In our textbook, there is a whole section dedicated to romance and love. There is also a section preceding it that is discussing what starts it all: attraction and beauty.
Biologically, we are all attracted to members of the opposite sex who seem to be healthy and physically able to take care of our offspring. In my biology class, I have come to discover that we are more similar to animals than we may think. We talk about how males (in any species) produce many sperm, are very eager to mate with as many members of the opposite sex as possible to pass on their genes, while females only produce a limited amount of eggs, so are more choosey with who they allow to fertilize that egg. Our psychology book talks about this in humans as well, how males are not very picky and seem to be more sexual than females. Females invest so much into their offspring, it's no wonder they need to be picky. Socially, we are attracted to many different types of people. This is all dependent on our sex, culture, and personality, but more often than not, we end up reverting back to the biological attraction without even thinking about it. Men like women who have a small waist, with larger hips. This may be somewhat of an indicator of fertility in women. Women are attracted to men who are strong, because they are looking for someone who would be a good caretaker of their future family. Across cultures, "beauty" is usually associated with health, social status and acceptance, and being "rare and unattainable". People want to be with someone who would be considered acceptable, and they would want their children to be acceptable and successful as well. Being beautiful would secure a person in having a lifelong mate, and successfully reproducing. It would be almost a guarantee, that you would be "set." As far as beauty goes across cultures, there are certain traits that are viewed as more attractive than others in certain societies. In America, it is attractive for women to be thin and tan. In some other countries, it is attractive for them to be more full-figured, showing that they are able to birth many children. Sometimes, being full-figured is a sign of wealth. In Burma, some tribal women wear many rings to elongate their necks. In their culture, long necks show elegance and social status. In China, women used to bind their feet to make them as small as possible. Here, we may few these traditions as strange or unusual, but it is important to keep in context and remember that they might find it strange that we would starve ourselves from the cornucopia of food available to us, just to be thin. They also might find it strange that we lay out in the sun or in strange bright beds to make our skin darker. Across all cultures, there are a few things in common. One is that average faces tend to be more attractive than "exotic" looking people. This may be because average faces are more symmetrical than others, and might show lack of disease or genetic mutations and would make a person seem suitable to be another's mate. Another thing is that seeking beauty requires some sort of risk, whether it be skin cancer from exposure to sun, weakening of bones in the shoulders, or breaking the bones in your feet. The chase after beauty is a dangerous one, but almost all of us are willing to risk these downfalls for the ultimate prize of being viewed as truly beautiful.