young. The explanation is that they not only make a greater effort to take care of their skins, but many of these people never see the light of day."