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.