“Wow. You’re tall,” said the stranger in the elevator looking at me.
My grandmother narrowed her eyes. “No. You are short.”
I focused on the panelling while we finished the silent ride to the 7th floor.
Tonight was my last acting class, and the instructor video taped our final scenes. Four other pairs went before my partner and me. Everyone in their scenes was beautiful. Not that insane beauty of superstars, but beautiful. Who could doubt that Jody’s Doc was pining for Louise’s Meg? Or that Scratch’s doctor loved Elyce’s Agnes? One reason I like British television is that the actors tend to look like real people. Yes, they have their share of magazine-cover beauties, but they seem able to allow possible looking people on TV.
Of course, when I saw my own self on the tv screen, well, I did not see things the same way. My own image brought out that teen-self–why couldn’t I just be prettier? But then what? If we were all prettier, so what? We still have to feel.
Someone once asked me if the heroine in my novel was pretty. “Sure,” I said. “Of course,” he said. That was the end of the conversation, but I didn’t mean she was drop dead gorgeous. She wasn’t stunning and prettier girls are in the book, but if you make a girl not pretty in fiction, it seems you have to have her angst about it. Or maybe even embrace it, but you would have to talk about it. I wanted a character who was pretty enough to get a certain someone’s attention, but not so pretty as to have to raw attention to the fact. Real life pretty.
Besides, if her boyfriend describes her as pretty–well, he would, wouldn’t he? The boyfriend is not likely to complain about her looks–unless he’s a jerk. If he’s a good guy boyfriend he ought to tell her she’s beautiful because to him she is. This hardly means she has to look like Eva Green.
This probably says more about my own issues than anything, but I usually make my bad guys better looking than my heroes. And my mother used to complain about ugly bad guys in movies. “Evil is supposed to tempt you. It should look tempting.”
I never saw my grandmother look away, slouch, or ever look as if she didn’t believe she was beautiful. She was mystified at my inability to get a date. Not that she said so. She just stopped asking me about boys.
In fiction, how a character feels about his or her looks means more than their actual appearance. So, in your stories, how good-looking is everyone? How important are looks to you?