[nfbwatlk] Questions concerning how people look like

Mary Ellen gabias at telus.net
Sat Feb 27 21:54:41 UTC 2010

You raise some very interesting questions. Once, when my children were
little, someone asked me if I felt grief stricken because I could not see
their faces or really know what they looked like. My initial thought, an
answer I did not give, is that I really don't care what they look like. That
isn't strictly true. I care that they look attractive to others. Studies
have shown that people perceived as good-looking do better in the world than
people who are not perceived as good-looking. We can argue all we want about
the unfairness of such outcomes, but they exist and we would be unwise to
ignore them. Beyond the natural desire of a parent to have children succeed
and knowing that being physically attractive is helpful in their attempts to
succeed, I really do not care what they look like. I don't think knowing
whether someone has a pointy chin or green eyes or red hair tells me
anything significant about their character. It does tell me something
significant if they're clearly not physically active or very athletic. Those
details tell me about their personal habits. The kinds of clothes they
choose tell me something about their social attitudes. So looks only matter
to me insofar as they indicate something about behavior or attitude.
One of the meanings of the word "attractive" is that people are attracted,
or drawn, to you. We generally use the word to describe something appealing
about physical appearance. I believe the meaning of "attractive" goes much
deeper than that. 
I believe attractiveness is related to the whole manner in which a person
carries him or herself. Physical appearance is part of that; most people get
their first impression based on what they see. That's why it's important for
blind people to present an attractive appearance, which means good grooming,
good manners, the habit of looking at people when talking to them, etc. But
there are enough songs with titles like "beauty is only skin deep" to
suggest that a good physical appearance only carries one so far. Without the
other attributes of attractiveness, such as good character, courtesy,
generosity of spirit, and a hundred other things, a nice physical appearance
won't carry the day.
I believe that, as a blind person, I need to play the physical
attractiveness game well enough so that my appearance and mannerisms are an
asset rather than a liability to me. I do not believe I need to feel
deprived because I can't independently gather information about someone's
hair color or the shape of their facial structure. Just because the rest of
society is extremely fascinated by how people look doesn't mean I'm required
to share that fascination. Let me know what I need to know about how someone
looks in order to make judgments about their behavior or health. Beyond
that, I'll listen politely and probably forget anything I'm told.

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of hmp
Sent: February 25, 2010 5:51 PM
To: BlindTlk at nfbNet.org
Cc: hal.grove at gMail.com; nfbWaTlk at nfbnet.org
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Questions concerning how people look like


     I'm very sure everyone in this mailing list is blind. Maybe 
some of you are not. And well, I have a curiosity, or a question, 
that maybe you can answer for me and if it is not that 
     As you know, sighted people tend to look at each other's 
face, or perhaps most of the body movements and the hands, while 
they're talking to each other. For example, when somebody is 
talking and facing another person, that person faces that other 
person, and he or she can look at the person's face. In addition, 
this does not happen when they are talking only; the person can 
just look at that other person, E.G. a boy says "hello" to a girl 
perhaps, and he looks at her because she is pretty (or she 
perhaps isn't) and he looks at her smile and he knows what she 
looks like. He can maybe remember her just through all those 
details of her. Furthermore, there are more case-scenarios out 
there that are very similar to this one.
     While sighted people do this, as far as blind people are 
concerned, is there any way a blind person can do the same things 
just like the sighted? Can a blind person tell how someone looks 
like by some technique or some information? If I want to know how 
someone looks like, what can I do? Sometimes I think that 
probably by touching faces I can get a general detail of what 
he/she is like, but some people may see this as an offensive 
thing. I have just a little bit of vision (mostly out of the 
corner of my right eye), but I cannot see well enough to see 
these things. I can only see very close objects or people. But 
anyways, if, for example, I meet a nice girl and she says hello 
to me, and she carries out a conversation with me. How can I get 
the physical description of her? How do I know if she is just 
smiling without laughing? How do I know what her hair looks like? 
maybe she has a pointy nose, a big/small mouth, and probably 
really all straight and white teeth! How can I know these things? 
I could perhaps ask her, "What do you look like?" but I've had 
bad experiences asking that question, although some people are 
kind and they tell me. Again, I don't see any bad thing by 
touching people's faces, however, I'm not sure if I should 
totally do it because of an offense or just being disrespectful.
     I am asking this question just for curiosity, and I'd like 
to see what you think about this. Any feedback and comments about 
this topic are welcome. I'd like to find out what other blind 
people have done to accomplish well this situation.

Thank you and have a very lucky day!

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