Yes, I just shamelessly stole Zadie Smith’s title.
What I want to talk about, however, is representations of physical beauty in writing – specifically erotic or romantic writing. I will easily admit that I have my issues with the idea of beauty (or the ideas society standardizes), so maybe I am just not the target audience… but I feel like I have never met anyone, man or woman, who didn’t have issues with their own body in some way.
Now, when I read a story about two people who’s beauty is extolled in all too many superlatives, I get put off. It just kind of destroys the fantasy because in my head, it becomes a Hollywood montage of perfection – and I just don’t find that all that romantic. As in “oh, really? The perfect Hunk has the hots for the oh-so-perfect model princess with the seamless tan, the thick hair and perfect nose?” Big surprise. I don’t think I’m ugly, nor is this a rant on how nobody ever writes about or makes a movie about someone falling for the chubby girl — but in writing we have that chance to pull people in with small details.
Say, you have a male narrator – I will be a lot more impressed with him, if he finds beauty in her crooked nose, her funny toes or the way her thighs touch rather than the perfection of her breast or the nobility of her face. Same goes for a female narrator. And it definitely – definitely! – is important when the female narrator describes herself. Confidence is good – vanity not so much.
Maybe what I really like to read is about fresh beauty, a beauty that is a little bit different.
I just read a stunning erotic short written by my lovely writing compadre Lorrie, and it was hot and amazing, like everything she writes. But what stuck in my head longer than the arousal was my love for the female lead, who was worried about her smeared and chipped finger-nails and who’s heels were a little too rough against her rear when she knelt. They were such beautiful descriptions that made the story – and the person! – come alive to me so much stronger and more vividly than bland words of perfection.
What do you think? What kind of beauty do you like to read about?