Friday, October 29, 1999

Vanity tourism

I received an e-mail saying: “Take this one! Attached is one article published by which states that without a doubt, Venezuelans are by a long shot the vainest people in the world.” The index reveals that 65% of Venezuelan women and 47% of Venezuelan men say that they “think about what they look like all the time.” In Germany, for contrast, virtually no one confesses to this habit.

From the tone of the e-mail, I suppose that the sender considered the high ranking achieved by Venezuela in this index as being unfavorable, and I also suppose that he would like me to share some degree of guilt. Well, I DON’T! Intuitively, I am pleased to be part of a country in which my compatriots are worried about their appearance instead of rubbing shoulders with those ranked among those who “never think about how they look.” The fact that our society holds dear to the heart a feeling of vanity over and above levels in other countries certainly differentiates us from the rest and perhaps we should analyze this fact within the context of comparative advantages.

The dedication of persons like Osmel Sousa to the Miss Venezuela beauty contest has elevated our country to the apex of world perception of the beauty of Venezuelan women. By using the word “perception,” I do not intend to question the objective beauty of our women (God forbid, I have four of them at home!). I wish to make a point of the importance of the general perception per se. This, by the way, renders even the less pretty Venezuelans beautiful.

Any country culturally geared toward taking care of physical appearance for centuries, that has managed to develop methods and formulas that have been time-tested and proven to the world by live TV transmissions of Miss World, Miss Universe, and similar mega events, has in its hands a tool to attract tourism that other countries would give one arm and half the other to have.

And so I promptly pushed the “reply” icon on my computer and sent off the following message:
“Thanks for having sent me the Vanity Index. I think there must be certain mistakes in the Index since I believe that the figures for Venezuela are too low. In Venezuela, I would say that 100% of the population worries about how they look.”

“While we talk about appearances, you should see the results we have achieved with a treatment supervised by the stylist school of Caracas which includes massages in the turbulent waters of the Caroní river and scrubbing with powerful and mystic Orinoco algae, while listening to the sensual rhythm of the beating of the herons’ wings and drinking a skin reconstituent malt-based beverage.

And all this under the indiscrete tropical moon, for only US $1,680 per day!

Extracted from “Vanity and the nation’s economy” published in The Daily Journal, Caracas, October 29, 1999