Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder

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We’ve all been there. (If you say you haven’t, you’re either a much better person than I am, are lying, or just can’t remember.) The dim lights in a club, pub, or restaurant cast a warm yellow glow, highlighting only the stage, a few corner tables, and the top of a long wooden bar scattered with drinks in various stages of drinkedness. Suddenly—there, down at the end of the room, you spot a veritable hottie. Smoldering looks pass between the two of you, hot glances. Someone invites the other to dance, or sends a drink along, and the next thing you know, you’re getting gropey in the bathroom, or sharing a cab home for some mattress dancing. In the morning, you take a look at your new-found love-o’-your-life … and do a double-take. 

That? That is what I went home with? But, but, but … where’d the hottie go, and why’d he/she leave Dorky McPlainerson in his/her place?

Ah, beer goggling. Long understood by frat boys and Sex and the City viewers, beer goggling is the process by which an average-looking person (or less than average-looking person) appears, through the application of alcohol, to be some kind of supermodel. Your hottie of the night before is revealed, with the onset of your hangover, to have quite a different appearance than the one you perceived previously.

Oh, you pout, if only there were a way to understand how beer goggling works! Fret not! Scientists at Manchester University in England, little concerned with grander paths of discovery, have worked out the formula that explains—using variables such as alcohol consumed, level of light, smokiness, and the viewer’s own eyesight—exactly how beer goggles can effect a viewer’s perception of a person. Allow me to paraphrase:

Take the square of the number of alcohol units consumed and multiply it by the smokiness of the bar (rated zero to ten, plus one—don’t ask me why they don’t just say 1 to eleven, they’re British, just let them have their way) times the distance between the beer goggler and the object of their goggling. Then, divide all that by the square root of how bright the room is (one is pitch black, 150 is approximately normal lighting) times the goggler’s visual ability (a crazy complicated scale thought up by some guy named Snellen, apparently; you’d think he’d work on something having to do with smell, make it all easy for us, but noooooo), squared. That’s all supposed to get you a number roughly from 1, where there’s practically no effect, to more than 100, where you’re not only going home with Harold the Dog-Faced Boy, you’re convinced he’s Brad Pitt.

To which I say, fine, fascinating, brilliant, well done scientist-guys, but what’s the point? How is it applicable in the wild? And if it’s not, how are these scientists doing anything other than a purely intellectual exercise, great to talk about at parties in the department, but little use in real life?

I mean, sure, I’m happily engaged now, but if some scientist guy had came up to me in a bar a couple of years ago to help me judge the attractiveness of my evening’s crush based on some crazy formula, I’d tell him to get lost faster than I’d knock back a Baby Guinness.

Unless, you know, he was a cutie.

Photo courtesy of Lewy Ryan





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