Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beautiful Women

The other day I was snuggled up with my seventeen year old daughter watching the movie Mamma Mia! for the third or maybe, fourth time. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's fun and fresh and the music is so wonderfully nostalgic you can't help but sing along. It's all about the bonds we have as women, it's about regrets, and about the way women can pull up their big girl panties and survive when things are rough. In one scene, the three middle aged best friends sing ABBA's Dancing Queen. They laugh and dance and play all over this beautiful Greek Island recalling when they were...young and sweet, only seventeen. Other women join them. Women of all ages and from all walks of life. They came in every shape and size. They sang and played with joy in their hearts and you could almost imagine each and every one recalling when she was seventeen and starry eyed and facing the world for the first time.

My daughter turned to me and said...they are all connected, aren't they? Sometimes my daughter is very wise and I had to smile.

As I think about us all as we take this journey together, I imagine we share similar struggles. Raising kids and sometimes husbands. Managing careers. So when do we become not beautiful? Is it the year after you've had a baby and still haven't lost the baby weight? Is it at the sign of that first wrinkle? I don't know. I tend to think women get even more beautiful as we age. The wisdom and strength is hard won and every wrinkle is earned through experience, loss and laughter.

When I first started writing and reading romance years ago, my heroines tended to be breathtakingly beautiful. So was the hero. They were perfect in every way. Now I look back and just shake my head. Do women really want to read about a flawless heroine? I still recall how captivated I was by Amanda Quick's (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) regency heroines. They were the first heroines I read who weren't absolutely perfect in every way. Some wore glasses. One had a limp from an childhood accident. Another had a crooked front tooth. They were quirky, funny, intelligent and oh so interesting the hero couldn't take his eyes from her. It was like watching the worm in the cocoon turn into a butterfly before my eyes and I've never looked at my heroines the same way since.

These days I make my heroines more average. Sometimes they are 'curvier' and they are never ever supermodel material. Now the hero may still be drop dead gorgeous but he's also man enough to be able to see beneath the surface of his heroine. He admires her intelligence, he laughs his ass off at the funny things she says or maybe her quirky outlook. She makes him happy because she has a kind and gentle heart. In my opinion, that is beauty too and definitely worthy of a romantic heroine.

24 comments:

Amy Ruttan said...

I love Mamma Mia. Love it. I've always thought Meryl Streep to be beautiful. Her singing The Winner Takes it All makes me cry.

I've never written beautiful women in the sense of perfection. Usually the women I write are klutzy and curvy ... like me. Me and my daughter watch Mamma Mia, but she's only 6, she just loves the dancing and music.

I get upset sometimes as I gain weight from this pregnancy that I'm not attractive but my hubby always tells me that I am beautiful. Somedays I think he's crazy or delusional. LOL. Especially since this pregnancy has brought out a break out in acne, something I've never had to deal with before.

Regina Carlysle said...

Pregnant women are beautiful and don't you forget it for a SECOND. What you are doing now is far more important than anything else.Baby weight? Don't stress it, honey. Just know you have the support of all of us women who understand the insecurities that often come with this.

ACNE? Try ProActive. Wonderful product for that. Worked better for my teenage son (years ago) than anything else. Worth a shot.

BTW...I'm thrilled to be coming out in print with you this spring. COOL HUH???

Emma Lai said...

Mamma Mia! is a great movie and just makes you feel good.

I agree. Women become more beautiful as they age. Sometimes, it's just hard for us to remember that it's not all about what is on the outside. Each life experience that we have, good or bad, adds to that beauty as long as we remember to find the positive of the experience.

Amanda Quick was one of the first romance authors that I became obsessed with. Not only were her heroines imperfect, but her writing inspired emotion. I want to laugh and sometimes cry.

I don't try and write perfect heroines. Even the attractive ones aren't happy with some aspect of their body. As for the men, well like women, they are all beautiful. Maybe not classically handsome, but give me an intelligent man with a sense of humor and I could care less if he's overweight or wears glasses. I still love 'em.

M.

Susan Macatee said...

Great post! I think in the past, perfectly beautiful heroines were what readers wanted. But times have changed. The heroines in my two Civil War romances are attractive of course, but not pefect. In the first, a time travel, the modern day heroine actually inhabits the body of what she thinks is one of her ancestors who looks a great deal like her, but she's not as slim with curves where women would have had them back in the Victorian period. The other is a soldier, disguised as a man. She's taller than the average woman of her time period, has cut her hair short and takes on male mannerisms, so no one will know she's female. Of course, once the hero discovers she's a woman, he appreciates her attributes just fine.

Regina Carlysle said...

One of my recent heroines was really pretty but lived in a small town where she was often judged (sometimes harshly) on the basis of her appearance and it really pissed her off, bothered her. It was unfair. That's real too. How many women/young girls have we known who were treated unfairly simply because of they were pretty so obviously don't possess a brain? Those stereotypes are terrible, too.

Regina Carlysle said...

