Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

beauty in the eye of the beholder or... is it?

The following is a story that led me to think about the question of physical beauty in humans although I had it coming to my mind for a couple of reasons which I'll discuss below.

As usual, Jezebel is funny on this. 

Beauty as a plus or minus was on my mind after I woke up one morning wondering if why some people dislike romance books is because they are generally about beautiful people-- female and male. 

Chick lit can be about beautiful women, but it's generally less inclined to be so. A lot of novels barely cover the physical looks of their lead characters. Maybe Jane Austen's romances get a pass from some readers because their heroines (if not heroes) describe themselves as plain or not the beauties of their family. Wuthering Heights had a beautiful heroine, but she paid the price for it. I am trying to think if there are many literary novels where a heroine could be rewarded for physical beauty? Often it's a road to tragedy like Anna Karenina.

Could it be that some of the reasons readers dislike romance novels is because of whom they are generally about-- the beautiful people who do get  a happy ending? Might it be that it's not so much the romantic part but that physical beauty in male and female irks some readers? Is beauty a plus in life or does it have a downside that leads to resentment from those who don't feel they possess it (even though they might)?

I saw in the paper that the new People magazine was out with their most beautiful women in the year issue (which, no I won't be buying). Gwyneth Paltrow has the top this year. It's always interesting how a woman or man can be most beautiful one year and lose it the next but alas the way of beauty, I guess.

So while she is labeled most beautiful by some. She was in another poll as most hated. Does her beauty factor into both? I've read that some resent her for pushing healthy eating. That's a reason some resent Michelle Obama who is probably one of our most beautiful first ladies but because her figure is more of the goddess sort, some put her down in an era where toothpicks are admired not sensual curves.

As I get past the age of worrying so much about my own physical beauty-- and I guarandamntee you that as a woman gets old if she cares too much about her physical beauty, she's going to be miserable-- doomed to get surgeries, inject poisons, diet constantly and even then not be able to match what she once was-- I am interested in a rather abstract way as to what beauty is. 

We live in a world where beauty is treasured and reviled. It likely always has been thus. Culturally what is regarded as beautiful varies quite a lot. I've talked to many women who don't consider themselves beautiful and yet to me they are. What's that about?

Just out of curiosity I thought about this question-- how many really beautiful people are there? One day when I was at Costco but had not gone into the store with Farm Boss, as I waited in the truck, I critically looked at the faces for physical beauty or even extremely interesting faces. This was obviously not a scientific study. Since I have not done this before, I cannot even say it was typical for Costco shoppers.

In that hour or less, there weren't any physically beautiful people period-- most especially none in mid-years. Is physical beauty that rare? I'm not sure how many faces I saw but say 100 and zero that were beautiful. Writing books about the physically beautiful or even having our movies generally be about them-- what's that about if it's not how most of us are?

Another thing is in youth there is a lot more beauty or at least cuteness. Do we lose it in mid years through expressions? Weight? Attitude? Mid-life is where there are a lot of pressures-- does that impact people's faces? Interestingly besides teens tending to be at least cute, the elderly are often again more attractive -- at least it's how it seems to me. What is there about an elderly face, white hair, a lot of lines and something that really does say beauty? Maybe the attitudes have softened?

I had another question. If some readers reject romances for being about physically beautiful people falling in love and finding a happily ever after, who are the readers who do buy these books? Best seller lists regularly have romances on them. A recent series of books (grey something or other) about a beautiful woman, very handsome wealthy man along with kinky sex not only sold over 40 million copies, but is about to become a movie. Can you imagine that degree of success had it been about a pudgy heroine and balding, kinky but wealthy hero? So in some cases beauty sells and in other cases it's a block? Some say that book got its popularity not for the kink but the stereotypical romance of two beautiful people.

I have no idea but beauty is a factor in life. I have even heard from those who think Obama got elected president because he was good looking (and yes, I do think he's a handsome man). If so, why didn't it work for Romney who is the prototype male for being tall, handsome, square jawed, and with good hair?

Images purchased from Canstock to use in trailers for books.


Anonymous said...

"...why some people dislike romance books...."

It is not so much that I dislike such books. It is that I have read one or two and didn't find them interesting enough to finish. I like books that teach me something - preferably something in which I have an interest.

There was a reason that I was not a liberal arts major in school. I did not dislike liberal arts majors. I felt at home among sister/fellow STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) majors.

Different strokes....
Cop Car

Rain Trueax said...

Cop Car, I agree and I don't like to read a story where the plot has been used hundreds of times before. Mostly what I want from a book (of the fiction sort) is an emotional lesson and frankly that I feel better when it's finished-- not worse. Right now, mostly I read non-fiction as it's got something that I can use. (science though not so much. I leave that for Farm Boss). I read history and biographies when i have time to read.

Rain Trueax said...

I can make one guess as to why people choose romances-- escape. Reading something like this-- Everything is Rigged by Matt Taibbi is enough to depress anyone and head for a sci fi novel or fantasy or yes, romance. Anything but look at what is happening and know we don't have the power to stop it unless more people wake up-- which they might not be doing due to escapism... Is this a vicious circle? *s*

Kay Dennison said...

I loved Everything Is Rigged -- it confirmed a few things that had been rattling around in in my poor damaged brain. These days, I'm reading less because I have some major projects here and I'm trying to get around to see my blogging buddies!!!

Celia said...

I read a lot and what draws me (although my favorites lately are mysteries, fantasy, romances, sci-fi) is the author's care for their characters. Characters filled out to be living, moving people that I can care about. Then of course the story. Romance can be engaging or dreary depending on the skill of the author. And escapism, sometimes I need a foot out of this world of bombers, thieves, and chemical warfare. Doesn't mean I live there all the time.

Rain Trueax said...

Celia, I don't have a lot of time to read for pleasure and I usually avoid romances wanting to not be influenced by some other author's story without realizing it, but I did read one recently that I liked. Our power was scheduled to out for a morning and I looked at my Kindle to see what I had on it. Exposing Alix was the one that interested me. Yes, it was sexy, not a sweet read but I felt the characters registered and I liked the subject matter. Yes, it was escaping for a morning :)

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

I believe in periods of escape. For a short period I like to live in someone else's body. But I can do that through painting and drawing so I do not get around to reading unless I am familiar with the author.
It is odd that when I create a face I think is beautiful, others find it quite different. I think being an artist, I start to value different aspects of what people really are like physically and energy wise.

Hattie said...

I enjoyed reading this. And the comments, too. My younger daughter is a genuine beauty. I think you would have spotted her as such even in Costco. If you have seen the Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer or photos of the young Virginia Woolf, she is in that category.
She is a modest person, however, and has had some severe setbacks in life, but she is now happily married with two children.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Beauty, to me, has passion behind it. Something of intelligence and warmth and interest has to shine out through the eyes. That's why Cindy Crawford and Michelle Obama appeal to me, I guess. As for myself, I periodically pull my face's skin back to remind myself of who "I really am" but my kids scream in outrage. It's nice to be loved for what they see now.

I am now on a search for a beauty at Costco :)

Rain Trueax said...

That's funny, a/b. I do that too sometimes but usually end up thinking it didn't make that much difference ;)

Anonymous said...

AB -- Thanks for reminding me of how beautiful/engaging/exciting enthusiasm is in a person. It cannot be faked/bought/commanded.
Cop Car