I recently read this article, and I found it quite interesting: A First-Rate Girl. The basic concept of the article (as understood by me) is that female beauty is often treated too casually by novelists. That is to say, the writer suggests that authors will often make women ‘casually’ beautiful – that the beauty is almost a side note. The article writer suggests that to make a woman beautiful ‘casually’ is to do injustice to the power and importance that actually has. The writer suggests that beauty makes a significant difference in the way that we act and behave.
There was a writing session that I attended a while ago where the instructor at one point said roughly ‘no one cares about how your characters look, what’s important is what they do, unless you’re reader has a particular fetish.’ I can imagine that there is a similar kind of mindset for many writers – unless one is writing erotica, what is the importance of appearance? But beauty is not just important for the erotic side of a story. I would say that we are much more influenced by appearance then is socially acceptable to admit. I would also venture that its influence on us is often much greater then we are consciously aware. I know that some of the observations in the article ring true for me – when the writer talks about the triumph associated with a ‘first rate girl’, it strikes uncomfortably close to home. I feel like I know what he’s talking about. There are definitely women who I have felt are ‘above me’ solely based on physical appearance – women who are difficult to think of as just another person because they’re appearance is overwhelmingly present.
I would also say that the writer’s observations align well with evolutionary psychology theory on the subject. We do not necessarily pursue relationships because they will make us happy but instead we are strongly inclined to pursue ‘evolutionarily fit’ partners (aka attractive partners). This is especially true in the case of men when they are selecting partners. This being said, men and women are quite good at pairing off at similar levels of attractiveness, at least studies suggest. However, this does not mean that we aren’t driven to rise above our figurative evolutionary station. Evolutionarily it is sensible for a less attractive man who is with a very attractive woman to be paranoid, because he has reason to worry he’ll lose her. It is evolutionary good for him to become obsessed, because she is literally the most valuable resource he may ever encounter for carrying on his genetic linage.
My last philosophical move probably won’t surprise you. It comes back to freedom. The compulsion to pursue beauty is a worldly force. That doesn’t mean that I think it is a bad force, but it is a powerful one that can steal away our will. Like all other things in the world it is not wrong to appreciate it, but it is dangerous to allow it to control us.
Let me know what you think, thank you for reading,