You know, Emma, the Amanda Quick heroes weren't classically handsome either. They were rugged, intelligent. Real. I loved them.

BethRe said...

Awesome post thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Truly beautiful blog. Thanks.

Dr. Karl E. Taylor said...

Sweetie has never stopped being beautiful. Almost 28 years together, 26 of which as my wife, and she is still the most lovely creature on earth. Sure, she's gotten a bit rounder, so have I. I admit, she's started to droop in certain places, and so have I. But that is not what matters. She is beautiful and always will be.

In my stories the women are not perfect, except one. I like writing about real characters that readers can identify with. They have their flaws and short comings, both physical and emotional. That is all but one character.

She is the enigma. The woman of such perfection and beauty that she can not possibly exist, but the hero finds her, falls in love with her, and grows old with her. I like having the element of the unobtainable in my stories.

Kelley Nyrae said...

Haven't seen Mama Mia. I'll have to check it out.

I write my heroines like women really are. Some are very beautiful, and some are a little more natural, everyday women. Some are curvier, some are thin. They're all different but no matter what they look like they're all perfect in the heroes eyes :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Ahhh, Dr.Karl! Your wife is very fortunate. Right after watching this movie with my daughter, we checked out the Golden Globes and we often remarked on how stunning the older women were and didn't they seem so confident and poised.

I think it's important to gracefully accept that we change as we get older and it's best to embrace those changes.

Teri Thackston said...

My husband actually had to talk me into seeing Mama Mia and now I'm hooked on it. Great, happy, fun film and I agree with everything you said about it and women. I, too, like to make my heroines "real" women, and I prefer to read about such women, too. Here's to "real"!
Teri

Regina Carlysle said...

So with you on that one, Teri! The scene with the mother and daughter as they are getting her reading for the wedding has me bawling. The song breaks me up. Maybe it's because my own daughter is ready to FLY. It's very bittersweet and I'm tearing up just thinking about it NOW. Okay...gotta get a grip. The connections are just so strong sometimes. :-)

Anita Birt said...

I have treasured my women friends all my life. I treasured my first real girlfriend when I was ten and lived in London, Ontario. She was so pretty. Blonde and gentle-natured. Unlike me who had black hair and was something of a tomboy.

I hiked mountain trails with Joyce.

About my heroines. Some are very attractive but my latest one is rather thin and gawky, no heaving bosom and she can handle a gun better than most young men.

Women in romance novels are REAL. I wish reviewers would stop calling our books, "bodice rippers." If a man tried to rip a bodice from one of our heroines, he'd be smacked good and hard.

Regina Carlysle said...

It's funny, Anita. I remember my favorite childhood girlfriend and think of the fun we had so many times.

Romance has changed a tad, hasn't it??? Thank GOODNESS. Maybe at one time, that was what women wanted in their romances but not so much any more. Life is too full of challenges to have sympathy for a heroine who is a victim.

Amy Ruttan said...

I'm very happy to be coming out in print with you Regina! :)

Anne Rainey said...

I loved Mamma Mia!

I don't so much care what the heroine looks like when I read. Half the time I don't even know what color hair they have. Body style? Sexy, plump, average, I really just don't care.

In my current WIP, my heroine weare glasses and has her hair in a bun, and she's perfectly happy that way. The heroes (yes, that's plural) thinks she looks like a naughty librarian, and of course it really does it for them. LOL

Regina Carlysle said...

Naughty Librarian...I love it. Think maybe there's a little bit of naughty in all of us??? I like to think so.

Connie Northrop said...

I love your take on heroines!I like the heroes to not be completely perfect too. It's hard to read about the perfect people when you never were and never will be. I think that may be one of the reasons I pick certain authors and certian books these days.

I've never lost the baby weight and I was already plus sized before that.

I'll never get that bond with a daughter but my son knows people aren't perfect and differences make us special so I think I did good. :0)

Keep up the good stories!

Regina Carlysle said...

Hey Connie!!! You know, I don't think it makes a bit of difference whether we have sons or daughters or some of BOTH, that we teach our kids to respect others is the main thing. Your son will appreciate ALL women despite shortcomings or faults or little imperfections because you have set the right example for him. That's the THING.

Connie Northrop said...

Thanks Regina! I hope what I've taught him sticks. I know believes it now so I'm hopeful for the future. We connect pretty well. He even still likes having me around. We'll see how long that lasts. LOL :0)

Regina Carlysle said...

LOL. There's always hope. My kids seem to still love having me around and a big part of their lives even though they aren't little any more.

Connie Northrop said...

Regina, this is one of my big bragging points. It's easy to say I taught this or that but I got proof this year. Adrian told me all kinds of stuff about his teacher and how cool she is. When I went to the school for something I discovered it never occured to him tell me both her arms were not well formed. He didn't really notice because he saw the person not the handicap. That made me a truly proud mommy. :0)

Becky said...

Great post! I haven't seen Mamma Mia yet, but it looks like a funny movie.