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Blushing

February 4, 2010

God am I pale in the winter. CK likes to call me a little China doll, I like to call myself a ghost. My skin color is practically translucent, giving off its own creepy iridescently ghastly light. It’s freaky.

So, in the winter, my best friend is a little rouge. I recently discovered this, in my favorite powder blush shade (Nars, Orgasm):

And it truly does make me look a bit less ill than February would normally have me appearing. I like that it’s creamy and shimmery and blends into my cheeks in a dewy sort of way.

But back to my original intention of this post, which was to reflect on the evolutionary and adaptive significance of blushing.

I read a book (The Naked Ape) by this guy, Desmond Morris, who studied apes and extrapolated all sorts of data about our facial expressions and mannerisms and what leads us to, evolutionarily, act the way we do. It’s kind of funny when you start to look at the reasons humans love to, e.g., get their haircut (social behavior done in the spirit of good grooming, a very important evolutionary behavior for apes), or why we talk with our hands and why we sometimes smile when we’re embarrassed or awkward or feel threatened (showing your teeth was the way apes defended themselves in times of panic or stress).

All of this is to say that when I blush, I get very uncomfortable. I hate not knowing (a) how obviously I am blushing, if everyone else can see it the way I am feeling it (which is like my face has burst into flames), (b) why it is happening in those times when you just randomly blush for apparently no reason. [However, I do seriously enjoy calling out people when they start to blush. It gives me a strange sense of satisfaction. Ha! I can see through you!]

I found an article from last year in Scientific American that describes the adaptive significance of the blush:

The good news is that although it may cause you some chagrin, blushing appears to serve a functional purpose. Recent findings by Dutch psychologists Corine Dijk, Peter de Jong and Madelon Peters reveal that if you ever find yourself in a pickle after, say, committing a social offence or being caught in an embarrassing mishap, the presence or absence of blushing can help determine if you’ll be forgiven by others. Surprisingly, these findings, published earlier this year in the journal Emotion, are among the first to address the adaptive significance of the blushing display—what Charles Darwin referred to as “the most peculiar and most human of all expressions.” The gist of Dijk and her colleagues’ evolutionary argument for blushing is as follows: “Publicly conveying embarrassment or shame may signify the actor’s recognition that she/he has committed a social or moral infraction, and regrets this. As a consequence, this message may mitigate the negative social impression that was caused by the infraction.”

Interesting. There’s an evolutionary reason for everything, isn’t there?

(Note: I realize how strange this post was. I discussed both “orgasm blush” and Darwin. Yikes. Sorry, it’s late and I’m thirsty.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 5:48 pm

    What a leap of subjects – made me laugh.
    And I just discovered that NARS blusher – bought one in January and I love it.

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