How Love Makes People Prettier

When we know we're loved — and when we love other people — it changes the way we see their faces. And our own.

Paris, the most romantic city in the world.
(Image credit: Darien Chin)

Love can transform the way we see other people and ourselves.

More precisely, have you noticed how love can make a not-so-attractive person become the single person in the world that we most enjoy looking at? (I believe Beauty and the Beast also touched on this idea, and there are probably other classics I'm forgetting that do as well.)

Have you noticed how we can also feel better about the face we see in the mirror when we know someone else loves it?

The author of Jane Eyre noticed these things.

As many of you know, the book is about a lonely girl, raised by a cruel aunt, who goes on to become a governess. Jane begins to develop a deep friendship with the child's guardian, a wealthy loner named Mr. Rochester. During their first meeting, she thinks he's kinda fugly. He is not, as she puts it, "a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman."

Jane also knows that she herself is not a looker. (Or, as a maid she has known since childhood puts it, she is "no beauty.")

How Love Makes People Better-Looking

However, as Jane gets to know Mr. Rochester better — and to appreciate his candor, quirkiness, generosity, and freethinking personality — he becomes increasingly attractive to her. Eventually, she says, "Was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire."

How Love Makes Us Better-Looking

About halfway through the book (which is the point I reached last night), Mr. Rochester and Jane declare their love for each other, and agree to get married. (Don't worry, I didn't spoil the plot, as it's after they get engaged that the real trouble starts.)

The morning following Mr. Rochester's unexpected proposal, Jane looks in the mirror. And she says to herself: "I felt [my face] was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its color ... I had often been unwilling to look at [Mr. Rochester], because I feared he could not be pleased at my look; but I was sure I might lift my face to his now, and not cool his affection by its expression."

I've certainly had that experience — magically seeming more attractive to myself when I know a boy I like digs me. And though I've always felt an initial spark for any person I've gone on to date, I've also found the men I've been with more attractive after I've stared to care for them more.

Folks, are you with me on all this?

How Non-Love Can Make People Uglier

Conversely, I've noticed that I can have the hots for someone kinda random (some dude I see all the time at the gym, say, or, back in the day, some guy I was taking a class with) who is totally beautiful to me from afar. But then I'll get to know him and realize we don't have that much in common — or I'll find out maybe he's kind of dull, or kind of petty, or we don't have the same worldviews. And after that, though simply looking at him used to shiver me timbers, I kinda stop seeing his über-handsomeness. His beauty is dulled.

Have you guys had similar experiences?

PS: As those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know, I'm a fanatic about reading old novels — and I'm even writing a book about what reading them has taught me about love! Stay tuned to my Facebook page for more info.